My grandmother left us for Heaven on Friday. Man, this has been tough! As you know I posted about what a crazy month it had been in January…

My parents and I left Georgia for Connecticut on January 14th and got back home on January 22nd. I returned to work – working January 23rd, 24th and 27th. January 28th was my mother’s birthday and on that day we left Georgia once again headed for a very cold and wintery Connecticut. It is a good thing we left that day because a horrible winter storm was headed straight for Georgia and stranded motorists all over the state or at least caused many people hours and hours of distress on the road. We left in the nick of time!

We made it to Connecticut Wednesday night and it was the very last time we ever heard my grandmother (Grammy) speak. I held my phone up to my grandmother for my brother to say hello and tell her he loved her. He repeated it a few times and she could not respond, although she looked like she wanted to. I stepped out of the room and started to cry telling my brother she couldn’t talk. When I returned to the room my grandmother mustered a faint “I love you” and then with a lot of effort she seemed to yell “I love you” and basically was “gone” after that. It took all the energy she had left in her 91 year old body. She faded in and out of seeming awake until we left the nursing home around 8:30 pm.

The next morning my grandmother was asleep in her bed when we arrived – mouth wide open and unable to really acknowledge us. Her breathing was so shallow…with long pauses between each breath. My grandmother had the bluest of blue eyes, and the one or two times she managed to open her eyes on Thursday there wasn’t a hint of blue to be seen. The eyes looking back at us were hollow – my grandmother (the woman I have known for 43 years) was gone. We told her numerous times that day that everything and everyone was/is okay and that my grandfather (Buppy/Daddy/Dan/Danny) was waiting on her. We left there knowing {in our hearts} that we would not be with her again on this earth. We all went to bed with heavy hearts and her weighing heavily on our minds.

I remember the ring of the phone…the sound will not leave my head! And, as the phone rang I heard my mother cry out saying “no, no, no”. At some point I remember the clock saying it was 4:38 am and I woke my step-father as my mom was on the phone. Time of death…4:15 am on Friday, January 31st! We rushed to get dressed and drove over to the nursing home to give her our final kisses and hugs – she was still warm. As sad as we were (and still are) the look of peace on her face, knowing she was no longer having a hard time breathing, and knowing she was on her way to my grandfather made us all feel better.

Now…before I continue I must tell you 2 things. Sometime before that call my mother heard a sound in the house – something dropped on the floor.  She did not get up to look for where the sound came from. Later when she went into the bathroom she found the night light, which had been plugged in before we went to bed, on the floor. You have to know one thing about my grandmother – she hated wasting electricity and to her plugging in a night light when you would be sleeping was a waste.  It seems that around this same time my brother, in Maine, heard my grandfather speaking to him. He was asleep and heard my grandfather loud and clear saying to him “you need to get up” – he heard this a couple times. And, then my brother said to him “no, you need to go see Grammy.” My grandfather must have woken him up to hear our phone call.

I was relatively calm at the nursing home until John MacDougall came from the funeral home – Byles-MacDougall Funeral Service in Connecticut (very compassionate family run business – and my parents went to school with the owners). We discussed the final arrangements and what would happen with scheduling the mass at my grandmother’s church. When we walked out of the room and I saw the gurney with the zipper bag I gasped – I could not imagine my grandmother being zipped into a bag. We walked toward the nurses station and thanked them for all they had done for her. Groton Regency went above and beyond with her care, as did Beacon Hospice. We are truly blessed to know that in her final weeks and months my grandmother was very well taken care of! I walked around the corner to see if Kathy from admissions was in yet – I went to school with her sister, my mom knew her mom, and my grandmother and grandfather participated in many productions at the Groton Senior Citizen Center that were produced by Kathy’s mom. Kathy had just gotten in at 7:30 am and had not yet heard the news.  She came over to offer her condolences to my mom and while we were in the hall I saw John MacDougall walking my grandmother out…it was too much for me!

We ran a bunch of errands that afternoon trying to keep busy, yet all of them reminded us of her. Due to several other masses taking place on Saturday the funeral mass was scheduled for Monday morning. Unfortunately…Monday was a very snowy day so not very many were able to make it to the funeral or the cemetery afterwards. My grandmother went out with a “blaze of glory”! The snow was probably karma getting us back for replacing 3 light fixtures in her house with fixtures that took 2 bulbs instead of 1 – there we go wasting electricity again!

Although it was tough to miss so much work and drive back and forth twice, I would never ever trade it for anything! Seeing my grandmother a few weeks ago when she was able to talk to us and even sing…and then being there at the end was the best experience ever!

May you forever dance in heaven, Lillian Garcia! We will miss you each and every day!

You can read my grandmother’s obituary on Byles-MacDougall’s website – Lillian Garcia. If you would like to honor my grandmother or my family you can make a donation to St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer, American Cancer Society or your local Hospice Service.

I would love to hear your positive stories about your grandparents, a stay at a nursing home, or working with Hospice!