"I'm old and I'm not afraid to die. I just don't want to be hooked up to these machines. That's not living. Dying is a part of life. And I just want to die."
It's hard to argue with that logic. Especially when it's coming from one of the most logical persons you've ever known. So tonight at 8 p.m., I glanced over at her hospital bed, took a deep breath and said, "See you later, Grandma." and walked quickly from the room, knowing it may very well be the last time I hear my Grandma Maxine say, "Goodbye honey, thanks for coming."
For her sake, I hope it is the last time. What a tiring job, saying final goodbyes to crying relatives and trying to make them feel better. I watched her say goodbye to adults and many of her great-grandkids. I watched her sigh and say, "If we were at my house, I'd give you all a cookie." And since she didn't have one, she invited us all over to her bed to take a piece of her angel food cake from her supper tray. That was such a classic Grandma Maxine gesture.
In a sad and strange way, it was refreshing to talk so frankly and openly about death. She told us to take care of each other, but to stop crying and being sad. She said that she's been training Grandpa to take care of himself. In fact, he told her this morning that he'd gone home and washed and dried a load of laundry all by himself. I guess you can teach an 88-year-old dog new tricks.
We talked about how much we'd miss her cooking. She said she hadn't had a chance to bake and freeze any of her famous caramel rolls, chocolate chip cookies or fruit pies. And I was glad to hear that. Who could have eaten one of those masterpieces knowing it was the last one you'd ever get? You can't have Grandma Maxine's baking without her there to cut the pieces too big and then urge you not to finish if you were too full.
Just a few weeks ago she made me and the boys fried chicken, potatoes and her creamy chicken gravy. That's my favorite Grandma Maxine meal. It was as delicious as it's been the 359 other times I've eaten it. But I didn't help her with the dishes that day. And I will likely regret that small lapse in judgment forever. Instead, I let her talk me into leaving the dishes to her while me and Grandpa took the boys fishing.
But I went back that afternoon, after fishing, and just me, Grandma and Grandpa talked for about two hours in their living room. She served us lemon meringue pie. I went home that night and started putting together things I'd need to interview her and Grandpa about their lives. I've been wanting to write their life stories for a long time and I knew that time was running out and I should get started.
So tonight, after I told her how much I loved her, I said I was mad at myself because I didn't get her story written. She told me my blog would be the start of many great books one day. And that she had always meant to write a book, too.
"Yes, but I wanted to write your story Grandma. About your life," I said.
"Oh honey, you don't need me for that. My story is in your head."
Yeah, I guess it is. But it would have been better if you'd helped to write it. I love you, Grandma. Sweet dreams tonight. I hope you die peacefully, and with the dignity you want and deserve.