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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Growing up » Growing up

Growing up

mfranti - April 1, 2011

It’s Conference weekend so I thought I’d post something that’s been on my mind since I realized GC was coming up. I’m hoping you’ll find it useful. I also promise to not post anymore for a few days. :)

I can’t remember what day of 14 it was, just that it was another cold January evening in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I was spending 10-12 hours a day at the bedside of my withering grandmother, the woman I credit for raising me.

As usual, I was sitting in the yellow recliner at her bedside crocheting hats. The cozy hospice room was kept dark, save a dimly lit bedside lamp. Playing on the computer or reading one of the many books I hauled into the room didn’t seem appropriate, but keeping my hands busy did. I played with a lot of yarn over those two weeks.

With a smile, CNA came in with Grandma’s dinner at 5pm. Right on schedule. Meals consisted of a bunch of mush in the shape of food, some oatmeal, and water. Grandma wasn’t eating much at that time because her body was shutting down. Still, it hurt too much to know she was starving and dehydrating to death, so the nurses continued to feed her. Without much success.

The CNA asked if I’d like to feed her. Ummm, sure?, I said timidly. I had never fed a sick person before and I worried that I could do something wrong.  Oh, the silly things we worry about in life.

I took the oatmeal and began to put it in her toothless mouth. One little spoonful at a time, just like you feed a baby. I’d suction little water into a straw and put it in her mouth to help her wash her food down and she’d swallow as much as should could. The rest would make its way down the side of her face, and If I wasn’t fast enough, into the crease of her neck. I would then take a damp wash cloth, and wipe her mouth and face. I was so proud, she actually took food from me.

It was during the cycle of spoon, oatmeal, water and wipe that I realized a couple of things. First, if she is at all cognizant of what I’m doing, she’d be pissed off. She was a tough old bird and wouldn’t stand to have her granddaughter tending to her. Second, I was doing for her what I imagine she had done for me 36 years earlier. She would have mixed up my baby oatmeal, dipped the spoon in it, put it to my mouth, and wiped up the mess. She’d continue feeding me until she thought I had enough. And she did it tenderly, with love and because I was her family.

Just as I was doing for her.

I cannot tell you how profound that moment was in my life. I realized that I never really understood charity, the kind of charity that Christ so beautifully demonstrated in our scriptures, until I was putting the last bites of food in my fading grandmother’s mouth. Until I was caring for the woman who cared enough to give me the best life she could under the circumstances. Here we were, grandmother and granddaughter alone in a dark hospital room, sharing what would be our second to last intimate minutes together.

I’ve technically been an adult for 18 years, but that evening, I became a Woman. The Spirit, through a simple act, helped me understand what it meant to serve, to love, to have patience and long-suffering. The qualities that really matter in this life.

That evening, I earned the privilege of being in the same league and worthy of the respect of the Woman in front of me.

***

Do you have stories that you’d like to share?

12 Comments »

  1. That is a touching story. Selfless, personal service is so important. I know that I have grown closer to my loved ones as I gratefully and cheerfully do what must be done.

    Comment by Rich Alger — April 1, 2011 @ 11:06 am

  2. This was beautiful. Thank you.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 1, 2011 @ 11:30 am

  3. Absolutely beautiful. Just what I needed this weekend.

    Comment by Chad Too — April 1, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

  4. I started to write the whole story, but the short of it is this: My grandma spent her final weeks in the care (and home) of my mother. When I was visiting I helped her by grooming her on one of her better days, including brushing her hair and teeth. When I was done she smiled at me.

    A couple of weeks later I again got to do her hair and dress her before she was placed in her casket.

    There were a lot of moments that we expected to have with Grandma but we didn’t get. Thanks for reminding me of some of the best and most tender moments I’ve ever experienced.

    Comment by ErinAnn — April 1, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

  5. Great stuff, mfranti.

    Comment by ZD Eve — April 1, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

  6. I had similar moments with my mother as I watched her body being eaten alive by pancreatic cancer. Her last day on earth I laid in bed with her, held her hand, and sang Les Mis songs to her. She was beyond eating or drinking at that point. My sister and I dressed her for the funeral. It was one of the most sacred experiences of my life. My Dad commented that he was grateful he had “adult children.” Really, all I wanted to do was curl in a little ball, sob, and whine for my Mommy. I think those experiences of helping my mother transition from this life to the next made me a grow up in a way that having 2 children previously never had.

    Comment by Risa — April 1, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

  7. Very nice mfranti.

    Comment by jjohnsen — April 1, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

  8. Thanks to all for the kind words.

    Comment by mfranti — April 2, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

  9. Thank you for sharing such a tender remembrance.

    Comment by kristine N — April 2, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

  10. My Grandmother was always thanking me for anything I did for her the last few years of her life, like she was sorry that I HAD to do them. She was so used to taking care of everyone else that it was hard for her to let other people take care of her.

    Then it got to the point where she didn’t have a choice.

    I always told her it was my privilege to give a little back to her, for all the things she had given me my whole life.

    Spending time along during the last snips of a person-you-love’s life is a sweet blessing. It was for me.

    Comment by Alice (alliegator) — April 2, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

  11. Very tender! I think that this life allows us to serve in ways not possible in the other estates as we can help each other with physical needs, cleaning homes, doing yard work, and other very practical things but yet so real so very, very real because we do them and make them so.

    Comment by Barb — April 5, 2011 @ 9:18 pm

  12. How lovely, Melanie! I believe that the bedside of the fading elderly is a sacred place, the veil very thin.

    Comment by annegb — April 24, 2011 @ 8:51 am

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