This last season wasn’t an easy one. And that’s an understatement. Walking along someone as they battle the hardest fight they’ve ever known, wears even the observer down. Watching a loved one lose the battle, is devastating.
When we heard the words “Stage 4” a year and a half ago, we thought “Fight, fight, fight, at all cost!” (Ani DiFranco) But six months ago, the day after Christmas, when she fell and couldn’t get off the ground, we knew the battlefield had changed. Almost every weekend after, I prepared the kids for what they might see and drove the hour and a half to get to the hospital, rehab, or skilled nursing that she might be in that week. We’d hope we’d have some lucid conversation, maybe a laugh or too, paint her nails, and then set off back home.When she went home on Hospice, I could see she still didn’t believe this was her fate. She was grasping to keep her gloves on. I asked the nurse how much longer and she told me, “Come soon.” I declared “We are throwing Grandma a party!” And that’s just what we did. The family congregated around her hospital bed in the living room and although her eyes remained closed, I would give her a play by play of what was happening.
I had my children say their final goodbyes that night. They held her hand and thanked her for being such a great grandma to them. I was last, and as I laid my hands on her, I thanked her for loving my children so fiercely. She began to gargle, the first attempt of the evening to communicate. It was the best gift she could give me. She was gone four days later.
The preschool she taught at for over 20 years put on a Memorial Service for her two weeks later. They had Hawaiian dancers and kids running around, just as Grandma Linda would have wanted it. We were lei’d with flowers that smelled of the Islands and had food she would have eaten if she had taken one more trip back to her favorite place liked she dreamed of.
To say goodbye, or perhaps hello, we released butterflies. I’ve never been someone to look for others in symbolic gestures but I can tell you that every butterfly I see now makes me smile. I thank her. I wink. I appreciate the time I had with her.
Cancer sucks. Counting down the days until it is the end, is awful. I may have done things differently than she chose to do, but I can’t fault her for not fighting. She fought with everything she had.
We still have the graveside burial to do. It’s been almost two months now and I don’t see anyone pushing to make it happen in the scorching summer heat. Maybe in Fall, the season she enjoyed so much when she lived in Virginia, we will do it. I have a vial of her as well that I have vowed to take to Hawaii some day so she can go back to her favorite place. Until then, I have butterflies.
And with that, I add Linda Murray, my mother-in-law to my list of 31 Influential Women in my life, posthumously. We may have not always seen eye to eye, but anyone who advocates for my children the way she did, will always garner my respect.