Grandma was famous for her crocheted afghans. As I sat with her that afternoon, I crocheted an afghan for her first great-great-grandchild, who I knew she would not live to see. We sat around the bed - all of the surviving children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We alternated between crying, laughing, reminiscing, silence. The changes in her condition had come about so quickly, the struggle to accept the inevitable was difficult for us all. I watched as each of my family members faced this struggle in their own way.
The doctors made it quite clear that afternoon that there was nothing that they could do to save her. The massive infection was compromising all of her organs, and her age made her extremely vulnerable to the damage being done. We had been fighting for days to try and get help for her as she became weaker, fighting against a system of medicine that encouraged us to look the other way, to "let her go".
The doctor who insinuated that she was "giving up" did not know this woman. She had survived two husbands, a child, three grandchildren and most of her friends. She had never been in the hospital for an illness, had driven herself around town as recently as a year ago. She still did most of her housework and had cooked dinner for us just a few weeks before. You don't just "give up" when you've been sick for three weeks. I was very angry at the attitude that "the elderly have a duty to die".
I loved my grandmother very much. She was a constant in my life through all of the times when everything around me was changing. My parents divorce, my mother's drinking, the births and deaths in the family, my own divorce. I always knew that she loved me unconditionally. As I sat at her bedside I felt a whole range of emotions. I wished that I had been able to do more to help her. I felt incredibly sad at the prospect of going on without her. I worried about the way that her death would affect other members of the family.
I also felt a tremendous sense of gratitude for the opportunity to be with her during this most powerful event in her life. I held her hand, whispered to her all of the things I wanted her to hear; that I loved her, that I would miss her when she was gone, that it was okay to let go.
I watched the monitor, listened to her respiration, saw that the end was only moments away. I continued to crochet until she took her last breath. It seemed that with every stitch I was crocheting my grandchild into life, and crocheting Grandma out.