Tonight I started reading a book called “50 Things That Really Matter.” It’s fifty chapters of peoples’ stories to tell and define what really matters in life. When I first saw the book, it was propped up near my grandparents’ desk. The title had me intrigued, so I picked it up and quickly skimmed some pages. It was my grandmother’s book, and I noticed it was only half read. The book mark lay between the end of Chapter 25 and the beginning of Chapter 26.
I started from the beginning, leaving the bookmark in its place. I read on, learning about wisdom and taking naps. I couldn’t set the book down. The stories in this book are incredibly compelling, if not relatable. I didn’t want to close the book and roll over, so I kept reading.
I reached Chapter 23 “Gratitude.” It told of a mother who collapsed because of a brain aneurism. Her children visited her in the hospital and encouraged her to fight and stay strong for them. Time soon passed and their mother could no longer respond. Once again, they held her and encouraged her to fight, but this time they assured her they would be fine without her too. Their mother never wanted to live off life support or have any other less quality of life, so they told her that if she were tired and ready to let go then to do so.
Shortly after their approval, their mother lost her breath and was no longer the mother they knew. Their adamant mother made their decision to remove her from life support easy for them. In the experience lies gratitude, and the children remain grateful for the wonderful memories they have of her. After years, the memories still bring laughter to their hearts and tears to their eyes. That may never fade away.
I write about this book, but mainly this chapter, because it brought sorrowful tears to my eyes. It reminded me of my grandmother in hospice. Because of school and exam week, I was the last grandchild to visit her. In all my time of waiting to get home, I worried I wouldn’t be able to visit her before she passed. I prayed that she stay strong and hold on so I could see her.
She became less and less responsive as the weeks went by, and when I finally got home to see her she was unresponsive. She looked very different-uncomfortable and underweight. I approached the bed carefully.
“She may not be able to respond, but she can hear you,” my grandfather said. “Your grandma always said that no matter what they can hear you. So go ahead, talk to her. Tell her you’re here.”
I took my grandmother’s hand, and talked to her for a little while before I felt that undying lump in my throat. I didn’t want to cry. I had to stay strong for my grandfather. I sat back for a few hours, talking with visitors and glancing at my grandmother. It was then that my life became Chapter 23.
We noticed that my grandmother lost her breath and was no longer there. I evacuated the room and left her with my grandfather. I couldn’t resist that lump in my throat anymore, and then came the flash flood warning. I cried and cried with an uneasy stomach and no way of knowing the pain my grandfather felt.
Two weeks before her death, the doctors gave my grandfather two options. My grandmother could live longer off feeding tubes and such, or she could starve but spend her last weeks in a better quality of life. He opted for the latter option and put her in an immaculate hospice center.
I reentered her room and held my grandfather close.
“This is the way she would’ve wanted to go,” he said to me.
My aunt entered. “She waited for you, Francesca.”
There I find gratitude. My prayers were answered and my grandfather’s tough decision was made easy. Although we struggle without her, I am grateful for “the time I spent with her, the laughter we shared, and the wonderful memories I have.”
I read until the bookmark. It only felt necessary. I kept the bookmark in its place, closed the book and rolled over. For now, I saw what really mattered.