I don't know how to start something like this. I don't know how to sound how I should sound.
My Grammie died this morning. I found out a little over an hour ago. It seems it happened in her sleep and she looked peaceful.
When something hurts, people say let the tears come, but I think when someone dies, you have to let the waves come. It's not about your head, eyes and tears. It's everywhere. But it makes you curl up into a ball and just when you think you're done crying is when you need to lay still because the next wave is about to start out of nowhere.
My room is a mess the way a room looks when you're moving out of a place you've lived in for 9 months. I've pulled my suitcases out in the hallway (small as it is) outside my room and I'm slowly transferring my stuff out of the furniture and onto the floor. Then I'm going to move my furniture into the hallway and bring my suitcases into my little room.
Earlier I mentioned Grammie was on hospice and wouldn't be with us for very long and I thought that would be one of the many "tears" I was describing. To say I feel torn is a disrespectful understatement. I don't know what this is. The death of someone close to me is a completely new experience.
While I know that I technically had 4 grandparents, my Grammie is the only one I feel I ever knew.
My first memory of meeting her was when my father, 2 sisters and aunt flew to Kenya to where she was working (Mom stayed home) and the first words out of my mouth to her (since she'd been there for 7 years - her husband, my mother's father, had died I don't know how many years before she went to Kenya) were a message from my Mom:
"We're here to bring you home!" She laughed and got a big kick out of it. I don't remember her first words to me, though... I was 6 years old - about to turn 7.
After Grammie's heart surgery on February 5, 2010, everything about her changed. She'd make some of the same expressions, which delighted me, but I received a huge shock when I saw her after the surgery over my spring break that semester. I had to leave the room so I could cry. Then I got my act together and went about adjusting to the new version of Grammie, which was monosyllabic at best and disinterested.
I don't remember my last words to Grammie; they were most likely along the lines of "Goodbye Grammie I love you!" before I flew to England. But I remember the last real sentence she said to me before her heart surgery. It was Christmas break 2009. I had to go back to school. Before we hired caregivers, I was Grammie's main caregiver as soon as fall semester 2009 was over. But even before the semester finished, I drove to the hospital to see her whenever I could, to play Scrabble with her, read to her and pray with her. When I first learned - in November 2009 - that Grammie was going downhill, it nearly ruined me for the rest of my classes. I described grief back then like a bowling ball inside of me that - if it went off-balance just a little bit - would make me cry uncontrollably. At the time, I had a close friend who'd recently lost a grandfather and I clung to what he told me: "To cope, I made sure he knew I loved him." And so I threw myself into it. In retrospect I'm more grateful than ever for those words of wisdom given to me, because they weren't an unreachable sermon, neither were they emotionless and scientific. They were the real thing and just what I needed. While I'd played Scrabble with Grammie a lot since she came to live in our house back in 2008, I'd almost never read to her and I'd definitely never prayed with her. I didn't have time to feel bad that it took her declining health for me to reach out in these more personal ways. She loved it when I read to her. I'd hold the book with one hand and we'd hold hands with my free one. When I offered to pray with her, she lit up and we held both of our hands. When we flew to California to complete our move from Michigan, Grammie had an oxygen mask and got around on a wheelchair pushed by another person. Whenever her mask slipped off, a beeping noise would start and I'd fix it for her. And whenever she needed to use the restroom, I'd take her and help her. It wasn't long before I was sleeping in her room at night. She didn't like the hospital bed, but instead preferred her long-time favorite Lazy-Boy chair, so I slept in her hospital bed to be near her for whatever she needed. While it was hard and made me want to cry a lot at first - seeing my independent and spunky Grammie that way - I know God helped me and the whole experience stretched me to embrace this part of human life. It killed me to be so close to Grammie during that time, but it would have been the worst thing ever to not be close to her. When I left - right before New Year's 2010 - to return to school, she grabbed my hand, pulled me close and said her last full sentences to me:
"What am I going to do when you go away? Love you Babe."
My Grammie was never one to use the word "love" and she never did kisses. But in the last 2 months of 2009, she gave both to me frequently.
Fonda Chaffee - my Grammie - hung on for a good year and a half after the crisis began and is now sleeping in Jesus. The next thing she'll know is Jesus Himself coming to take her the rest of the way home.
As for me, I know Jesus is nearby - especially now that this has happened - but I really don't know what I am. I loved Grammie so much. She was far more conservative than I ever have been, but she always loved me, was proud of me, showed me off to her friends at Community Services (and elsewhere) by grabbing my hand, pulling me forward and saying, "This one's my youngest," and she was the go-to lady for spaghettios, ramen noodles and avocado sandwiches with lemon pepper seasoning. She could never see too far past our differences, but I loved teasing her regardless that we were similar ever since I heard someone say at the dinner table, "Grammie's just like Chloe!" It made me feel so cool to hear someone (Daddy?) say we were similar since she was so awesome to me. She was my rockstar. I never really realized she was "old" until November 2009. And even then, it seemed like age and illness were foreign invaders. She always has been and always will be my beloved Grammie and I have no idea how much I'll miss her. I couldn't have asked for a better Grammie in the whole world.