We’ve had what I felt were very honest conversations with our kids throughout this experience with mom. We said the hard things, no matter what, because I never wanted to reach a point when I wished I’d done it.
When we told them that grandma was in the hospital, their first question was if she was going to die. My mom’s been sick for a long time so it wasn’t an unreasonable leap to make. At the time I told them that grandma was very sick, but I was choosing to believe that the doctors would help her get better, that my mom wouldn’t die from an infection that antibiotics could cure.
In retrospect, maybe I should have approached that differently.
Fast forward two days and dad reported that the doctor was encouraged. He thought mom might be ready to turn the corner, so when Bear asked how grandma was doing that night we told her the antibiotics were helping her fight the infection.
Twenty-four hours later I had that strange slingshot-around-the-moon sensation from Disney’s flight simulator as I stood in a hospital hallway and listened to my dad.
Mom wasn’t improving. Not only had the infection not responded to the antibiotics but mom had lost the ability to swallow, so now they were asking how we felt about a feeding tube.
Things swiftly went downhill, and the night before we moved mom to hospice care I met BrightSide and the kids for dinner to tell them what was happening. (My apologies to the server who witnessed that meal.) Naturally they broke down, and we had a long talk about why letting grandma go was the best choice for her.
T-man and Bear have come to visit my mom several times, and we’ve been completely open about what’s happening. We haven’t shied away from the words ‘death’ or ‘dying’ and we’ve answered every question fully.
Which is why I was so stunned when we met with the grief counselor and Bear piped up with “Will grandma die?”
Somehow I manage to forget at times that these tykes of mine are, well, tykes.
We have these mature conversations with them, and sometimes they seem so grown up. It’s easy to slip into thinking of them as older than they are. But this process has become something of a dance – two steps forward, one step back – as they move toward an understanding of their grandmother’s journey out of this world.
They’re working to make their peace with it, just like I am.