On December 14, 2012, my walls crumbled. It was that morning that I would receive the news that my Nana had lost her year long battle to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); a debilitating disease with varied etiology characterized by rapidly progressive weakness, muscle atrophy and fasciculations, muscle spasticity, difficulty speaking (dysarthria), difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and difficulty breathing.
The last time I had seen my Nana was on October 14, 2012 at our annual Thanksgiving dinner. A holiday that held a lot of meaning to her. It was at that time that she could no longer control her legs, her hands, and she had trouble holding herself up in a sitting position.
For the longest time I knew her time was coming, I just hadn’t anticipated it to have been so soon. The week before her passing my Mom gave me a call to inform me of the dreaded news that my Nana was getting progressively worse. It was at that time that plans were made for me to make the trip down on the 15th to say my goodbyes. Only I never had that opportunity. My Nana had passed away peacefully in her sleep sometime after 3AM on December 14th shortly after my Step-Grandfather would have changed her last diaper.
I’ll tell you standing with my Mom and Step-Grandfather on December 17, 2012 (on what would have been my Nana’s 72nd birthday) watching the casket be closed after an intimate family visitation was unbelievably hard.
The loss of my Nana is something that I did not take lightly. It has been very hard on me. I was always very close to my Nana.
After her loss I had trouble wrapping my head around how someone so down to earth and self-less could be consumed by such a horrible disease.
Fuck ALS. Seriously. Just fuck it. (pardon my language)
The suffering I had to see my Nana go through is something I would never wish on anyone. It’s horrible. It’s unfair.
I spent a lot of time crying after my Nana’s loss. On a few occasions I may have even collapsed on my bed and just punched the shit out of my pillow. There are many times that I still can’t even wrap my head around her being gone. It just feels like a sick joke. I just wish I could pick up the phone and hear her voice again.
The first few family gatherings after her passing were strange. Mind you not even a week after her passing it was Christmas. It felt so wrong not to have her celebrating the holidays with us.
For Christmas my Mother-in-law gave me a beautiful gift that I will cherish forever. A locket that contains a photo of my Nana. A way for me to always know and be comforted that my Nana is close to my heart.
I speak often of my Nana. Quite often though I find people either don’t know what to say or just quickly change the subject. To me it is just important that people learn about what an amazing person my Nana was.
For my birthday this past February, my husband took me away to Niagara. All the usual suspects had called me to wish me well; my Mom, Brother, Dad, Father-in-law, and Mother-in-law. There was just that one other person I kept anticipating would call me any minute. My Nana. My husband had to break the news to me that she wouldn’t be calling. I was so certain that she would be. It hadn’t dawned on me that she was actually gone, and I’ll tell you the reality stung once it set in.
The next day I was standing in Starbucks. I was the only customer. I ordered a vanilla latte and as I was walking out of the coffee shop I heard something hit the ground. It was a shiny dime. It was the strangest thing. I didn’t have my purse, just a credit card. There was no where for this coin to have come from.
They say when you find a dime that there could be a spiritual significance behind it. A significance that indicates a lost loved one is trying to send you a message or reach out to you. The dime mysteriously appearing in Starbucks was just what I needed, especially on my birthday of all days. It was a sign to me with deep meaning.
I haven’t spoken much of my Nana on the blog. Simply because I have never been able find the words, and when the words would come to me I would break down. There is just so much I feel inside. So much I wish I could say. I just haven’t been brave enough to let it all out.
Recently I heard the song Brave by Sara Bareilles. The lyrics resonated with me…
“You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
Everybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is”
If my Nana would want me to be anything it would be brave. She wouldn’t want me to go about the day-to-day bottling up how I am feeling inside. She would want me to let all the words out. She would want me to show just how big my brave is.
This weekend marks 10 months since my Nana lost her battle with ALS. It also marks 1 year since I last saw my Nana’s smiling face and enjoyed the warmth of being in her presence. To say this week hasn’t been hard for me would be an understatement. I have spent a lot of time crying this week. I’m still trying to wrap my head around everything. It’s beginning to really sink in that my Nana is actually gone. That reality sucks. It really does.
I could dedicate this entire post to ranting and venting about how much I hate ALS. However I’m not going to do that. It’s Thanksgiving weekend. A weekend that always bared great meaning to my Nana. What better time for me to let you all in on what a truly amazing and special woman she was, and all the memories I’m thankful for than now.
I’m thankful for our Tuesday night date nights. She would pick me up each and every Tuesday from school, take me out to McDonald’s and back to her house for some quality playtime.
I’m thankful for the many sleepovers I got to enjoy at her house. The Easter bunny never just came once a year, but twice to multiple houses.
I’m thankful that my Nana always made a point to attend each of my dance recitals. Trust me there were many over the years!
I’m thankful for the long drives up north to visit my Nannie (my Nana’s Mom). You know the drives where she would insist that when I was 13 that I was having sex (I wasn’t), and would discuss the importance of protection. Needless to say she completely weirded me out and the thought of sex repulsed me for the longest time. I think that secretly was her mission.
I’m thankful for all our long chats whether it be on the phone or face-to-face. My Nana was someone I could confide anything within. Even when I moved away we continued to speak several times a week. I always loved our chats!
I’m thankful for the time that my Nana surprised my Mom and I with a girls trip to Neuvo Vallarta, Mexico. She always knew how to spoil us and took great pride in doing so.
I’m thankful for my Nana always believing in me, standing up for me and being my cheerleader in life.
I’m thankful for her always being there for me. She was there with me when I landed my first full-time job. I was a college graduate, fresh out of school. I’ll never forget receiving that phone call from Steve at The Logo Factory while sitting in her kitchen having a tea. We may have both happy danced like complete dorks around her kitchen while squealing. She was so, so proud.
I’m thankful for my Nana being a huge part in the planning of my wedding. She made damn sure that her and my Mom got to take me out dress shopping. She may have had a strong opinion about all the wedding dresses that I tried on, but in the end it mattered that she shared a moment with me in life that was a huge milestone.
I’m thankful that my Nana got to meet my daughter and son. She was an awesome Great Grandma and loved to shower the kids in love.
I’m thankful that each year on Christmas Eve she would make a point to come over to my Mom’s house and watch Miracle on 34th Street with me while listening to NORAD track Santa. A tradition that I now carry on with my children.
There are truly so many things I’m thankful for, but most importantly I’m thankful to have known such a strong, compassionate, self-less, charismatic, down-to-earth woman. A woman who wasn’t just a grandmother to me, but also a confidant and best friend. There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t think of her. I miss her more than words can describe.
So for now Nana it isn’t goodbye, but until we meet again. I love you!