Death – It F..king Sucks

I’ve been wanting to write this blog for quite some time now and have had waves of is it right, who would really care what my view were or even if it would help people etc etc but then I thought, well this little piece of writing is going to be more for me, than for anybody else.

My Nan passed away recently.

She was the last of my grandparents and in reflection I think as I had had her still around for so long I just thought that she was invincible. She wasn’t. Nan had been slowly on the decline for about 18 months and just after Christmas she made the decision, after falling in the bathroom at home and not being able to get up herself, to move into a home.

Every week I call my mum for a check in of a Thursday. I usually call from the car so that she has my undivided attention for the duration home and then once home we are done. This particular week I called her on a Monday, my intuition was running high this day and I hadn’t been asking how Nan was because there was never really much improvement and the question only brings attention to the fact that she’s not going to be around much any more. This particular Monday I asked the question. Mum was on her way home and was going to get back to me with an update later in the day but would probably head out to Longreach (hometown) later in the week. I got a message 2 hours later that Nan wasn’t well and could we leave on Friday. I got a further message 20minutes (after that message) asking if we could leave tonight.

Collectively Mum and I drove 16hours straight (with an hours stop because the fuel station wasn’t open) and got to see Nan, and got to see her be responsive to those around her for a good 36 hours.

It was a strange and surreal experience for me as I had seen her at Christmas time walking down the main street at the markets and going to the pub for a beer with us and then to see her in the nursing home not even able to get out of bed by herself was horrible.

She looked like the Wicked White Witch from the West about to cast an evil spell from the confines of her bed. And I can put that in writing as I voiced this with Mum and she agreed. Her face was gaunt, sunken and splotchy. She was still ‘Nan’ but wasn’t. The hairdresser from the home had been to make her more beautiful a few days earlier but in everyone’s eyes made her look worse. Mum put a dab of lipstick on but without teeth she looked like, again, a wicked old witch – with lipstick. We could deal with the hair but the lipstick was a no go, my sister came forth and promptly removed it, it wasn’t the right shade and “Nan would’ve hated it”.

Over the course of the 36-48 hours I had a lot of “WHY” questions but as I’ve come to know, we never get the answers to the WHY questions, only more questions. Why are they changing her when its clearly making her uncomfortable? Why aren’t you up’ing the morphine when you’ve been told you can request it? Why are people here who really don’t want to be here and why aren’t others here when they should be here? Why are we talking about dividing up her belongings when she was very much still with us albeit only in body. Why didn’t we leave earlier so we could have spent more time with her (oh how many times have I asked myself this question and why, why, why hy aren’t we busting her out the window taking her home? (Ok that wasn’t a real question but….). The WHY questions also hurt.

There was a stream of visitors to see her. It was interesting watching this from the outside. Some that visited I could see didn’t really want to be there, they didn’t want to be remembering Nan this way. Some who hadn’t spoken to Nan for years dropping in to say hi and to make amends. Others were there that had only met her once or twice and you could see the awkwardness on their face. Others, including my sister, that had visited Nan every day for the past 18+ months who knew exactly what to do, say and act. One of Nan’s last visitors, the night of her passing, was from her first great grandchild and originally he had told his mother that he didn’t want to come and see her as he’d been the week before when she was super responsive and wanted to remember her like that, on that particular night he just had a feeling that he had to come and see her. Reflecting back on this visit I remember thinking that THIS was how all visits should have been; it was quiet, not a lot of talking was happening, it was dark, calm and those that were in the room were ‘present’ in the moment.

During those 36 hours that we had with her when she was fully cognisant of her surroundings I saw my grandmother cry for the first time ever. Nobody had told her she only had a few hours / days left yet she knew, she knew by the pure influx of family coming to visit. Whilst this time was extremely sad it was also fucking funny. Right up until the end she brought the lols.

One time a nurse came in to change her drips and medication and Nan turned to her and asked “what time did I die”. She said to another nurse, randomly, “I’ll meet you in heaven”.

She told her son to open his wallet and buy something new. She asked her great grandson who lives a good three hours away what the hell was he doing here. She wanted no fuss.

Right up until the day before she passed she would have a scotch and dry telling my sister that it either was too strong, or too weak.

Nan always wanted to die at home. That was always the one and only thing she really wanted yet as much as family asked, it couldn’t happen. This made her particularly sad and the tears flowed again and again and every time she asked she was told that it just couldn’t happen. Seeing old people cry when they know all that they’d lived for is rapidly coming to an end fucking sucks. She then almost yelled at me “Sasha, you there, you can get me out of here”. I took solace in the fact that she’d called on the one person that would probably line up all the logistics to break her out the room. I had visions of her being loaded into the ambulance and taken home to her garden for a visit and being in Longreach this was totally do’able but wasn’t. She knew if anybody could make it happen it would be me.

In the end my Nan went very quickly with very little lead up and next to no ‘death rattle’ at all so Mum, who was with her at that time, didn’t have time to call her brothers and sister so they too could be with her when she passed. One minute she was chatting with the night nurse about ‘stuff’, next minute they looked across and she was gone. I’m sure this has stuck with mum – should she have called them earlier? Did she miss any signs? Should she have been talking to Nan rather than the Night Nurse in THAT moment?

I made the very conscious decision not to stay for the funeral. It would have wiped out another week with flights back to Brisbane being booked out and logistically not a wise move. I struggled back and forth with the decision right up to fly-out day with Mum offering to pay for ANOTHER ticket which would have surely had Nan turn in her soon to be dug out grave. As I said to mum I got to see her for those 36 hours and she knew I was there and in all honesty, as much as we like to think she knows we’re at her funeral she doesn’t. And for me I actually couldn’t have dealt with the family politics any more than I had already endured. Births, and deaths, bring out the best and worst. People not wanting to do something in case it offends someone else, not wanting to say certain things because it might not be the right thing etc etc. At a time when every one is meant to be coming together and supporting those in need there were people not coping, others MIA, and some just happy for everyone else to be doing the work.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the after effects that death would have on me. And although Nan was the last of my grandparents it was so much worse. And it was, just this, that I now no longer had any one of my grandparents alive to share stories with, pass random banter with or drink beer with. One night I was sitting at home in Brisbane, just Ted and I, and I looked over at the telephone table of Nan and Grandad’s that mum had brought home for me and I just burst out crying. No longer would I be able to call her number and hear her voice on the other end which led to the further realisation that soon her house would be sold and the first location that EVERYONE went to upon arriving in Longreach would be gone. Important dates would pass and would hit us all like a knife to the chest, birthday’s, Christmas’ and the like. We’d visit church some time in the future and they’ll play her favourite hymn and the wave of emotions would flow again.

I’m not too sure about that saying of time heals all wound because death, it just f..king sucks.