25 October 2010

Bye-Bye, Nana.

Last Monday I awakened to a lovely autumnn morning, went for a 5-mile walk, and then started the usual monday tasks of laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning the house, etc.

Then, just after noon, I got the phone call I had been half-expecting for several years now: Nana, my little 94-year-old grandma, has passed away.

Nana lived most of her life in Texas, but had spent the last 7+ years in New Mexico, so she could be near her two daughters - my mom and my aunt. She started out in assisted living, but then quickly deteriorated and dementia set in.

We were all surprised when she made it to her 90th birthday. That was nearly 5 years ago. In the past year, she's gone downhill, but not at any greater pace than before. I'm proud to report that my mom visited her at the nursing facility almost daily, in addition to working full time. In the end, my mom was one of the only people my grandma recognized, but I wonder if she still understood the concept that this nice lady who came to see her every day was her daughter.

On the day she died, my mom was there, holding her hand. Hard as it was, it was a beautiful thing. She went very peacefully - if only we all could go like that - at peace, and holding the hand of a loved one.

Yet, my mom was all alone in dealing with this hard thing, so the second half of my Monday last week was spent packing, madly finishing laundry, trying to plan meals for the family, and scrambling to find a flight. I left for New Mexico early Tuesday morning.

It was a special time for me and my mom. Much of what we did was just those things that are involved with the business of dying - going to the funeral home and crematorium, collecting Nana's things from the nursing facility, writing the obituary, notifying friends and family, and of course talking, remembering, laughing and crying. I'm happy to say that we laughed far more than we cried... and Nana definitely would have wanted it that way.

I arrived back in Maine late Saturday night after a long day of three different flights. When I walked into the tunnel that took us from plane to building, I saw a lovely sight; a sign posted on the doorway of the tunnel that said, "Welcome Home."

How cool is that?

So now I feel a bit like I'm taking up where I left off last week - not only doing all the Monday things listed above, but also getting things back in order for a family who is not used to me being gone. (Did it not occur to them to go to the grocery store when they ran out of things?)

But also, life is different now. Not that I had much contact at all with my Nana these past few years. Even when I did, I'm not sure she knew me. But she was my last surviving grandparent. All the others passed away before I was 12-years-old. Nana, however, was the one who was there every Christmas, the one whom I visited in the oppressive summers of Houston, the one who came to my wedding, got to know my children, and who used to call me every Saturday morning at 6am when I lived in California. She never did understand which way the time zones went.

More than anything right now, we're all feeling relief. Nana is no longer trapped in that body where she could hardly think, could hardly speak, and could hardly move. She is free, and I thank God for that.

But now there is also a Nana-shaped hole in our lives, the size of it depending on what she meant to us and how much we cared.

There are so many memories, but perhaps my favorite is when Nana would tell me I was her favorite granddaughter. I'd remind her that I was her only granddaughter, and then we'd laugh. And then I'd call her Nana-Banana, something I think she secretly hated, but that she always accepted from my brother and me.

She will be greatly missed.

R.I.P. Jean Carey (Nov. 5, 1915 - Oct. 18, 2010)

Copyright © 2010 - Paulla Estes


Marissa said...

Paula, I am so sorry for your loss. I know that 'disconnected' feeling you're talking about. When my Mom passed, I can remember looking at my Dad (rather desperately, just for a moment), thinking, "Oh God, if something happens to him I'll be an orphan."
I'm 43. I've been independent since my early 20's. It was very out of character, but now I understand. It's that connection to our roots and our past, which is, of course, our very essence. Celebrate all the greatness that your grandmother passed on to you!

Barb Kelley said...

This is just beautiful, Paulla.

Nicole said...

Beautiful post Paulla! May your Grandma rest in peace!

Remnant said...

Lovely tribute to your Nana.

I miss mine, still, and she's been gone for quite a long time.

Nana's rock!

Cara R said...

What a sweet glimpse into the life of your special little grandma! Thank you for sharing. I know it is very hard to lose someone you've known and loved all your life~just continue to hold onto all the wonderful memories you have!

Rocky Mountain Yankee said...

I'm sorry for your loss. I lost my grandfather in 2007 after a long illness and while I was glad he was no longer in pain his passing still left a large hole in our lives. I consider myself lucky to still have three living grandparents at my age that I can still make happy memories with. I'm glad you were able to make happy memories that you can now cherish with your Nana.

Michelle said...

A lovely post. Nanas are special people. Both of mine died in the last couple of years -- both 90. Hold onto those special memories.

cancer type said...

Thank you for bringing such nice posts. Your blog is always fascinating to read.

Paulla said...

Thank you, sweet friends, for all the kind words; sorry I haven't been here to publish them sooner. It means so much to know there are others out there who understand and who share the same feelings. God bless you all.

artandbookshop said...

Paula, because of my special connection to Maine (having lived there for 7 years) I follow you blog...
I can see your Nana was a special person, and no doubt cared for you deeply,even if she couldn't express it in the last few years. My Grandmother, too, died at 94... Let's hope we all have the same longetivity genes! May your Nana rest in peace, and enjoy her spirit being part of you!

Jennifer said...

I've been independent since my early 20's. It was very out of character, but now I understand. It's that connection to our roots and our past.