Sunday night, I got the call that Mimi was in the hospital. I talked to Susan, Emily, mom and dad. All said this could be it, but there wasn’t a sense of urgency for me to head to Nashville. That, coupled with the horrible stomach flu that was making its way around the house, kept me in Georgia.
Monday, things were looking up. Mom said once the pain medicine was regulated, Mimi would be able to go home. We all knew she wasn’t going to get better, but the talk was she would at least get to go home.
Tuesday morning, I spoke with Dad who said that all was in place for Mimi to be discharged. In fact, as we talked, he was outside the hospital waiting on his ride. I left the conversation believing that Mimi was moments away from heading home.
I waited to hear how the transition was going for Mimi and Papa. I knew it would be an adjustment to get everything set up with Hospice at the house. I never got a phone call so Tuesday night, I called my dad.
He answered and I asked how the transition had been. His reaction was one of confusion. Hadn’t I heard? She wasn’t going home.
No, no one had told me this!
I was very upset and practically yelled at my dad. “Dad, we talked this morning and you were leaving the hospital with her. What happened?”
He explained that over the course of the morning, Mimi had become upset with the thought of heading home with Hospice. Though the doctors had explained to her that “going home with Hospice” was not code for “you are about to die,” it caused her great distress.
In fact, my dad, who was with Mimi in the hospital, didn’t even know if she would make it through the night. She wasn't doing well.
I was in shock.
After hanging up with Dad, I called Susan and Emily. Had they heard the dramatic twist?
No. Neither of them knew that Mimi was still in the hospital. They, like me, had thought she had headed home Tuesday morning.
As I talked to them, I learned that the stomach flu had reached Tennessee and both were suffering.
I knew what I needed to do. Since I was the only well one, I needed to head to Nashville to help my Mom, Dad, Papa and Uncle Melvin. Wednesday morning I packed up and then procrastinated. I didn’t want to go! Wesley could sense my hesitation and he said, “Leanne, you need to go. You need to go be with your family.”
I knew he was right but I was scared. I didn’t want to see my Mimi sick. We had had a lovely visit with her at the beginning of December. Three days ago, I had spoken with her on the phone. It was a brief, but nice Day-After-Christmas conversation. She had called me “Precious.”
She was completely “with it” and completely Mimi. How could she have spiraled downhill so quickly? What did this all mean? As long as I was in Georgia, I didn’t have to face these questions. I knew walking into that hospital room meant dealing head on with my dying Mimi. I didn't want to go.
With Wesley’s encouragement and support, I got in the car. Four hours later, I pulled into Baptist Hospital. I arrived on her floor and was immediately greeted by my Dad who filled me in on Mimi’s status.
She wasn’t improving. The difficult decision had been made to move Mimi to Alive Hospice. She would be cared for by Hospice nurses in a calm environment. It would be peaceful – no machines beeping, no distracting noises from the hospital. Everything would be focused on keeping Mimi out of pain.
He took me to her room. As I walked in, I saw Papa and Uncle Melvin. They smiled when they saw me. My attention then turned to Mimi, my fragile Mimi lying in the bed. She didn’t talk, but she knew I was there. She smiled and I told her about my trip to Nashville. I knew she knew it was me.
Papa, Uncle Melvin, Aunt Joy and I chatted as we waited for the EMTs to transport Mimi to Alive Hospice. I did my best to explain to Mimi what was happening. I am sure she didn’t understand, as she was confused when they rolled her out of the room. Papa wasn’t sure exactly what was going on either, but we pushed through.
I volunteered to stay the night with Mimi so my mom and dad could get some rest. I didn’t know the proper rules for Night Stay – did I stay up all night? Could I leave to get a drink? Could I go to the bathroom? My biggest fear was Mimi dying without anyone there with her. I was afraid to leave her side.
I had brought with me the new Nicholas Sparks book Mimi had given me for Christmas. Mimi loved books so I decided to read to her. I pulled up a chair beside her bed and held her hand. She could no longer verbally respond but I thought she might be able to hear. And if she could, I knew she would enjoy a good book.
I read and talked for a few hours. Around midnight, I realized rest probably was a good thing for Mimi and me. I pulled out the couch and tried to sleep. I woke many times that night to the peaceful sound of Mimi breathing. Around 5:00 in the morning, when the nurse came in to check on her, I went to get some coffee.
I spent the morning with Mimi. I hadn’t heard her speak or even communicate with her hands since the night before, but every now and again, she would smile as if she saw something, or someone, to her left. I would ask what she saw, but no response.
I sat in my chair, holding her hand while I worked on a crossword puzzle. I am really good at the puzzles in the back of People Magazine. I am really bad at all others! I read the clues but had no answers.
I got to a clue “the author of Winnie the Pooh” and knew I should have known it. I read it aloud and I could tell Mimi knew the answer. She made a fist and struggled as if she was telling me “you know this one!”
I didn’t – so I cheated (just a little). I found the answer –Milne. I said it out loud and Mimi relaxed her hands. She was still “there” even though we couldn’t talk.
Mom, Dad, and Papa came and relieved me of my duty. I was to go home and rest, but sleep didn’t come. Instead, I sat and thought about the fact that she was near the end.
Susan and Emily still weren’t feeling 100% so I called and talked to them. They wanted to come see Mimi but with weakened immune systems, were worried about being out. We went back and forth about what was best for them until finally it was decided that they would come by that night. I don’t know why or how this decision was reached, but I am so glad it was.
I traveled back to Alive Hospice to eat dinner with Dad. We sat with Mimi and discussed the day. Mom joined us and soon after Emily and Susan were there. I had been with Mimi for over 24 hours and watched as she slowly lost more and more of “her,” Even so, I still believed she would recognize Susan and Emily. I told them to speak directly to her. Get as close as they could and just talk.
As Susan talked, we all realized Mimi knew who it was. By this point, her eyes were the only way she could respond, and I saw them change as Susan talked. Emily went next and got up close to her face. As she did, Mimi recognized her Angel #3.
We sat around with the UT bowl game on in the background and just talked. I can’t remember the last time the 5 of us were together in a room with no kids, no husbands. It was just Mom, Dad, Susan, Emily, and me surrounding Mimi. We were laughing and sharing stories. Several times, Dad would look over at Mimi and say, “It’s nice to hear your girls laughing, isn’t it?”
After one story, Susan and Emily even saw her laugh along with us. As we laughed and shared stories of growing up with Mimi, we were all at peace. It was hard to remember that we were even in a room set aside for those who were dying.
Hard to remember that until Susan said, “She’s not breathing.”
Sweet, innocent, and soft were her words.
I quickly responded, “Yes she is. It just sometimes takes her awhile”
We all turned to look at the beautiful lady who had cared, nurtured, loved us all, and…she wasn’t breathing.
Immediately, we jumped into action. Buttons were pushed and nurses were called. Emily and Dad comforted Mom who was not ready to let her Mom go. Susan and I rushed to Mimi’s side and started signing. I can’t even remember the first song that came to mind, but we quickly changed to “Jesus Loves Me”
We were standing right beside her as she took one more breath, and with a smile on her face, left this world.
Some people say they were with their loved one when they pass. I say with Mimi, I wasn’t with her when she passed – I saw her pass.
It was the most spiritual moment of my life as I watched my Mimi – who had been struggling for 4 days – be filled with peace. With a smile, she left this world to be with her Lord. She saw someone – whether her mom, sister, Jesus – I don’t know. But she wasn’t alone. During this time when our hearts were breaking, she was rejoicing with someone she saw on the other side.
A strange peace entered my body as I realized that this body – this petite, frail, aging body – no longer held my Mimi. It was a tired vessel that wasn’t needed.
Mimi had sat and listened as we laughed, shared, talked, and remembered. She realized, it was time for her to let go. We were going to be okay, and she was ready for the prize that awaited her.
Soon, it sank in that there were decisions to make, people to call, things to do. I stayed strong. I thrive in that element. Give me tasks in a stressful situation and I will get it done. I can shut down my emotions and work through it.
I set up the plan to get my Mom home. Though it was so difficult for my Mom to see Mimi in pain, she wasn’t ready to say good-bye to her mom. Are we really ever ready for that? She needed to go home and process the events of the night. Ryan was called in to take her home.
Dad and I stayed behind until the representatives from the funeral home arrived. We talked about how comforting it was to know that Mimi had passed surrounded by her family.
I went back to the house with Dad Friday night and had a nice, restful sleep. I knew Friday would be stressful, and I wanted to be ready. Mom, Papa, and Uncle Melvin had to meet with the funeral home director. Thankfully, Mimi had written down some of her wishes.
My mom knew what she wanted Mimi to be buried in, but couldn’t ask Papa to bring it with him and couldn’t go herself to pick it up. She asked if I would go.
I was happy to help so I headed over to Mimi’s house. I had a mission: get the dress, shoes, and get home. As soon as I walked into the house, I forgot about the mission, and my tears came. Walking into the empty home, seeing evidence of Mimi everywhere was too much to bear. I broke down remembering the countless meals at the kitchen table; seeing her handwriting on notes left all over the house; smelling her smell in her clothes.
I knew she had a box for each of the grandchildren so I found mine and went through it. She had saved everything –cards, envelopes, pictures. I noticed a few other envelopes and realized she also had a stash of things from Jackson. She saved and treasured even the tiniest of things. It made me miss her even more.
I had to gather some things from her dresser. I opened the drawers and realized she stored precious keepsakes in her drawers just like me! There was the wedding invitation of my mom and dad, special jewelry and an envelope filled with money. I didn’t open it. I didn’t have to. I knew what it was. It was her “peanut butter jar” money. Every few months, Jackson and Philip would get a crisp $5 bill with a note that read "I just cleaned out my peanut butter jar. Here's your share. Love, Net." Rebekah, Caleb and Joshua always got their $5 bill too. I had found her mystery stash.
I just cried and cried as I lifted her blue dress out of the closet. It was a beautiful gown that Mimi had worn three times – to each of our weddings.
I knew I couldn’t return home with a tear-stained face so I headed to her bathroom to wash up. I grabbed a washcloth and started crying again. How many times had I been to her house where she would say,” Make sure you grab a clean towel to wash your hands.”
I knew she would have said that to me that day so I grabbed a clean towel, cried, and then stuck the towel in my purse. I wanted something to hold in remembrance of her. It sounds juvenile but there was a part of me that wanted something of hers.
I realize that most 30-somethings probably don’t grieve and mourn as much for their grandmothers as I did. But many probably don't have a relationship with their grandmothers like Susan, Emily and I had with Mimi. She was a constant and life without her is hard to imagine.
I rest though in the peace that she is no longer in pain.
I rest in the knowledge that she is with her Lord.
I rest in the promise that I will see her again.