Mom has 4 grandchildren, 2 of whom, because of proximity or health, have been unable to develop or continue their relationship with her. The other 2 — my daughter and nephew — have made me so proud in the past several months since Mom’s diagnosis.
Mom has loomed large in both of their lives. In my daughter’s case, I was a single parent for much of her upbringing, but Mom could always be counted on to help out when I was on a business trip, was hosting a gathering for family or friends, redecorating, and she’d spend virtually all holidays with us. It was Mom who taught my daughter how to make killer rice crispy bars; ensured balanced meals (much better than I); and most importantly gave her a role model of how much one could contribute to society in retirement. In my nephew’s case, Mom gave him a stability, a grounding that his home environment sometimes lacked. In both cases — as well as with my other, disabled nephew — she provided them unqualified, forgiving, helpful love and kindness, augmented with her common sense and pragmatism (not to mention the paddle boat she kept for them at her waterfront home that they enjoy even to adulthood).
News of Mom’s diagnosis hit them hard. Neither has experienced a close relative with a terminal illness before. Neither has experienced the dying process up close and personal. But neither ran from Mom’s situation. Since our return to Virginia, both have made countless visits to their beloved Grandmom, 2-3 hours each way. My nephew and his wife have brought such joy to Mom by bringing their daughter (Mom’s only local great grandchild) on several visits. All of us were warmed by her smile, her laughter, her antics, her facial expressions, and even her toys. It was a frequent reminder that life goes on. My daughter, too, made frequent visits, at times accompanied by her significant other, whom Mom also likes. (With Mom, life is much easier if she likes the person you’re dating. I know this from experience.) Nearly ever week, Mom has had a visit from one or both of her grandchildren. Always courteous, they unfailingly ask whether a visit is convenient, whether we needed anything, and are careful not to tire Mom out too much. The visits gave her joy and hope for the future.
As important as their visits are to their Grandmom, I also think they are also important to them. It’s a sad life experience to see someone they love go from vibrant, funny, energetic to death’s door in a matter of a few months. But it’s a life experience we all must encounter, and her strength, faith, and calmness with which she’s approaching death made that life experience more meaningful for all of us who had the good fortune to touch her. The grandchildren will miss her, but will not forget her. She’ll live on in their children, and their children’s children.