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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

My Grandmother is Dying the Same Way My Mom Did

My mom died 9 years ago from ovarian cancer. After some 6 years fighting it off with chemotherapy, she was eventually advised to join hospice.


Yesterday I learned that my grandmother (my mother’s mom), was placed in hospice. She’s been on chemotherapy for bone marrow cancer. Just like my mom, the doctor’s decided the chemotherapy was causing more harm than good. The pain and impact of the side effects of chemotherapy outweighed its use.


"Pain" Abstract Acrylic Painting by Jackie Schuld

So my grandmother, pain-stricken and belabored in breathing, is going to hospice to help her manage the pain and breathe better.


Last night my aunt told me that the hospice nurse was teaching her how to administer morphine drops to my grandma.

Our mom’s hospice nurse taught us how to do that, too. My sister, dad, and I lived with my mom during the last year of her life. The hospice nurse didn’t teach us that we’d eventually need to hide the morphine bottle from our mother. She’d be in delirious pain and want more morphine - but at levels that would kill her.


Luckily my sister was a nurse, so she kept track of all of that. I think my sister had it the hardest of all of us because of her nursing duties. My mom, in her delirium, saw my sister as a bit of a warden. She’d complain to me that my sister was withholding food and hiding things from her. It was both funny and awful at the same time.


The same goes for my grandma right now. Some things are so funny it’s awful.


What’s different this time is being on the outside. I am not by her bedside, privy to her every movement and word. I have to wait for the unclear and often confusing texts from my family.


I now have more empathy for the people I texted, or ignored, as my mother was dying.


Just like my mom, I don’t like knowing my grandma’s death is coming … but not when. I don’t like the difficulty of making plans as someone is dying. I don’t like knowing she is in pain.


At least I don’t have to see it this time. What haunts me most are the memories of my mother in pain. I will not share them here, for who needs those horrors?


I feel for my aunties though, and those present who have to bear witness to their mother in pain. It forever changes your soul.


I could rush to my grandmother’s side, but I know she wouldn’t want that. Just like my mother, she didn’t want others to see her in a withered state. She also didn’t have the energy for it.


My dad, sister, and I resented the people who would come to visit.


So I’ll stay here, knowing she is dying there. My grandmother and I have a positive relationship. It is the most loving relationship in my life. When she dies, all semblance of motherly love will vanish from my life.


My grandma has been my lifeline since losing my mother. The one I call to tell all my gossip, as well as all my accolades. She’s the one person I can unabashedly brag to. She’s the one person who always sees the good in me and just wants to hear more.


We’d cry together about my mother, but her grief was always centered around me. She’d start to cry and say, “Oh how your mother loved you.”


That is what I will say when my grandma is gone. “Oh how she loved me.”


I just wish her going could be a little more different.


Just like my mom’s. Or more accurately, a little less like my mom’s


A little less pain.


A little less agony.


A little more peace.

 

This essay was written in January 2023, and my grandmother passed away that month. If you’d like to read more about my perspectives on grief, you can see my illustrated book "Grief is Mess."

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