Home for Christmas, and Home for a Death

I felt a terrible pit in my stomach as I knelt at the foot of my grandmother’s hospital bed and rested my head next to her feet. As my family kept praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, I prayed desperately that Our Mother Mary would come to take my grandmother home and that she would be received in the arms of Our Merciful Savior.

She had fought cancer for nearly five years. For several months she had steadily declined and cancer fluid began to accumulate in her abdomen. I had prayed that I would be with her when she died, but I was in graduate school in south Florida, a twenty-hour car drive away.

Her World Series

I was home for Christmas break. Christmas was my grandma’s “World Series,” as one of my uncles described it. We celebrated Christmas together as a family, as we always did, in my grandma and grandpa’s home. She was extremely weak, unable even to open her gifts. She would still though sneak out a little smile, overcome by the joy in watching us open our presents.

A few days after Christmas, she sat on her bed, waiting to be taken to the hospital yet again, as her blood pressure and oxygen levels were dangerously low. She whispered, “I don’t know if I am dying.”

Her once bright blue and lively eyes now looked exhausted and had become almost a dull grey color. “You need to hang on for a few more hours,” I told her. “Your son and daughter-in-law are on their way, and they are bringing your new grandchild. You need to hang on until they get here so that you can meet your new grandbaby.” She nodded slightly and seemed to receive a little more energy and the will to keep going.

My aunt and uncle and cousins arrived at the hospital a few hours later, and my aunt brought her newborn son to my grandma. Grandma kissed his little cheeks and forehead incessantly. The priest at the local parish came and gave her the Last Rites and the Apostolic Pardon, and afterwards she declined rapidly.

Her Final Race

Early the next morning, we knew she would die soon. We took turns stroking her hand, kissing her cheek, telling her we loved her, and reassuring her that we would be okay. As she breathed more sporadically, I found myself silently cheering her on to complete the race and to go home to the Father.

Her breathing then stopped for a moment. She looked up and moved her gaze around the room. She did not seem to be looking at us, although her eyes glanced in our direction. She seemed to be seeing something none of us could see.

We prayed together, “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled.” We made the sign of the Cross. She stopped her gaze at the entrance to her hospital room. She died surrounded by her husband, all seven children, two daughters-in-law, and four granddaughters.

I was able to be with her when she died. Now I pray that I will have a death like hers.

 

Kara Logan is a Ph.D. student at Ave Maria University. She is also an affiliate scholar with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University.

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