Last week we decided to make a trip to Utah to see my family. My dad’s mother has been in a care center for a few months and her health had deteriorated to a point where we didn’t know if she’d be around for our planned visit in the spring.
We arrived in Utah early Thursday morning and went to the care center that afternoon to visit grandma. The doctors had recently put her on some medication to reduce her anxiety. It did that a little too well and made her sleep through our first visit. My father and I stopped by the next day and she was awake, but still a bit confused and groggy.
On Sunday we decided to stop by with our four young children. We were not sure this was the right decision to make given their high levels of energy don’t exactly mix with the docile nature of a care center. As we made our way through the snow into the hallway and past the large fish tank, we continually reminded our kids to be on their best behavior.
And they were on their best behavior as we visited with Grandma who was very weak but coherent. Each of our kids approached her as she laid peacefully in bed. Grandma reached out to hold each of their small hands. Luca, Lincoln and Anna all looked at her in amazement. She told each of them how happy she was to see them and how darling each of them looked. I don’t know if they recognized their grandma until she spoke as her face had lost much of its definition.
Picture: My mother comforting Grandma Nordquist
Unlike Kim, I’m not very comfortable in these situations. I’m not quite sure what to say and I don’t want to come across as if I understand what she is going through when I can’t possibly know what it’s like. My heart raced. Time slowed down. But I felt at peace as I sat next to my grandma’s bed and held her hand. Or what was left of her hand as rheumatoid arthritis had taken its toll on most of her body, but the damage was most evident in her knotted fingers. Her hand was warm as I held it. Over and over she said how proud she was of me and our children.
She’d never seen baby Kai before and so we placed him on the bed next to her. Grandma was so happy to see his chubby cheeks and listen to him coo and watch him wiggle his tiny hands and feet in the air. He looked like a potato bug that got tipped over. The sight of our 2 month old son giggling and laughing as he nestled alongside our 87 year old grandma is something I won’t forget.
We didn’t stay long. Each of our kids came over to the bed to say goodbye. Kim and I each held her hand. We both had tears in our eyes. As I held her hand I knew it would be the last time I saw her alive. I am certain she knew it too.
We returned to my parents home and packed our bags for the return trip to Seattle the next morning. I thought of the many great memories I have of my Grandma and Grandpa Nordquist. They attended dozens of baseball, basketball and football games while I was in high school. No matter how I performed, they would hug me and tell me I played well. They made me feel important. That must be a requirement to become a grandparent.
We left Ogden around noon for the long drive back to Seattle. We drove north past Brigham City and then over into Idaho and on to Boise. We continued into Oregon passing Baker City and Pendleton before crossing into Washington State. Kim mentioned how many stars she could see due to the clear sky. As we drove through Snoqualmie Pass at three in the morning I mentioned to Kim how cool the snow and the lights looked as they glistened against the ski runs that were outlined by tall pine trees. It was about this time that my Grandma Nordquist passed away.
She went to sleep and didn’t wake up. I can picture her being reunited with my Grandpa and how happy she must be. I’m glad I had the chance to spend some time with her during those last few hours.