My grandma’s dying. Not just in the sense that we’re all dying, but she’s ready to go now. She’s signed her DNR papers. She’s getting a last communion tonight. All her daughters are with her right now. I had called my mom for details and was kind of regretting not being there to see grandma before she goes, and mom offered to let me talk to her. I felt a surge of sad gratefulness that I could talk to her again. But what would I say?
Mom held the phone to grandma’s ear and I could hear the rush of air from her oxygen mask. I pictured her sitting in her bed, weak and under the covers.
I heard her say, “Hi honey.” I started to cry so hard, and I still didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to just sob into her ear, though, and I said, “Hi Grandma. I’m sorry you’re not feeling well.” She said, “Me too.” (Was that stupid? Of course she’s not feeling well!) I said, “I know it’s more than that; I know you’re your ready to go on.” She said, “Yes, I am.” (How weird is that!? Talking with someone about them dying, about leaving this life forever! And being okay with it!)
I told her I loved her and then asked her about a card I sent with my aunt. There was a cute story I had written her about a little girl being reminded by her mother to write her grandma a thank you (a true story), but as I was starting to tell her about it, she said, a few times, that she heard. (I felt bad that she had to tell me a few times. Like, she only has so much oxygen left in her life; she shouldn’t have to use it on something like this.) I wrapped up it up by saying I thought I should do the same. She said, “And you did.” I said, “Yes, I did.”
She said,”I hope you have a wonderful wedding; I’m sorry I’m not coming.” (My wedding was going to be two weeks after this point.) I said, “It’s okay, it’s okay, and, you know, you might get to be there anyway, you know, like if you’re in heaven and you come and see it.” (Was that the wrong thing to say? Assuming she’ll die – was that wrong?)
There was a slight bit of silence and I felt rushed and insecure, like I needed to use the precious few seconds left in the conversation. I said, “I love you, grandma.” She said, “I love you, too, honey.” Mom took the phone back and then I really started to cry. We hung up quickly with her promise to keep me informed.
I’ve never spoken to someone on their deathbed before. How do you know if you do it right? What about those “last words” you hope you get to say? Other than “I love you” or “Please forgive me,” is there anything else one can remember to say? Is there anything else that needs to be said?