Last Words to my Dying Grandma

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?

24 thoughts on “Last Words to my Dying Grandma

  1. There are no “correct” words – just speaking from your heart. And you did. Don’t worry – she understands.

  2. Hi Your post on ooglers is funny . i got so old that I do the same is they don’t offer me their sits. i had lung cancer twice and short winded.
    My grandma died 50 years ago. i didn’t go to the hospital to pick her up and that was that. I miss her a lot, especially since I have no one else. My dog was put down. My son thinks I abandoned him and hasn’t spoke to me for over 6 years, when i got ca.
    Right now I’m drawing another picture of grandma and me. I’m always 12 in the pictures,
    About 6 or so years ago at christmas I was very depressed and I started a new style of paintings for me.I decided to paint happy things and had to go to 6th grade to find something,
    About 3 paintings later, I decided to paint my family. It was amazing and a great piece. I had left all the people white. Why? but then I realized they were all dead.
    I painted myself sitting on grandmas knee giving her a kiss. i said to myself, Barbara you painted love. When ever I am blue and crying. I cry a lot. Depression, dysthymia but I never take anything cuz I like how my brain has changed.
    Anyways I may make a post cuz this is good info how to heal yourself.
    How fortunate we are: artists, bloggers, i found you on a blogger 101 site, i was in it 2.
    My grandma was the only who loved me. I never met my family’s approval and sometimes .not even my own but then I laugh and think I’m great .
    Well anyways I love you, strange. Well OK good by.

    1. How remarkable that you have painted your grandma and family – my grandma was an artist and I inherited a lot of her art supplies. (As I’m the only one in the family also interested in art.) 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  3. What can you say in that situation that will sound ‘right’? You can only express what is in your heart. You did that. I did not get to speak to my mother before she died – one of my profoundest regrets, but whatever you do,I think you always feel you left something out, something unsaid. Really, though, in the time you were together, you said it all and did it all. The story is complete.

    1. Thanks, Fredrick. You know, when I think about it now and remember that conversation, I can’t think of anything I would have done differently. I don’t have any regrets surrounding what I said to her, and I’m sorry you do. 😦 Hopefully, grandmas know.

  4. I think you were awesome… I would never know what to say but you faced it head on with her in honesty. Makes me think and prepare myself for similar eventualities with my family. Thanks

  5. Well I went on here because my grandma is on her deathbed and not to be mean or anything but your so lucky that your grandma can talk to you mine is unable to speak no because her brain had an internal bleeding (which is what put her in this situation) but anyways what you said is very similar to what I plan on saying so in a way you reassured me and now I know what I say will be the right thing. Thanks.

  6. Very eye-watering story. My grandmother took a fall in her kitchen in January. While she was in a nursing home being “cared” for, she developed a bed sore due to the lack of care from the nurses. It’s taken control of her life, even though it is healing, it has done it’s damage and we believe she doesn’t have much longer to live. We have her home now (I have lived with her since birth in 92 along with my mother) and it’s hard on us.

    My aunt and mom take care of her with what they can and then Hospice comes by and helps during the week. I really do nothing towards helping her, just having my presence around upon request, which is very often requested by the young woman at 80 years. Since the fall her appetite plummeted to the point where there’s not much to do to reverse it all. She was the most independent woman I’ve ever met before all this happened.

    She used to get upset at my mother for sleeping in all day long, and now that she has the chance to sleep all she wants, I think it’s made her miserable. Not to mention all the family drama…she has all this time to reflect upon her life choices, and honestly, I don’t think she’s proud. I’m the last of her “children” and she just wants me to turn out great. Unlike the 3 of her real children. And after my grandfather passed in 99 I’ve become the “man of the house” and she sees a lot of him in me.

    I’ve been left in charge of her bank account with a whopping $25,000 in it (with monthly SSI and another check for almost $2,000 a month) and I feel like the 3 of her kids don’t deserve it. I wish she would have used all that money for herself, but money has become an issue between us all. My grandmothers kids have basically lived off her income for as long as I can remember myself. Other than her son, but he’s another story. I just feel like of the people in the whole family, the ones that are more than likely getting the money, don’t deserve it, and the ones that are doing the right thing and struggling in life do deserve it. I don’t care if I get any of the money, but if the $25,000 is going to go to waste, I’d like to save some of it and help a few of the other family members out with some struggles. Afetrall, she did put me in charge of the money and I feel like the money I’d be giving to the people of my choosing, would benefit from it far greater than the ones I believe are going to get it.

    I feel like I have no time to sit down and talk with her sadly. I’m so caught up in work and my girlfriend and moving out and getting our own place together and doing our own thing that I end up with no time for a lot of things. I know I need to focus on myself and my own path, but I don’t want to end my path with my grandmother just yet. But she’s at a point where she can answer basic yes and no questions and no longer able to go into detail of any subject. So I think story time with her has been lost.

    I’m just trying so very hard to not let it get me down and to keep moving on in life, but I feel like that’s what I’m going to regret later in life. And as I read this I thought about it and have no clue what to say as last words, other than “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, “See you one day”.

    1. I’m sorry to hear about this, something that sounds like happened so quickly. It sounds like she’s also prolonging her path with you since she asks for your company so often-which is both a blessing and a curse. 🙂
      It sounds like she loves you and really trusts in your judgment, even if you can’t talk with her about your concerns.
      For what it’s worth, as I look back on that conversation with my own grandmother, there isn’t anything I wish I had done differently. I have no regrets about the conversation. I hope you can find something that also leaves you without regrets.
      Sending blessings and love to you and your grandma in these days. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. I think I will say “. I’m going to miss you grandma. But im glad that i can see you, in myself & i love you and thank you, for that “

    1. Thank you for asking about it! There is a button on the left hand side of the blog, below the header picture and then the blue Facebook button. It’s above archives, though. Did that work? Let me know and I’ll keep looking into it.

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