Thanksgiving was different for our family this year. For the first time, my husband spent it without the one who made holidays special his whole life – his mom. None of the grandkids got to taste “giblet” gravy because no one would dare attempt to make what only Nana could. I still made her favorite sour cream pound cake, only this time I came home with the leftover quarter she would have told me she ate for breakfast the following morning.
Losing someone who changed your life brings new perspective and a deeper sense of gratitude. The last days of her life highlighted the woman I felt most thankful for this Thanksgiving, the woman who gave me the half that makes me whole. But she didn’t just give me Jason, she loved that boy into the man I love most – the one I pray our boys will become just like.
In those last nine days in the hospital, it was as if the Lord reached down from heaven with a bright yellow marker to highlight the woman Nana had been her whole life. There it was, summed up so beautifully in those cherished last days, she was present and she was a fighter.
It was evident when the news came that her lung disease was progressing so fast we needed to actually consider life without her. But she wasn’t having it. “Well, that’s their diagnosis,” she responded in her nonchalant, Nana way. At this point she was extremely vibrant as the steroids began to kick in. What took precedence over the diagnosis was the fun she was having in the hospital room with her family and friends who came from near and far to be with their “best” friend.
As friend after friend announced that Nana was her best friend, we all just smiled and knew exactly why. It was the same reason we loved to show up at her house and sit on the porch swing with her talking about everything and nothing at all. She was always all there, fully present with the ones she loved.
A few days later, the party in the hospital room turned quiet and our laughter turned to tears as we crowded around the beeping hospital bed. Nana could barely keep her eyes open now and could only grunt and nod her head. Just a couple days earlier, she let everyone know that she did not want any morphine at all. She didn’t want to drift off to sleep and then die without a fight. She intended to fight for every moment with us and was not willing to let anything distort her clarity to fight for those moments.
Watching her chest heave so intensely while her heart rate soared high and her oxygen low, our hearts began to grieve what we saw coming. But just about the time we all consigned ourselves to these being her last few days, her eyes opened slightly as her feeble hands motioned to write. Someone grabbed a dry erase marker and a small board and handed it to her. The whole room went silent as we hung on every word she scribbled down, “Ask the Lord to give me a few more yrs. to Battle,” she scribbled. “Increase strength to fight.
It was her battle cry. It was her way of saying, “I’m still fighting. Get back into this fight with me.” It was her way of uniting us for battle once more. And battle we did. On our knees like never before.
Two days later she died. But not without a fight!
Without any morphine, fully present with us until her last breath, Nana fought for moments with us that we will cherish forever. At her battle’s end, she left us united to battle like she did – for moments that are never wasted. Moments fully present with the ones we love. Happy Thanksgiving Nana! Thanks for everything!