Monday, September 12, 2011
Such Incredible Strength
I received a call last week from my mom, informing me that my grandma was in the hospital, and may only have a couple more days to live. After a quick packing of the car and canceling of the rest of my week, I was on the road. I was only an hour and half away, but if felt like a lifetime. My mind was all over the place, reliving the fun times I had with her, as well as the opportunities I let slip by, due to my own selfishness.
When I walked in her hospital room, I immediately noticed how big it was, and how alone she must have felt. This saddened me, immensely. No one should have to go through this time alone. She was laying on her back, hands crossed over her stomach, with a large oxygen mask blowing air into her lungs at a rate necessary to keep her alive.
She looked asleep, but as I loudly said hello into her right ear, she immediately opened her eye. Her head turned to me, allowing her left eye to make contact with my face. She wasn't asleep at all, she was waiting... waiting for a familiar face to say, "I'm here. You're no longer alone." She immediately recognized me, letting out a sigh of relief, and what seemed to be excited glee in her eye. Because of the mask, she couldn't talk, but her eyes and body language said it all. She knew I was there. She knew her once lonely room would never be that big again.
Not knowing how much she was going to understand and communicate back to me, I just talked. I talked about her gorgeous granddaughter, the Lakers (she loved the NBA), and how my arm was still sore from throwing the football with her when I was 6 years old. She was focused directly into my eyes, making sure I knew that she understood everything. When I told her my mom (her daughter) would be there the next day, both eyes opened with anticipation. It instantly struck me: This is what she's been waiting for!
Her body was broken, but her mind was alert and strong. She was going to hold on as long as it took to say goodbye to her daughter. No matter what her physical shell was telling her, or how much pain it was sending through her nerve endings, her commitment and passion would win-out! Nothing was going to beat her before her goal was achieved. I knew it would be 24 hours before this would happen, as my mom's flight didn't land until the next night. This next full day was going to change my life forever.
The next morning came too fast. As I arrived back at her bedside after a rough night's sleep, she was laying in the same position. I gave her a kiss on the cheek, and she responded immediately. When she turned her head to see my face, I instantly felt as if I could read her mind. She was happy to see me, but wanted to know when her daughter would be by her side. "Mom will be here tonight. Until then, you're stuck with me," I jokingly said.
The remainder of the day was spent talking with her, and taking mental notes on how strong the mind can be under incredibly stressful times. Her hands moved quite well, but for such an active woman, not being able to move much more must've felt tortuous. She also communicated with her eyes, eyebrows, and shoulder shrugs, but even during this incredibly frustrating time, she remained tough as nails. At one point, I began reading her favorite passages from the bible, but she made it quite clear she wanted me to stop. With every ounce of strength she had left in her arms, she reached up to my face, gestured me to stop, and waved me out of the room! Through her oxygen mask, we whispered, "Sleep. Head back." This was the first time I heard her speak. I didn't even think it was possible for her to verbally communicate. This was my grandma, though - she was as strong as they came, and always let you know how she felt. She didn't care that I was there to comfort her ... she just wanted me out of the room so she could take a nap. I laughed as I shut the door behind me.
When my mom arrived, and grandma heard her voice, it was as if a long, tedious marathon had finally ended. Grandma locked on to mom's eyes, and wouldn't let go. She attempted to pull that overgrown oxygen mask off her face, but didn't have the strength. Words weren't necessary. They both knew how much they loved, and would miss each other. The love my grandma had for her daughter was so intense, she somehow found a way to give her a hug. They held on for what seemed like an eternity.
My grandma didn't know it, but during the two days I spent with her in the hospital, she taught me the true meaning of the 1% mindset. From this day on, when I talk about "separating from the pack," I'll compare all others to her strength, passion, and commitment.
Say hi to grandpa for me!