Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The longest day

So on Saturday night the boyfriend and I were out for a friend's birthday (see I do take him out sometimes!) and he gets a call from one of his sisters to say that his grandmother had taken a turn for the worse. We knew this was coming soon, she had been getting weaker and more frail since January, when terminal cancer was diagnosed.

We arrived at his parent's house for the most awkward of all social situations - a bedside vigil.

(Is a vigil a social situation? I'm classing it as one because there is a group of people there.)

Unfortunately we all know how I deal with difficult situations. Badly.

'Surreal' doesn't even cover it. There we all were, grandmother in bed, death rattle in full flow, the boyfriend's parents, his sisters, the dog, boyfriend and me. Oh and I was fantastically dressed up, having decided to wear a fancy new dress out for the birthday. It felt a little bizarre to say the least.

Luckily the boyfriend's family is as inappropriate as I am and at one point we were all sat around the bed, drinking pink fizz, laughing and joking and talking about all kinds of things under the sun. His grandmother wouldn't have minded, she'd have been joining in with us a month or so ago.

Eventually it became clear that Saturday night wasn't going to be the night so at 1am we all decided to go to bed, I borrowed something to wear from one of his sisters and we collapsed into the boyfriend's old bed for a very fitful night of sleep.

Sunday morning dawned along with the realisation that the only clothes I had to wear were either a fancy dress or men's pyjama bottoms complete with inappropriate flap. Cue quick trip home in what was possibly the most hilarious walk of shame outfit ever - Hooters t-shirt, men's pj bottoms, 4 inch pink heels and the boyfriend's coat, carrying dress and last night's tights in a bundle in my arms. Just call me classy.

We were soon back to begin one of the longest days ever.

It's actually quite boring waiting for someone to die you know.

I felt a little awkward because of my position, I was the only non-family member there so I tried to do useful things while the family took it turns to sit upstairs.

When it got to about 9pm we decided we would make tracks and head back to the flat. The boyfriend got his coat on and headed upstairs to say goodbye.

Next thing I knew we were all upstairs. The time had come. And we were all stood around the bed as she passed away. I've heard horror stories of people's last moments and I was pretty afraid but actually you'd never have known, if it wasn't for the fact that I could no longer hear the rattle, I wouldn't have been sure she'd gone.

We opened the windows and brought up all the flowers in the house and sat around the bed for a while longer. I began to get a bit itchy at this point, I was very conscious that we ere sat with a dead body in the room and I wasn't particularly enjoying it. Especially when the boyfriend's Dad leaned on the remote control for the bed and for a moment it looked like she was sitting up - my worst nightmare realised. It did dispel the tension a bit.

Like I say, I was unsure of whether I should be there or not, I didn't know if this was a moment just for family and if I'm honest I would rather not have been there, I don't enjoy seeing dead people, it makes it harder to remember them when they were alive and that's the image I would rather have, but I just wanted to stick beside the boyfriend and make sure he was ok.

And actually I was glad I was there. I didn't get the chance to say goodbye to my grandma and for the past year and a half I've had a replacement who I saw more of than my own. Maybe the tears were a delayed expression of emotion for my own flesh and blood.

Or maybe they were just for a wonderful lady who was so incredibly full of life. It sounds trite to say that and I always feel a little inward roll of the eyes when I hear it but I swear it really was true. Last summer she was with all of us in France and in November she had a super fancy party for her 90th birthday. She loved nothing more than a glass of sherry (why do old people like sherry?) and watching the cricket.

And this is what we say to make ourselves feel bettter. "Oh she had a good life.", "Oh she had a long life", "Oh at least she's not suffering anymore". But beneath all that we still feel it's unfair and still think she was taken too soon.

See you later Mutti.


Heather said...

Trish said...

Oh my....what a wonderfully honest account of a very personal time. I loved that you were able to so freely express what was happening around the situation. Because I am thinking that I, like you, would be hearing and seeing the most minute of things....conscious of the here and now and the passing of time during the waiting. You are a dear to be there...despite it being awkward or not...despite the clothing debacle and despite not being the family. Afterall, you did know 'the boyfriend's' grandmother and you were there for him....wonderful. I felt like I was captured in a 'held breath' moment in in a movie or in a book. I am so sorry for your (and the boyfriend's) loss. Take care and I am glad you could say goodbye this time around.

Petit Filoux said...

Oh I'm so sorry. I would say it gets better with time, but I lost my (best) grandad three years ago now and it's still as painful now as it was back then. Couldn't help but chuckle about the clothes malarky though. But on a more serious note, I hope you're both ok x

J said...

When we're young, we think our loved ones will be with us forever, then as we start to get older we realise that life can really suck and feel very unfair.
I've been at that bedside vigil 3 times in my life (my uncle, my dad and then with my mum)- I remember feeling like I was in the middle of a soap-opera, things didn't seem real - On reflection, I just didn't want them to be real.
Your boyfriend's gran sounds like she was real character - you'll all have such happy memories.
Have been thinking about you since I read about your sad news.
Take care

The Curious Cat said...

oh how annoying I just wrote a really long entry and then there was a service error! typical. Will come back and rewrite it shortly...just testing this one won't error either... xxx

The Curious Cat said...

Okay, that worked...I was just saying - wow - what an interesting post. Touches of joviality with your outfits but also very sad and poignant... I think it is amazing that you all held vigil though. There is something very beautiful and comforting about it. Even if she was unaware- I think it has its benefits for those still very much alive in the room...a sort of comfort and a tacit understanding that the same will be done for them one day if fate permits... I'm sure your boyfriend really appreciated it and I'd be proud that you were invited in to be there - a real sign you are considered part of the family. It is very caring and brave of you. I know what you say about these words that are there to pat you on the back and reassure -like 'oh she lived a long life'. The truth is death is always a bugger and mysterious and scary and so much more...I hope you will all get through it and be okay. Much love xxx

ana said...

Big hug.

TKW said...

Oh my God, I am laughing so hard at the mental image of the remote control reach/dead grandma looking like she'd sat up!!! That's horrible, but hilariously amusing at the same time! said...

I understand completely, having seen quite a few of my family 'go' now. I love the way your humour is quietly standing next to you all the time, and that is a very good and healthy way to live. It is never easy to know how to react in these moments. Even though you felt uncomfortable (understandably) you stayed and supported your boyfriend throughout. Big hugs to you. suzie. xxx Ps. love the remote control bit! x

Diane said...

You do write really really well! I have been wondering recently about how we deal with death and which culture deals best with it. Death is the only certainty in our lives, and yet we don't handle it well at all. I was the only one with my Gran when she died. I had gone to visit her in hospital in my dinner hour, and she was just about to "go" so I stayed with her. Whilst it was incredibly upsetting, I was glad that she had someone who loved her there. I just missed being with my Grandad, but it had been so painful watching him fade, and fighting it all theway, not wanting to die, I was relieved when it was the end, but then I felt guilty for feeling that way. xxxxx