Monday, February 9, 2009

Goodbye, Gigi...

Friday night, after coming home intoxicated by the carbs from the bread and oil and Penne Cardinale at Buca di Beppo, we got a call from James' dad that his grandmother had suddenly passed away. Such sad and unexpected news. Around Thanksgiving, her health made a turn for the worst and she couldn't come for the holidays this year, so we told her we'd come for a visit this month -- when my first trimester was over and I could travel again. She died before we made the trip, and that made us feel terrible and exacerbated the sadness.

Gigi went downhill fairly rapidly. She was very self-reliant and working all the way into her eighties. She went from full-time to part-time as a pre-K teacher, then retired just three or four years ago. In the years following her retirement, her health deteriorated. She had several joint replacements, but really struggled with mobility afterward. Gigi went from working and being very independent to being at stuck at home with nursing care. In November, her physician suggested she be put in a care facility so her insurance would pay for the rehabilitation needed to increase her mobility (they wouldn't pay for a rehab nurse to come to her home). At that point, she was on the decline. She began having minor health issues which turned into major ones. Lately, she had some heart trouble and was experiencing some memory loss and dementia. Friday, without warning, she died.

We were sad that we didn't take the opportunity to get down there to say our goodbyes, but we were also sad for James' dad. Gigi has lived with him now for about 20 years, ever since James' mom passed away. We were so concerned for Poppa John, for the loneliness he would feel, and were ready to go right away to spend a few days with him. When we told him we were coming, he insisted we wait until later in the month. He said he was fine, and surprisingly, he really sounded that way. Nearly relieved, actually.

Poppa John and Gigi live in a very small town in the piney woods of East Texas. Every basic need requires a road trip. Poppa John has been alone in caring for his ailing mother, and the struggle he had was dealing with her immobility and lack of care. He couldn't leave her alone, and he could no longer take her with him. Only in these last months has her insurance allowed nursing care, giving him brief moments for the opportunity to take care of the rest of their lives.

When she was placed in the care center, he was able to come and go a bit more. We spent time with Poppa John away from his home twice in November, then he came here for Christmas. Still, his ability to travel was limited and he had to stay close to Gigi in the care center much of the time. I know he will miss her, but I think the difficulties they were both suffering now coming to an end brings relief.

On Friday night, after several phone calls back and forth, we felt comfortable to stay home for the night. On Saturday morning, we were back up and on the phone, and after he continued to insist that we come and spend time later, we were home through the weekend. So much time has been spent over these last three days discussing arrangements, and he's already begun making plans to pass along or donate many of her belongings. It's nearly like Poppa John has begun to reclaim a bit of himself.

As for us, we're sad. James will miss his grandmother, and he still worries for his dad. We see the relief now, but we're concerned about those anniversaries and milestones long term and the sorrow that comes along. I'm sad because I can see clearly all the opportunities I missed with her, and I'm sad to watch James hurt for his family. When we told the kids about Gigi's passing, Bub had a couple of questions, but wasn't really too immediately affected. Gracie, on the other hand, cried and cried. She cried for Gigi, but I think she also cried because of all the loss she's suffered in her short life. In less than four years, she's lost another great-grandmother, her grandfather, her great-aunt Pappy (who was like a grandmother) and has suffered our pregnancy losses along with us. At six years old, she's well acquainted with death, and the burden of that grief was hard to watch.

We comforted her as she mourned and reminded her of the suffering Gigi has had to endure lately. We answered her questions and we prayed for her and with her. By Saturday, she was much better. Today, we made condolence cards and mailed them to Poppa John and to his sisters. We'll see what the memorial service brings. The memorial service will be held later this month. James' aunt lives in Alaska and must fly down. Gigi wish was to be cremated, and that wish allows for a delayed service. As you pray, please remember James, his family, and our Gracie most of all.


All content © Mandigirl, 2007-2013.