Yesterday I got a phone call that my mom and sister were taking my nana to the ER. I don't think you could ever really know what emotional response to expect in such a situation. Nana has been having some having health problems now for a while and so the call didn't fully surprise me. I was aware that for the past few days she had been having bowel difficulties. I told Emily I would meet her at LDS after I finished teaching. I canceled my office hour and left Provo, picking Amelia up on the way. Emily met us outside the ER and we decided that Amelia should go in with Mom and Nana (only two people could be in the room). Emily and I took her kids back to Centerville and waited. Nana came home a few hours later, very much confused as to why her stomach was hurting and bewildered by her state. Her dementia steadily worsens, and her body is slowly shutting down. In February 2007 she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and all the complications that come with it. Yesterday, as I waited for news, I couldn't help but reflect on the frailty of her life, of all our lives. All to often we save our tributes and our praise for the crowds of people gathered at gravesides instead of celebrating the lives of those we love while we can bask in their influence.
When she was diagnosed with heart failure in February I wrote about the experience. I believe it sets the tone for this post.
My grandma was admitted to the hospital two nights ago. She was short of breath and the doctors decided to admit her to run a slew of tests. It is funny when something like that happens in your life. I was taken off guard. I was in the middle of grading a huge stack of papers, which seemed so insignificant after the call from my mom. After a day of tests they diagnosed my Nana with congestive heart failure. I would think that they could think of a better name for it than heart failure. It feels so ominous, but that is exactly what it is. They pumped her with medications and relieved some of the pressure around her heart, then she was allowed to go home. We all went home yesterday to spend the day with her and to help my mom. I was sitting on the couch with her as she fumbled with her memories from the past few days. Although she has been struggling to hold onto memories for a while, her time in the hospital seemed to increase the lapse of reality and time in her mind. Over the course of 15 minutes she retold what had happened to her about 5 times, right after each other. She would finish, pause, and then begin again. In some ways it was an improvement because earlier she had forgotten that she had even been to the hospital, but the repetition worried me. Up until that point, I had only been emotional once, earlier in the day on my way back from class when reality collided with my expectations. My sister was updating me on Nana's condition and how they were talking about drawing up legal orders in case the worst happened.
In a short walk down the long corridor in the JFSB I realized that my Nana, who has always been so close to me, could soon be far, far away. Those same emotions pounded down onto my spirit as I sat with her on the couch. It was sad. Here is this woman who helped me carve out my own identity for so many years, and her own identity was slipping through her fingers like liquid. The woman I adored as a child is hidden away in the past, a mere shade of who she was. But, in that same moment, I realized that the presence of other people in our lives helps us to remember who we are. I can remind her of who she was, which re-establishes who she is. It made me want to make sure people know who I am and what I am thinking so that when my own memories start to slip away, they can be found somewhere else, on solid ground.
That has been many months ago, and Nana has fought her way through pain and discomfort. She has severe arthritis, which makes walking very painful. Even though she is a very different woman now than before her dementia, she continues to make us laugh. She is a comedian at heart, and she loves to laugh and laugh.
The above picture shows Nana next to some beautiful pink flowers. Her favorite color is pink, and she loves flowers. I can never walk past pink petunias and dusty miller without thinking of her. She loves that combination, as long as her plastic pink flamingos and row of plastic ducks are near by. She has always loved working in the yard, although now she can just sit outside and enjoy the yards of others. Perhaps she is so taken to the outdoors because of her childhood on farms.
She was born Lora Florence Cook on May 28, 1922 in Kentucky. She was the oldest girl. When she was but 14 years old, her mother died, leaving her the mistress of the house. Great-Grandpa Cook worked as a farm hand and moved the family to Illinois. It was here that Nana met Byron Lewis, who is my mother's father. Nana and Byron never married, and she left that part of Illinois when my Mom was little. A few years later Nana met with the missionaries and joined the Church, which changed the destiny of us all so drastically.
Nana and my Mom moved to Utah after a time and settled here. Nana always lived close to our family, and she was almost a daily part of our lives. Her apartment was on the route to the elementary school, so we would often stop on our way to and from school. It was always a treat to go to her house because she made the most amazing food. She was working in the Ogden Temple at that time, as the dessert chef. Nana loves pizza, and we would usually get that to eat. Although she had the habit of drinking orange juice with her pizza. I continue to love pizza to this day, but never with a side of OJ.
She would also take us "to town" meaning to Ogden. She couldn't drive so we would take the bus. We would usually go to the Temple first, so she could show us off, and then we would go over to the mall. We would eat lunch at The Pizza Cutter, shop a bit, and then head home. As she got older she couldn't take care of herself all that well, so she moved in with our family. It has been about 10 years now.
She is a wonderful grandma who always takes care of us. She loves the grandkids and will sit and hold them as long as they let her.
She is always good for a laugh. Here she is opening a present, which of course is pink. I don't remember her favorite color being pink when I was younger, but it is most assuredly pink now. If it is pink she loves it. I guess the pink petunias and flamingos should have been my indicator.
Here is another shot of her with Ethan. They love to play with her cane, and she loves to let them.
She is a dedicated grandma who will do anything for her family. She has taught me so much about self-sacrifice and pure grit. She has worked her entire life, and now she can enjoy the company of those she loves.
She dedicated her life to the Church and to her family. I always think of her when I reflect on my own full-time mission because she served in L.A. She set a great example for me.
She loves snickers candy bars, Oreo cookies, Little Caesar's pizza, and KFC. She spends a lot of time with word searches, and she loves to read.
I am thankful for her presence in my life. She has always been there for us when we needed her, and she has given us an exemplary life to follow. Although her body is slowly slipping away, her spirit continues to leave its impression upon the lives of so many.