Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting around for somebody to give you flowers"
I love you, present tense
Sunday, February 24, 2013 || 3:21 AM
Jodi Picoult once wrote - “When you lose someone, it feels like the hole in your gum when a tooth falls out. You can chew, you can eat, you have plenty of other teeth, but your tongue keeps going back to that empty place, where all nerves are still a little raw."
I lost someone very precious to me on the 28th Jan, 2013. My paternal grandmother bowed her head to the destructive pneumonia - she was freed of the rattling of breaths, the water congestion in the lungs, the bed sores, the phlegm which started invading her throat and was the worst sight ever seeing her trying to cough them up to no avail because of the degeneration of her throat muscles. To me, in my heart,even though she descended into the evil arms of old age, she's always a winner. She was a winner since she decided to bring up her four children single-handedly, as my grandfather passed away when her youngest son (my dad) was just a few months old. She was a winner because she never feared working hard, taking on countless labor intensive odd jobs to support the four tiny birds under her wing. She toiled long hours as a clothes washer, exposing her delicate hands to rough chemicals.
She had a tough life, and because of her background, she became very money-conscious. She was also constantly looked down by the people around her. That constant taunting made her a very defensive and aggressive woman. And because of that, I would say that she doesn't exactly know how to express her love in the most perfect way - but she shows it in her own unique way possible.
When I was younger, I remembered her 'blasting' vulgarities at me whenever she is mad. She always had a very loud and powerful voice. She seemed to always be in a sulky mood. On the flipside, beneath the tough exterior - she is also probably the most sensitive lady ever - If we speak in English (a language which is foreign to her), and laugh - she would think we are taunting her. She used to tell me that all her friends doesn't like her, or people look down on her because she is poor, etc. Basically, she had lots of issues with herself, the people around her, and with the world.
But if you understand what kind of environment she grew up in, and the difficulties she faced when she was younger, you would understand that her reactions are actually defensive mechanisms taken into play, conditioned by what she was exposed to in her earlier days.
""Learn to love someone when they least deserve it, because that is when they need your love most."
This quote is extra applicable to my granny. She has always given me lonely vibes, and I try so hard to try to try to minimize this negative feeling she feels.
When she was sick, I made sure I visited her every day possible after work in the hospital. The irony of life is that we find it easier to do things for someone when we know that their time left on Earth is limited. Thing is, life is limited itself. We never know what's gonna happen next - the extra patience, love, respect, and time for someone shouldn't be limited to the boundaries of 'how much time they seemingly have left on Earth.'
We all know how unpredictable life is, but can't seem to bring ourselves to really act upon this fact. Why?
I only got to see the softer, weaker and vulnerable side of the unbreakable, independent woman when she was hospitalized. For her, she was slowly getting detached from the mortal world. She would zone out for long hours, referred to us as people of the past (e.g, her mother, father, etc...). Then suddenly, she would zap back into the 'now', and acknowledge us by our names. It got a little confusing, and eerie at first. I did my own research and got to know that hallucinations are part of the dying experience. This is largely so to prepare themselves to enter another realm in the universe.
Also, she started sleeping alot, and was always drifting in and out of consciousness. By then, she was already not consuming any whole foods. She has lost her throat reflexes, and was unable to swallow. Her entire nutrition intake is through IV drips and feeding tubes. I recall nurses and even doctors being unable to get a proper vein to insert the tube in because her hands were so swollen with fluid (aftermath of IV drips). She was constantly prodded with needles. It was a heartbreaking sight.
Also, I shan't get started about the numerous blood tests.
Her pneumonia got worse when her body decided to shut down against the antibiotics which the doctors are giving her. That led to a built-up of phelgm in her throat which she wasn't able to cough up, and with every breath she took, there was a loud rattling sound (known as the death rattle). Her heart by then, was working too hard, and her BP and oxygen levels were horribly unstable. It got so bad her oxygen level could drop from 100 to 30 in just a few seconds.
Everytime I was in the hospital with my granny, I would have to leave the room several times to compose myself. To calm myself down and to let my worry and grief dissipate with my tears. Crying is horribly contagious at that point of time. When one person cry, another would as well, and then another, and another and another. I would call that the chain effect of grief.
One day, when she was conscious, I asked if she would like to go home. If i was her, I would very much rather pass on in the comfort of familiarity and nostalgia. She nodded her head and said yes. We ended up spending a few hours trying to book a private ambulance to bring her home. There was alot of difficulties in trying to do that because it was a sunday, and because of the medical equipments we needed to rent. The hospital didn't provide rental, and their ambulances weren't for rent on Sundays. It was exasperating, and chaotic. My cousins and I were constantly on our phones, enquiring, calling, negotiating, and literally begging them. It was afterall, a one final wish we could help her fulfill - to pass on at home.
During the weekends, when i wasn't so tired, I would stay up all night to look after my granny. Looking after = making sure she didn't take the oxygen mask out + seeing if she's in pain. I hugged her, and patted her to sleep alot. I would hold her hand and stroke her hair, and tell her about random things. I knew she was listening even though she didn't respond though. The one last thing most patients lose at the brink of death is their hearing.
Two weeks after she was terminally discharged, she passed away. She passed away at 8.16AM. It was a Monday. I thanked my lucky stars I went to have a look at her at 8AM before I left the house for work. When I saw my brother's text, that fateful text - I was very calm. Relief overtook calmness. I was glad she was freed from all the pain, it seemed like she didn't really belong in Earth anymore when she was bedridden for good. Of course I miss her. In fact, I missed her all the more terribly now as compared to when she first passed on. Reality is seeping in slowly - She was the last grandparent, and the closest one to me.
I loved, and I love her, but I also understand that there will always be some fault in our stars, and we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labour will be returned to dust. The big bang which exploded into the universe will retrace itself; a big bang in each of ourselves which created who we are. She gave me a forever (to be retained in my memory) and I'm grateful for that.
No regrets. I treated her the best I could. I loved her the best I could.
I know writing doesn't resurrect - it buries. And now, I will bury what I have with her in the bottom of my heart. Always and forever, my fighter granny. My beautiful fighter grans.
Your ah ling