Disclaimer: This post contains a lot of happy and sad moments.
I had been home from my backpacking trip for less than a week and mom and I were taking off for Oregon.
In my few days home I was able to see my family and some of my best friends, Sara and DJ.
Mom had gotten a call from my Aunt Jenny who lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. My grandma Jan who had been battling cancer for years was taking a turn for the worse. She was struggling with words, with eating, with everything. Things were different.
Mom and I left a day after my sisters birthday. Now, here’s something you need to know.. when me and mom take a road trip we have FUN. We always seem to be taking a new route to try out other roads. Time and time again we discover that even though the other route is a little more fun it adds time. Oh well.
We arrived in Oregon in the evening and headed straight to my Grandma and Aunt’s house. We got to talk to my grandma. It broke my heart. As soon as she saw me she started to cry and said “I’ll never get to finish reading your blogs about your travels.” For the next couple of days I would sit by her bed and read her my blog posts and expand into the details of my backpacking trip.
The next day was busy. Honestly this trip turned into something more than we were expecting. We didn’t know what to expect I guess. My cousin from Alaska had a volleyball tournament happening in Portland and we had all sorts of family in town. It was pretty incredible to see how many people were able to make it when something like this was going on. People came from Alaska, Montana, Texas, Arizona, Washington and Idaho. (I’m sure I missed someone in there but you get the point.)
A lot of the family went to watch the volleyball tournament and did random things throughout the weekend. As the weekend came to a close, people were leaving. They needed to return to their weekly schedules. Grandma seemed to be doing a little better.
Sunday was here and I went to church. It was so good. I was back in the place that God was calling me and in these moments of trial I couldn’t think of a better place to be, surrounded by so much love at Reason Church.
I can’t remember the exact schedule of events so some things might get mixed up in the words to come.
After the weekend it was my mom and I along with my aunts Jenny, Julie, Sue, and Diana. This would be such a powerful week for all of us.
I had some other stuff going on in Portland as well including a friends bridal shower and wedding. I was able to attend both, which they turned out beautiful. My head couldn’t fully engage with the events because I was sort of in another mindset but I was so thankful for the breath of fresh air and to be surrounded by so much love.
My mom and I also took a day to head down to Eugene to see my other grandma, Jane. We weren’t really sure what to expect seeing her because prior to this it seemed as though she was always in a bit of a worse place than my grandma Jan. My goodness were we surprised. It was pretty incredible.
My grandma brought the biggest smiles to our face that day. She is in an old folks home thing-ish. (Idk what it’s called) We walked in and she was sitting in the common area in her wheelchair. When we tapped on her shoulder she turned around and gave the biggest smile, no teeth at all. Her dentures were getting fixed so she gave us the biggest gummed smile. It was adorable.
She was zooming around in her wheelchair with both feet on the ground steering her. It was incredible to see. Prior to this visit she was having a hard time doing much at all.
My mom went outside to talk to my dad on the phone so it was just grandma and I. I went to grab some coffee and asked if she wanted anything and she said, “Yeah, I want some of that drinking chocolate.” One hot chocolate it is.
One cup down and she’s asking more. So naturally, I wander over to the machine and bring back another hot chocolate. My mom walks in and is a bit surprised. “Did you ask them if she can have that.” Oops. Nope. Oh well, we were rule breakers. Grandma sipping on her hot cocoa, me and my coffee. Rebels. Her glasses were fogging up because of the steam and she kept saying, hold on I cant really see. Sorry gram, just steam.
Then the choking began. Yikes. Too much hot cocoa for you gram.
We spent the day with grandma taking rides around the halls. Zooming back and forth. My grandma wanted to escape so we took her for a stroll outside a couple of times. So much happiness. At one point we were sitting at the table and all of the sudden she says “Wait, where are my teeth.” So dang funny. She forgets where they are but it’s pretty adorable.
That night we headed back up to Portland to my other grandma, Jan. Some of the days were really good. One day my mom and aunts even got my grandma up and out of bed and took her outside to feel the breeze. She sat on the back porch for awhile, incredible.
Mother’s Day came around, this was day 10 in Oregon for mom and I. I wanted to make the day special for my mom and my aunt’s but I sorta failed. So much was going on. Donyale, my Uncle, got all of them flowers which was so special. It was a hard mother’s day. We all sat there watching my grandma in so much pain.
I guess I’ve been avoiding writing about the details of being with my grandma but I should. Some days were so good. And I can’t really say when things changed for sure. But they did. On the first days when everyone was there it was like something changed. My grandma was fighting, like always. She was the strongest woman in the world. She was holding this front like suddenly things were better. People were taking turns sitting next to her, talking, praying, reading. One evening, before everyone had to leave, we all had the chance to go into her room and stand around the room and pray.
It was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had. It was beautiful. My uncle John read a verse to my grandma and she asked him to repeat it 3+ times. We all got a little giggle out of it. She would sorta fall asleep part way through then have him read it again. After that, a couple other relatives read verses or shared thoughts. We all stood there and promised my grandma that we would all stick together no matter what. (We have a HUGE family) There were some pretty funny moments as we were all standing around my grandmas bed. I wish I could have captured the entire thing on video. I should have. We all said the Lord’s Prayer as we stood around the bed.
One night my mom and I along with the aunts I named earlier all sat in my grandmas room going through photos as she laid in bed. We all talked of memories. I loved having the opportunity to hear all these new stories about my grandma and family. My grandma talked about the fact that she used to make my mom and Aunt’s dresses (okay probably my uncles too) she was being so funny. Talking about how she used to think she was better than designers. At one point she suddenly said “I’m flippin funny”
WHAT?! What did you say grandma. That was so unlike her regardless. It was hilarious. We all laughed with her. Such special moments.
In the next days things changed. She stopped talking. Her breathing changed. We would sit with her praying, reminding her that God was reaching for her, that He would help her. Before she stopped talking she had said she was afraid. What if she didn’t know the way. No grandma, God will help you, Grandpa will help you. Years earlier my grandpa passed away and there is no doubt in my mind that he was waiting for her.
The pain was worse. Everything was worse. I don’t even want to write about it.
One night, we thought things might be happening. We rushed over at 3am and sat with her. She made it through the night and things were a tiny bit better.
One day, my Aunt Diana was over and played sounds of the ocean and sat with my grandma. We all talked of paradise. Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” We recited over and over Psalm 23.
The Lord is my Shepard, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along hte right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all of the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
It was almost midnight. Me, my mom, and my Aunt Sue decided to stay up. My aunt Jenny and Julie headed to bed and my Aunt Diana went to her house.
We sat in the room with my grandma. It was about 2am I think, none of us could sleep. We sat there and things seemed to be changing. We all noticed it. Her breathing was different. We sat there, unsure. I had this overwhelming feeling like God was trying to prepare me. My mom suddenly said “We need to wake up Jenny and Julie.” I jumped up and ran to wake my Aunt Julie, my Aunt Sue ran to get Jenny. Julie got into the room and we sat and watched what we thought was my grandmas last breath. After moments of silence, she took another deep breath.
Jenny entered the room and we all sat around my grandmas bed praying and holding onto the moment. Literally seconds after we were all in the room we watched as my grandma took her last breath.
It was a powerful, overwhelming moment. Emotions were scattered.
It’s was something we could see coming, but when it happens the moment is like you never expected it at all. It’s a beautiful things to know that she is with my grandma in Heaven but that didn’t make it any easier, nor does it make it any easier today.
That night we all stayed awake, embracing and holding onto the stillness of the night. Men in nice suits came in, we knew my grandma was no longer there. Her spirit was gone from earth.
The next day my mom and I drove back to Montana. Holding onto moments and memories of a tough 12+ days of emotions being scattered all over the place.
I am so thankful for the moments of those 12 days. I got a deeper understanding over all of my family. I got to see incredible moments. I got to see my grandma be silly, be honest, be vulnerable. I got to show a side of vulnerability to my family that I usually prefer to mask. I got to be strong for people who didn’t have it in them. And they got to be strong for me when I needed it.
So I guess my emotions have been wandering. A lot has happened since I went backpacking.
I don’t know why I chose this to be my first post after my backpacking trip but I think I’ve been so overwhelmed with life and I’ve been trying to pretend I haven’t been through a lot in the last month but I have.
My grandma deserves a million posts about her beautiful life, personality, and heart. She was such a special woman. I’m going to have designate a post simply to her in the future. For now, this is all I can handle.
Life is hard but God is good. For anyone facing trials or deaths or who is coasting in life feeling great, know that God is good. He loves YOU. And He has space for YOU.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Link to my grandma’s obituary: Jan Nicholas http://fuitenrosehoyt.com/_mgxroot/page_10780.php