Wednesday, January 12, 2011


The air is slightly humid, skin a little sticky to the touch - yet a gentle breeze navigates its way through the wooden framed windows in this beautiful old attic room in Andrew's parents house. I feel like I am laying in a dream. The last five days since we arrived home have been muggy with the rain tapping its feet down occasionally. The rain spurts have been a welcome cleansing from the heat but also from the emotion of these days.

We took Abby and sat bedside with Nan on Friday and Saturday thinking each time she was always only hours from journeying on. Yet somehow her body would triumph each day. When we left on Saturday we told Nan, as we had the day before, that we would be back again with Abby tomorrow.

When Abby's temperature soared on Sunday we watched helplessly as our child was poked and prodded - blood tests, catheters, drips and lumber punches administered to determine what was wrong. Her screams curdled through the hospital hallways and still race through hallways of our minds. Maybe she has forgotten but we never will. 18 hours later she was cleared with only a virus and we were discharged. But how can we go home - when home right now is at Nan's side? We already broke our promise to return on Sunday as we were in hospital with Abby, but the fact that Nan is still holding on makes me question whether she is waiting for Abby?

We let Abby nap and then return to the hospital, amazed that Nan's body continues to persevere. She has had no food or water since Thursday night as she is unable to swallow after what the doctors believe may have been another small stroke.

The morphine keeps Nan comfortable and the family refuses to mourn at her bedside. A beautiful strength to witness and an honor to Nan. Instead they chat together, laughing, listening to music, talking to Nan - reliving fabulous memories of days gone by. We know Nan hears because every now and then she will chuckle a little, mumble a response or her eyes light up. What is it like to be in that place she is in at that time? I imagine it is like being in a glass room looking out, or down a long hallway - able to see us and hear us but just not able to communicate back the way she would want.

Over the days at her bedside we begin to learn a new language, to read the signs she gives and interpret them to the best of our ability. We hold Abby over her face frequently and Nan's eyes light up. What a gift it is to be in the presence of such a beautiful woman at this time of transition. Nan, is the type of grandmother we all would love. Loving, kind, funny, naughty, hilarious, fun, compassionate, gentle, accepting of all and with so much class - oh what a lady we all say. Oh what a lady.

On Monday night, after we had all gone Nan took her leave - her grand exit was made. Though in typical Nan style - it was discreet. As Judy, her daughter and my daughters Nan says, "She waited till we left that night. She would of thought it was rude to leave while the party was still going and in the company of others." - A True Lady.

May you rest or party in peace, love and joy. You live in our hearts and minds Nan. Give my beautiful son Sam a cuddle and kiss for me - I bet he was just waiting for a big hug and story time with you. What a gift that he now has you close. I miss him terribly but rest a little easier knowing you are with him now.

We Love You xoxo

Monday, January 10, 2011


As I look at Nan and talk to her in her final hours, I must remember that this is not about me - but about her. I try to hold my emotions back and talk casually, tell stories, kiss her, hold her hand and most importantly hold Abby in front of her gaze so she can see her great granddaughter.

It is not how I envisioned my return to Australia - I had hoped that Nan would hold Abby in her arms. Even in her state of dementia, a baby always seemed to bring Nan back. After days of hardly any response and glazed eyes, when all hope was lost, she actually repeated Abby's name yesterday and said "Abigail McKenzie...just beautiful" as she looked at her. It was the greatest gift to hear Nan say her name...if only once. I held Abby close to Nan's face, as Nan can not move anymore, and let her lips kiss Abby's cheek. One generation connecting to another. She then started saying "Boo" - a game she always played with children. How amazing after 4 days of no food or water and morphine for comfort, than Nan could find this strength to play with Abby. It was yet another reminder that the spirit is stronger than the body.

When I was nine, my grandmother died in a similar way. In a nursing home after years of dementia, something neither of our grandmothers would never have wanted but had no choice in. A painful decline for everyone involved. I remember the day my grandmother died. At 2am we received a call to house saying that she had the death rattle. It is where the fluid begins to fill in their lungs and there is nothing you can do to save them. They can no longer swallow. No longer eat or drink. All that can be done is to administer morphine (or similar) to take away the pain they feel and then have family close by to read to them, hold them and let them know they will never be alone.

When the call came at 2am all those years ago, I was given the choice to go to the nursing home that day with the rest of my family. But I could not go. I loved my Gran so much that I did not know what to do. How could I, just a little nine year old girl, deal with watching my grandmother pass into her next life? I went to school instead and when my father came to collect me at 3pm I approached a locked gate near the school bell. My father on one side - I on the other. I said "Is she dead Daddy?" - he said "yes".

What happened next I will never forget. My spirit was ripped from me and as if someone had sliced my legs off, I buckled and fell to the ground. No amount of strong bones and blood could hold me up - my spirit was gone...I was limp and unable to move and my father, my hero, jumped over the locked gate and cradled me up in his arms. My spirit did return later but it took time for me to be able to stand. I felt like I was in a huge void - detached from life. Self preservation even at an early age.

It was my first true spiritual experience. At that moment I realized that it is the soul - the spirit - that holds oneself up. All the blood and bones in the world made no difference. So then it makes me think, where does that spirit go?

Many years later as a 35 year old woman I still ask these questions and search for answers.

Where is my grandmother? Where will Nan journey to in the next few hours or days? Where is Sam? Where is my beautiful son and will I ever see him again?