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?


  1. Beautiful Pia.

    It's a wonderful thing that you did, taking Abby to see your Nan. I stood by mine and stroked her hair only 4 years ago as she went. I wanted to suck the pain and fear right out of her and channel it up through the hand that was touching her and into my own body.

    As a little girl I had walked in on my grandma and grandpa in bed one morning and found him doing the same thing. I never forgot it. So in her last hours I wanted her to know he was there too. I dont think anyone had touched her like that since he had 18 years earlier. I wanted her to feel my love through my hands.

    So Im sitting up in bed here reading your post and thinking of dear friends and family past, tears falling and smiling all at once at the beautiful journey we have all shared. Precious memories.

    My heart goes out to you and your family Pee, keep on talking about the times and allow the tears and laughter that comes - as I know you will :)


  2. Thank you so much. I love the vision of you stroking your grandmothers hair the same way your grandpa did. What a beautiful way for her to feel you close and remember the past. Sitting and watching as Nan slowly slipped out of this life was like being caught in a dream - it became surreal. But in that state we danced, listened to music, drank wine and celebrated her amazingly beautiful and very fun life. She lived it fully and that is perhaps the greatest comfort of all. Thanks again xo