I walk down the hallway facing an unfamiliar place with an unplanned journey ahead.
Her room is empty, so I retrace my steps back to the common area and hear a voice, clearly confused and uncertain. My eyes scan the faces and scene in front of me, then I see her. The one who I’ve come to see is there, the holder of the scared voice who is trying to explain to a staff member that she’s not supposed to be there. I walk toward her, gathering the strength I’m going to need and whispering a cry for help to the Father. I bend down to greet her with “Hi, grandma”, grasp her hand, and her eyes meet mine. They are searching for familiarity and she finds it. Her guard seems to disappear, she begins to cry and keeps telling me that she wants to go home.
She doesn’t like it here because it isn’t home. It isn’t where she planned to be just a few weeks ago. It also wasn’t where our family had in mind as the steps toward finding her a place with some assistance had begun to be discerned. But then she fell, in her own home, all by herself. Her mind has been rapidly deteriorating over recent months. Daily tasks and routines were forgotten and suddenly foreign to her.
I muster up some unknown strength within me, because truthfully, I don’t like it here either and I wish with all my heart she could be back home. How quickly our plans change and those bridges we didn’t know how we’d cross are no longer in the distance but in the direct path! There is no way to turn back time. That prayer our family had been praying for a way and reason to get grandma more care or a new place was answered. While the answered prayer is a blessing, the new route isn’t easy. It feels more difficult while we try to help grandma transition and her mind cannot always keep on track to remind her why she’s in a new place.
Doing my best to lift her spirits and bring her calm, our visits begin to find a rhythm over several days. Each one has a theme of concern she keeps asking me about, and I do my best to reassure her that all of those things are taken care of. While I am comforting her with my words, I find that I’m saying all of those same things to myself. It will be ok. She is cared for here and she is now a closer driving distance for family to come spend time with her to visit. Spending this time with her, just the two of us, even if she doesn’t call me by my name, has given its own sense of healing to our relationship. There are no distractions, no other priorities than for me to be in those moments with grandma. One day, as I walked down the hallway and pushed her in the wheelchair, we talked about our vacations to Colorado to visit family when I was younger. Another day we reminisced about picnics by the lake on a lazy Sunday, or afternoons in Duluth watching ships and seagulls. She sounded more like herself the day she told me about life on their farm and all of the animals she helped with as a child, declaring that she was probably the hardest worker among her siblings!
These visits and this new routine are difficult for me, but as I contemplated each of them on my hour long drive back home, I realized a couple of things. First, as emotionally worn as I felt after those couple hours together repeating answers, offering reassurances and reminders with the most cheerful spin, I stopped and considered how tiring it must be inside grandma’s mind to wrestle with unknowns that she cannot properly decipher on her own. Second, as her only granddaughter, I am called to be and live in this season with her, embracing my own uncomfortable for her comfort. The words that came rushing to mind were simple in their directive: I am helping walk her home. When my mission and purpose became to live that—for and with her—so that it can be with beauty and dignity, I knew I would be clinging to grace every step of the way.
None of us are guaranteed how many days are on the journey, but we are granted companions, both earthly and in Heaven. I know that these days of this particular leg of the walk with grandma are not mine to know. I do pray that our family continues to be guided to walk it boldly and to treasure the time that’s left.