It’s quite late in my part of the world, my house is dead silent- everyone is asleep. Well, after news broke today that a case of COVID19 had been confirmed in our closest neighbour, South Africa, no one stayed up to watch any of their favourite TV shows and I suppose each one was in despair because such a confirmation meant that as much as other African countries had confirmed cases, they were, however, a bit far off but now South Africa is a stone throw away from home. So fears were most definitely looming. So each one to their bed and now with such silence I can actually hear each thought and each word flow from my brain to my keyboard. In any case, I’ve been contemplating whether to pen down anything considering the significance of this time of year for my family. I thought about writing a piece yesterday because it is the day, the journey to the end began, however, I just couldn’t. So today I was going through some old family photos and that’s when I knew that I had to pen down a small piece in memory of the significance of this time of year.
This week has been especially hard for me due to a number of factors, however, one of those factors is attached to the period between 4-11 March. Yesterday, March, 4 marked a year of the beginning of the end stage of my beloved grandmother’s life. She had a heart condition which had been diagnosed over 10 years prior to her admission on that fateful day of the 4th but was well controlled through drugs and a proper diet of course. However, the last two weeks of February her condition deteriorated and she was in and out of the hospital because of the anasarca she had developed which was a sign that her heart was indeed failing. So during that two-week period, her doctors put her on medication (Furosemide) to assist her body in expelling the excess fluid through the urine. This diuretic did, of course, help out, however, because her heart was already weak she remained immobile which frustrated her all the more because she was an active person and you can only imagine how being unable to do anything must have made her feel. Eventually, on the 4th, she was officially hospitalized, and it was upon her request because I think she already knew that she would soon pass and I believe she didn’t want to pass away at her home because she probably felt it would be traumatic for my nephew and cousin who lived with her at the time. So, my mother took her in for admission and they tried to manage her condition. That week of hospitalization I helped take care of her because I had managed to get time off work from my voluntary attachment from one clinic and my supervisor at that time was very supportive through this period. My mother was a lodger in the night and I would relieve her in the day, feed my grandmother and keep her company.
On the 4th, I reported for duty at work and my intention was to inform my supervisor of the situation and request time off. Being the kind man that he was, he not only approved my leave of absence but allowed me to leave work early. So at around 11h00, I was allowed to leave and I headed to the hospital where grandma had been admitted. She was still the woman that I knew and she was so excited to see me and we had a conversation together in which she asked me what was happening to her. I tried to explain to her the best way possible and I informed her that her heart was failing and the drugs she had been taking for years were no longer doing the job as best as they were meant to. I went on to explain to her why she now had oedema, failed to breathe and why the oxygen they would give her when she experienced a difficulty in breathing was no longer of use to her which was evidenced by the puffiness her face would be subjected to each time the oxygen mask was put on. I remember her just smiling after I had explained all this to her and she said, “Oh, my engine is no longer functional. So now I have to ask God to accept my soul into His Kingdom. It is honestly true that each day is equated to a thousand years.’’ When she said those words I knew that it wouldn’t be long but somehow that gave me peace especially since I knew that she was at peace too with this fact. During the course of the week many people came in to see her, offering prayers and the church pastor came through as well to offer her Holy Communion. She was responsive and communicating for about 4 days until she stopped talking and would only communicate with her eyes or just smile. However, during the time she was talking, the scriptures which she spoke most about were Ecclesiastes 3, II Timothy 4:7-8 and Revelations 14:13. This was her way of making peace with her fate and I believe bidding us farewell through letting us know that her time had come, and yes we would be broken by this, however, she had completed her race still with God on her side which was comforting enough for her because she knew that she was going to her Father in heaven. Her being accepting of all this and still holding on to Christ to the end I believe is what enabled us to remain strong because she knew that the Lord would comfort us and give us enough strength to survive the hard time that would soon engulf our family.
During my grandmother’s admission week my appetite was so poor. I couldn’t eat at all. Somehow my body felt out of place, I felt like I was in a trance. Sleeping was difficult too but I think I got through that week because of my friend Sibusiso X., who was by my side all the way. He would come to the hospital after work, inquire about grandma’s condition and just spend time with me. We would talk for hours and he would offer me words that braced and gave me enough strength to hold on during this time. Honestly, he kept my mind off the reality that my grandmother would soon pass. He would call me during the day to ask how grandma was doing, how I was holding up and would send his love and prayers for my family. Oddly enough though, I had only met him mid-February but he played a huge role in my life during this time and the bond we shared paved way for a strong friendship that has survived thus far. Meeting him I believe was all God planned because I tell you, this man carried me through that time and assisted where he could even after my grandma passed especially during the preparation of her funeral. He truly was God sent and for that, I am still immensely thankful not only to him but for him.
The Sunday of March, 10, I remember just waking up feeling so low spirited but told myself that if I went to church, perhaps I would feel a bit better. So I prepared myself for church and left my house. However, as soon as I got out on the street I could not head to church, something in me just told me that I had to get back to the house, change and head to the hospital, and I did just that. When I got there, my mother was mad worried that grandma hadn’t been able to eat, so she had put in a request with grandma’s doctor to have him put in a nasogastric feeding tube to at least enable us to feed her something. The doctor came through for us with the tube but as we tried to lift her up she made a sound which to this day I can hear ringing in my ears. This was a sound of pain. Mind you, she had been mute for about 3 days until she made that sound when the tube was being placed. We did, however, manage to feed her and she smiled for the first time since she stopped talking and after seeing that, I remember everything just being still. I felt like my body was coming out of the trance I had been in for the past week, and I felt the hunger I hadn’t felt all week. That day I knew was the last day that I would see my grandma alive. I knew because I felt it. It was as if a whole weight was removed from somewhere in my body. I held her hand in mine which she squeezed and smiled thereafter. This I knew was her goodbye, so I squeezed her hand and smiled back. I was meant to spend the night that Sunday, but I think my mother knew too that her mother would soon pass and I suppose she did not want to put me through trauma so at about 21h00 she called a taxi for me and sent me off home. That night I was able to sleep for the first time since grandma had been hospitalized. I was at peace. I knew. So when my mother phoned me at 05h00 on March, 11, I knew she was calling to tell me that grandma was gone.
After she broke the news I asked her what she needed me to do, and she told me to go prepare my grandmother’s house for the mourners and to link up with my younger sister to go grocery shopping in preparation, and so I did. I never shed a tear, to which most people found quite odd and assumed that I loved her less because I did not express any sorrowful emotion. This was made worse by the fact that even when I read her obituary, I never broke down. What they did not know however was that I wasn’t strong but I was rather at peace because I knew grandma was at peace and she and I had talked about all this during the days that she was able to talk. My grandmother had rested and I was comforted in knowing that she was in heaven. She had lived her life dedicated to Christ and her faith was beyond anything I knew, and I admired her for it and hoped that I could measure up to that level of her faith.
Grandma was phenomenal and possessed great faith. She was an epitome of what a woman of valour was and Proverbs 31:10-31 is a pure and true description of who she was. She truly was amazing that crying wouldn’t have served her well because her life had to be celebrated and I knew that she would never have appreciated us shedding any tears. Also, I never cried because she and I had a talk about all this during the time I cared for her and I think those conversations, the scriptures, hymns we sang all gave me closure and strengthened me enough to remain well composed during that sad time. So, I was able to tap into my inner being and acquired the strength required to hold it all together. I was broken, yes, I mean she was a second mother to us because she helped raise us and was there for all our milestones and I loved the person that she was.
Yes, this week has been hard especially since it is in memorial of her but I find strength in remembering the woman she was and think about how she would want us to celebrate her during this time. I know she’s looking down on us from heaven and I hope is proud of all that we do. For 79 years, God blessed us with a woman of valour, a woman of great faith, a woman who was a true embodiment of what faith was, a prayerful woman and above all a woman who served the Lord wholeheartedly so and loved God as much as she did her family. She was a mother to everyone. She may be gone but her memory and great lessons will forever be etched in our hearts. A year later, we remember and love her still.
For my grandma,
Loved, always ❤