at my wedding, 4 1/2 years ago
Grandma Eltjes was on a slow decline since Thanksgiving. She had been in and out of the hospital three times and the ER four times since then with different health problems She became very weak from moving between the hospital, her assisted living apartment, and the nursing home, and not eating enough. She was on hospice the last week of her life in the comfort of her assisted living apartment.
I went to visit her this weekend. I knew that I may not have her for much longer, and I wanted to spend time with her at least one more time. Brecken and I went to see her on Friday, three different times. She wasn't her usual perky self, but she was alert and would respond and talk, and lit up when she saw Brecken. By Saturday, when I went to visit her, she was barely responding and in a deep sleep. Right before I was going to make the drive home and visit her one last time, they started calling the family that afternoon.
There were a few moments that night that we thought she was going. Moments of lots of tears, holding her soft hands, lots of family and singing her favorite hymns. One moment we thought she was moments from Heaven, my mom told her she could go be with Jesus. She whispered back, "I'm not going yet." Many times we told her we loved her, and she would whisper those words back. There were so many touching moments that warmed my heart that night, despite it being one of the hardest things to watch.
Death has always scared me and I always dreaded being around it. Those moments of being with her as the end was imminent, were some very cherished moments - ones I will never forget. I didn't feel like running away... I craved to be there, to support my family and hold her hand.
Grandma leaned over to my brother later that night and said, "I'm gonna go now." Although she didn't pass until Monday morning, she never talked to us again after that. She was just in a deep sleep with help from the pain medications. Sunday her breathing had slowed, and again there were times we thought it was her time. The whole 36 hours I was there, was an emotional roller coaster of thinking you are losing her that moment, tears streaming down your face, and the next minute you are gut-busting laughing at a prank on your cousin, just to take your mind off the solemnness of the situation. She went peacefully on Monday morning with my mom and aunt by her side in the comfort of her own home.
one of my favorite pictures, Grandma and I making bread
She was a fantastic grandmother in every way, shape and form. I remember all the times of picking strawberries, baking, and sewing together, her bedtime stories and her amazing scratchy back rubs. During my college years, I would stop by her house on the way out of town, and she would make me dinner, probably one of my top three meals from her: macaroni and bologna with potatoes and milk gravy, burgers and homemade fries from her little fryer, or french toast with sugar water. She would give me a loaf of freshly baked bread (always the best!), a pie for me and my roommates, and a folded up $20 that I always tried to return. These were always fun little moments of just me and her - so special and so precious to me now.
happily holding her first great-grandchild for the very first time
Grandma was known for her delicious pies, especially raspberry and for her talent at music. Although she never learned a single note, she could play the piano beautifully, as well as the organ and accordion. I loved it as a child when she got that accordion out of the closet and played for me. She was an excellent cook, seamstress, and gardener with the most beautiful garden.
Grandma helped celebrate Brecken's first birthday
Grandma was the most giving person, always helping when she came over to my parent's house. She could not just sit, but always had to be doing something. She loved Jesus, and had a personal relationship with him. She had such a sweet demeanor but was such a strong woman. All the nurses at the assisted living facility she lived at, loved her and you could tell they genuinely cared for her. They signed a poster we put up in her room to have all her visitors sign and many of her nurses said that they looked forward to seeing her every day. She was just that kind of person you couldn't help but love.
my last picture with her at Christmas
As I was with her in her last days, I couldn't help but notice the incredible legacy that she was leaving. Probably my brightest moment since she passed was when Brecken saw a picture of grandma and he went up to the picture and said, "Mama, Mama." Although he won't always remember her, even he knew who she was. Her whole family (minus my two siblings out-of-state) were there, around her bed, singing, holding her hand and telling her how much we loved her. Someday when it is my time to go, this is how I would want to go. Being ushered into the presence of Jesus, with my family by my side. She lived such a great, long life and she truly left a mark and a legacy. I could not be more blessed to call her my grandma.
my favorite brown-eyed beauties - Great- Grandma & Brecken
A verse I kept thinking about during this weekend was this, and I thought it was a very fitting verse for her:
"I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)
a kiss from Grandma on my wedding day