Still learning from Gram…

Running aloneEveryone has their own way of working through big life events. Me?  I run.
Not away…I just run until things make sense to me.

The other day, I woke up and realized I needed a run – a long run. I knew it would help me process Gram’s passing and sort out all of my thoughts. 20 minutes into the run, my worries about the confusing details of her funeral and estate subsided and I got back to just thinking about her. It was a relief to let go of the logistics for a while.

While I ran, I thought about how her caretakers had described her final day (Valentine’s Day). Her dementia prevented her from speaking, but she’d been happy that day. Like every day she dressed, ate real food, and interacted with people.

“She brushed her teeth.” She loved her water pick and would sometimes brush her teeth for 20 minutes in the morning, while in the shower. (Apparently she could make quite a mess) She’d been to the dentist, weeks before she died, and was noted to have an incredibly healthy mouth.

“She colored in her coloring books.” The big toddler crayons were the easiest for her to hold and she used them with great zeal. Her kitchen, where she sat the most, was covered with colorful pages of Disney characters and doe-eyed animals.

“She played ‘tennis’ and ‘golfed’.“ Tennis = volleying a big foam ball with badminton rackets.  Golf = whacking the big foam ball across the floor with the racket. Even though many of her basic functions were disappearing, her coordination and competitive spirit persisted.

“She biked a ¼ mile.” I hadn’t understood what this meant until I got to her house. Her caretakers had brought in a recumbent stationary bike and glued comfortable Velcro slippers to the pedals. She pedaled every day. When she was younger, I’d known her to ride horses, swim, and walk – never to ride a bike. So she had picked up cycling sometime in her early 90s. (So awesome) She biked a ¼ mile on her last day.

At the end of the day, she was exceptionally tired and incredibly weak and needed to be carried to bed. She slept peacefully, without pain that night. She died of natural causes at home, in her own bed, early the next morning. Exactly the way she had wanted to.

Her day sounded like a modified version of the days before dementia. She was very much a creature of habit (or disciplined, if you asked her). She had changed a lot, but she was still very much herself.

10 miles later, it felt like things made sense, like there were as they were supposed to be.


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