My grandma has stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
I’m blessed at 26 years of age to still have her, especially since I’ve spent the last 3 years living with her and my Pappononno (grandpa). But my heart is aching as her condition worsens rapidly. Soon, we will bring her home for hospice care. I shared with you all why I quit my job a couple months ago, but something I wasn’t ready to share at the time was how big a role my grandma’s illness played in that decision. I knew her time was limited, and I wanted to be with her as much as possible.
Sitting at the hospital, I just felt a strong need to write. Writing has always been cathartic for me. So here I go.
The hardest part has been watching everyone else’s heartbreak. Watching my Poppanonno lose his bride. Watching my mom, aunt, and uncles witness their mother growing weaker. Watching my younger cousins grapple with the reality that grandma is dying (I can barely speak that word). Accepting when the doctor says there’s nothing more they can do.
Is this a test from God? Is he trying to teach me a lesson? If so, can He just do it without bringing my Grandma and my family so much pain? I know God could save her, heal her, and restore her health. So why won’t He? Did I not pray enough?
I’m pretty sure I won’t know these answers on Earth. So the only thing that’s bringing me comfort is knowing that my Grandma will go Home to her Loving Father. I imagine Him welcoming her with open arms while she experiences unending joy. My constant prayer is that she has no fear and feels only peace on her journey Home.
I’ve been taught that God writes straight with crooked lines. And I know He would not allow suffering without something beautiful coming from it. Intellectually, I get it.
But I don’t like the idea of anything positive coming from losing my grandma. To smile or laugh seems like a disservice.
There isn’t joy in watching grandma struggle to sit up, to sip fluids, to eat. There’s no joy in watching my Papa (who never cries) shake with sadness. There’s no joy in discussing hospice care. There’s no joy in knowing I will wake up one morning and won’t be able to walk downstairs and see Grandma watching one of her Westerns. We won’t get to watch Hallmark together anymore. There’s no joy in the tears of my family members who are thinking of what life will be like without our rock, our Grandma.
We’re all trying to figure this out as we go along.
Thankfully, I can still see the love in the midst of it all. It was a privilege to watch my mom kiss her mother’s head, their foreheads touching as she rested. I got to hear my mom tell grandma how much she loves her and how thankful she is for everything. Grandma mustered enough strength to say, “I love you.”
There is joy in all the extra time my family is spending together — my aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, parents, and Papa. To see the love my aunts and uncles have for their mom, as they watch over her in the hospital bed, is nothing short of beautiful.
My grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary is coming up in May. My Papa’s love for grandma can’t be described. These last few months have really shown me what “in sickness and in health” means. I think that’s the love we all want. It gives me a glimpse of what the Father’s love for us is like.
Gifts from my Grandma
I had the privilege of some alone time with Grandma today. I didn’t want her to see me cry, but I couldn’t help it. I told her I loved her, that I didn’t want her to go. I even got to hear her tell me that she loves me. I asked Jesus and Mary to watch over her. She is their daughter, after all.
As much as my heart breaks, I can’t help but think what a gift this is to be with her through all of this. I wouldn’t miss this for the world.
A few weeks ago, I was helping grandma get into bed and she told me that this was good training for when I have my own kids. I smiled and agreed. Later on, I reflected that it’s a struggle helping someone who knows how to do something but is physically unable, knowing that they won’t get stronger.
Sometimes I feel guilty for thinking about sad I feel — I can’t imagine how Grandma feels to know she will leave us all soon. She is not well enough to tell me whether she’s scared, worried, or sad. I hope she’s none of those. I hope she’s comforted. I hope she knows she has a Loving Father. I hope she looks forward to seeing her parents again.
Garden of Gethsemane
Yet, I can’t let go. I don’t want her to go. I don’t want to say goodbye. I wish I had something philosophical to say that could make this all feel better. I know there’s more pain, more sadness on the horizon. I don’t want to avoid it. I don’t want to numb it; I want to experience every moment.
I feel like I’m in the Garden of Gethsemane, pleading with God, but at the same time accepting whatever He wills.
“Not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk 22:42).
So if I believe I’m in Gethsemane, I must also believe I will someday be in the Garden of Golgotha, where Jesus rose from the dead. That is where this suffering will make sense, where my tears will be dried.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
When someone you love has cancer, you pray. You cry. You hug. You squeeze. You might laugh at some point. You just do the best you can.