Archive | March, 2014

“Pain demands to be felt” : An homage to my grandmother

27 Mar

March 23, 2014

“Pain demands to be felt.”

This quote from one of my favorite books, John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” has been playing on a loop in my head all weekend.

I’ve spent the entire weekend with my grandmother (known by us as Oma) and her pain is demanding to be felt in a way that I’ve never seen in her, or in anybody else.

She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer about eight years ago, and underwent successful treatment that gave her five or six good years. About two years ago, her cancer came back, but at her age (she’s nearly 84), another round of chemo didn’t make any sense.

In the last few months, all she has been experiencing is pain. Her treatments now are designed solely to ease the pain and make the next few…weeks? months? days? more comfortable.

Her pain is demanding to be felt though. Yesterday, my mom and I had been out running errands and when we came in, she was doubled over in her chair, sobbing and saying that the pain was so much she didn’t think she could handle it.

Pain demands to be felt.

My grandmother is an extremely tough lady. She was born in 1930, and weathered the Great Depression in Mackenzie, Ala. I know she’s not a wimp—I’ll never forget the story she told me about what dental care was like in her childhood (I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say a half-foot long rusty needle was involved).

She lost her husband nearly 20 years ago and has seen friends and family pass on too. To see her acknowledging that pain means that it must be truly unbearable.

Yesterday afternoon, it was a seventy-something-degree spring day, and I pulled out some folding chairs and she and I sat and watched the estate sale going on across the street. Oma’s neighbor, a feisty lady probably also in her 80s, came by to check on my Oma and visit. Another neighbor from down the road ambled up, telling us about her flower picking and pressing project, visiting for a few minutes and wishing my grandmother the best. The grandson of the across-the-street neighbor walked over too, to visit and give Oma his best.

My grandmother has always been one of the sweetest, most generous, big-hearted people that I know. She’s been a loyal supporter of all kinds of charities—the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army, Birmingham community organizations, her church, probably more than I know.

 She’s always had a wide-reaching network of friends—her chicken foot group, her Friendship Force group, her church and Sunday school friends, neighbors, people she grew up with and, of course, a big family.

While I was there this weekend, she received calls every hour or so from someone in that network, saying hello, checking on her, giving back a little piece of the love that she’s given so easily over the years.

I know I’m young and I will inevitably experience saying good-bye to someone who is dying again, but leaving Birmingham this morning was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Not sure if I said the right thing or enough and scared that I’ve left something important unsaid.

That pain also demands to be felt.

I guess what I’m trying to say with this post is that, sentimental and trite as it sounds, if you love someone, spend time with that person and let them know how much you love them. I’m lucky I got to spend a long weekend with my grandmother and tell her how much I love her. I can only hope and pray that I get another one, but if I don’t, at least I took advantage of the time I had. Our time is short, and it’s really the only thing we have, so spend it well.