This week, I’m afraid I’ve fallen a little behind in my blogging, despite just getting started. Sunday morning, my husband, Scott received a call that his Great-Aunt Sarah, at 92, had gone into kidney failure on top of pneumonia and wasn’t expected to last much longer. She passed away just before 2am Monday morning, with Scott holding one of her hands, and his dad, who was her favorite nephew, holding the other.
Ever since Scott’s birthday in April, she’s been in and out of the hospital, starting with a bruised leg that just wouldn’t heal. In June, she was moved “temporarily” from her assisted living apartment to the nursing home, but was still in and out of the hospital. Scott and his brothers and sister have been doing whatever they can, making sure her laundry is done, visiting her, and always making sure she got her chocolate milkshakes in the evening.
Last month, Scott’s parents flew in from their home in Saudi Arabia (long story short, Scott’s dad works in Saudi, however, due to Scott’s dark complexion, I have fooled a few people into thinking that’s where they’re all from), first his mother, then when Aunt Sarah was scheduled for debridement surgery on her leg, his father came. The whole family was together for the first time since Christmas. We finished moving her things out of the apartment and prepared ourselves for the worst. But the worst didn’t happen. Aunt Sarah felt much better after the surgery, and was moved to a nearby specialty hospital for treatment. Then, she had staph, but she started healing, all the same. She was back and forth between the regular hospital and the specialty hospital, but she was steadily doing better. Scott’s parents started planning for how to provide in-home healthcare for her. Aunt Sarah took four painful steps, the first she’d been able to take in almost two months. Then, a few days later, she was gone.
I rarely ever went to see Aunt Sarah by myself, but since this whole thing started, I’ve had a fair amount of alone time with her. It was something that was awkward at first, but as time went on, it was easier for me to make conversation with her. I learned to ask about the thing she loved most: Her husband. The first time I asked her about him, I was shocked at her candor. They were only married for 13 years, and he passed away over 40 years ago, but she was still so anxious to see him again. Aunt Sarah told me that she wasn’t sure why God was keeping her around so long, but she was ready. Ready to be reunited with her sister and her husband, to see her mother again, to meet her Savior.
When I joined the family at the specialty hospital on Sunday, it was bittersweet. We all took turns holding her hand and everyone had a story to tell. At 3pm, they turned off the breathing machine and moved to “comfort procedures.” The nurse removed her dentures, washed her face, combed her hair. We all got a little teary over her hair, because we never were able to get someone to come and do a perm for her. Aunt Sarah was a career beautician, and had her own beauty shop attached to her house. To see her laying there with her hair in less than perfect condition was especially heartbreaking.
The whole day was a flurry of family coming in and out, seeing their dear Aunt Sarah for the last time, telling their stories, and trying to find the right words to sum up who she was and what she meant to them. She never had children of her own (she had a hysterectomy long before she married, from what I understand) but there was no shortage of family members who considered her a second mother or second grandmother.
As the afternoon turned into evening, the family members who had come from out of town had to go. We started reading Bible verses, mainly Psalms, and playing hymns for her.
I went home just before midnight and Scott called me just before 2am, a few minutes after Aunt Sarah had passed. By then, it was only Scott and his parents left keeping watch. As soon as he told me she was gone, I headed back. When I got back to the hospital, I went down the corridor and into the room, just like I had 100 times already that day, but as I walked in and saw the vessel she had left behind, I broke down crying. It hit me like a bucket of ice water. There are no words to describe the utter emptiness that was left behind. Scott’s beloved great-aunt, his second grandmother was gone.
We mourn, but not as those who have no hope. We know she’s free, now. She’s gone home.