Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

It all started when I was a sophomore in high school in 2004. I was 15- years-old.  But let me back-track.  My childhood was always great; I had a great family and great friends.  I really had nothing to complain about.  I mean sure, I had the usual arguments with parents, but overall my younger years really bring back good memories.  I lived with my mom, dad, dog, and grandparents.  My grandparents (whom I called Oma for grandma and Opa for grandpa) lived with us. They immigrated here from Germany years before, so we tried to keep the culture alive by using the German names for grandparents.  We built an in-law suite on the side of our house for Oma and Opa so they would be able to live with us.  

As you can already start to see, I have a very close family that shares a lot with each other.  My grandparents moved in with us in 1989 and became a part of my life at an early age.  It was like I had two sets of parents living under one roof.  My “real” parents raised me to be a good person and I learned core values and morals early on: how to sit properly at the table, say you’re sorry when wrong, say please and thank you, don’t waste food, drink milk for calcium, study hard in school, etc.  I was doing well in school, I played the piano and took lessons, I was in Boy Scouts, I was involved with the local Republican Committee, and I started taking an interest in singing.  I was a normal kid (well I tried to be), with normal aspirations in life.  I wanted to grow up and be a golfing, bus driving, veterinarian at a young age.  Then I became more mature and realized that’s not what I wanted.  I wanted to become some important Joe that was famous on television like an actor or news anchor.  Then finally I thought about it more around the age of 15 and realized what I really wanted to do with my life was something in government or writing.  Later, that’s what took me to college where I currently major in political science and minor in journalism.  As you can see, my life was good and I had everything going for me.  Late July of 2004 changed that story though.  The first chapter of my life closed, the good chapter.  A new chapter was about to begin, and it was going to be an uphill battle every day from here on out.

It was late July of 2004, when we first received the news.  My parents and I were getting ready to leave for Florida in less than a week for our usual summer vacation, and we were headed to Disney World.  I remember we were leaving on a Saturday that week, but the story starts on a Tuesday.  Tuesday evening we got a phone call from Oma’s doctor, and my childhood was just about to change.  Everything I had known to be a wonderful life, a happy life, it was all over at this point.  “Diana, your mother has lung cancer, and she has six to nine months to live said the doctor to my mom.  Lung cancer? What? How the hell did this happen? This is coming out of nowhere! All these crazy thoughts were racing through my head and I really didn’t grasp the concept.  My grandmother had officially been diagnosed with lung cancer and was given less than a year to live.  Honestly, I didn’t believe it whatsoever.  Right away, there was talk about canceling our vacation plans to stay at home with Oma and Opa.  I had just turned 15, I was a selfish child, and I wanted to still go to Florida.  I knew the doctors were wrong and this was just a scheme to rid our plans of having a nice vacation.  How on earth could my grandma have so little time left to live when she looked great? She was still eating and sleeping normal, and living a decent life!  And on top of that, she never smoked in her life, and lung cancer usually comes from smoking.  I came to the conclusion that this was totally bogus and I needed to continue to live my life as a 15 year old.  Our vacation plans were cancelled though, so I just lived the rest of my summer as I should, having fun.

The next three months were fine.  I was still living the high life, and saw no sign in my grandma that she was going to die.  She was still healthy; well she was 79-years-old so she was as healthy as she could be for that age.  Then in December, it started to hit hard.  Oma couldn’t leave the house anymore; it was hard enough for her to get out of bed and walk around her room.  Could this really be happening? For the first time, I finally realized this was reality.  December finished, and January came and went…and then came February of 2005.  Everyday, something changed about Oma.  She started not being able to eat anymore, or barely even drink liquids.  We had to hire Hospice (home care nurses) to help us out by coming to check on Oma everyday.  She was now basically stuck in her bed 24/7 and her strength showed, but it was slowly drifting away.  Throughout the entire month of March, I already knew I lost her.  We were all basically just taking care of a body that wasn’t capable of staying here on earth.  She couldn’t eat or drink anymore, and the worst part was she at times didn’t even recognize any of us.  One of the hardest days of my life was in early March when it was just Oma and I in the room, and I had a conversation with her.  I told her that it was alright to let go.  Oma grabbed my hand and said, “Are you sure, schatzele?” (schatzele is a German word she always called me, meaning sweetie or honey.) I told her it was tough, but I was sure, because I wanted her to be in a better place.  That day was the last day Oma recognized me, and it went on this way for a good two weeks. On March 22nd, Oma slipped into a coma, and never woke up. Then came March 23rd; our hospice nurse Kathy, was here taking care of Oma while I was sitting at the foot of her bed.  Kathy left to get some things from her car, and Opa was next door in his room watching TV, while my parents were eating dinner back on our side of the house.  It was 10:30 p.m., and I was reading all the cards I ever gave to Oma over the years; she always kept every single card I had given her.  Kathy came back in to check on Oma, and I saw her put her hand up to her mouth and say “Oh my God, that’s it.” At the age of 79, Oma passed away on March 23 at 10:30 p.m.  I quickly went to get Opa and my parents, and we all sat by her bedside crying together. It was a very hard night.  We called the funeral home and they picked her up; I was able to give her one last kiss goodbye. Thankfully she died peacefully in her sleep, which is what she
always said she wanted.

It has now been over six years since Oma passed away, but sometimes it feels like it was only yesterday.  My heart still has a hole in it from missing her so much, but I have slowly started to remember the good times Oma and I had together, not just the awful last few months of her life.  I know that death is a part of life and no one is immune from it, but knowing that does not make it any easier to watch someone you love slip away.  If you are going through a time like this in your life right now, please know that the pain will eventually go away and time heals all wounds.  By talking about Oma, I have helped others go through similar difficult times, but most importantly I have come to peace knowing that Oma truly has never left.  She is just waiting for the rest of her family to join her in eternal life.

Adam Anders is a fourth-year student majoring in political science with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at AA652656@wcupa.edu.

 

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