“Three years ago my grandmother was diagnosed with in my opinion one of the worst diseases on this earth. Dementia, a silent killer that stripped everything from my grandmother, right down to her last breath. My grandmother Betty was a wonderful woman, a home maker and multiple business owner. One of 9 who grew up very poor, but never let that define her, or the way she would live her life. Humble, breathtaking and like none other. She was someone that everyone looked to for advice when they had problems. She was the most giving human being around.
Dementia doesn’t discriminate against race, religion, sex, healthy, non-healthy, rich, or poor. Shortly after my grandfather passed away in 2013, my grandmother declined. Dementia is a slow, but heartbreaking and painful process not only for the person living it, but the family watching it. Once the dementia took away my grandmother’s ability to remember how to cook and short term memories, we moved her into our place. My gram lived with us for about 2 years. The process was very hard. Seeing someone you looked up to, cherished, who was always there, slowly forget the small things… like how to use the restroom, how to walk without falling over, remember to eat, or remembering not to eat too much, was extremely hard. She became very angry and aggressive which wasn’t like her. As the process moved further we decided the next step was the put her into a nursing facility. My grandmother’s relatives, sisters, and other children did not understand the process or why this decision was being made. Our family was torn apart! We lost contact with many relatives for months, some even years over this decision. Until you have lived the process of dealing with a dementia patient, you cannot compare.
Growing up, my grandmother lived with us until I was 7 years old. We were quite close… some would say, inseparable. Being the first-born grandson, you can imagine why. I remember all the fun times growing up with gram, staying the night at her house, helping her serve coffee at the coffee shop, eating the best food you can imagine.
On April 22, around 9:45, dementia took the only thing my grandmother had left from her, the ability to breathe. These last moments with her that were captured on camera will last with me for eternity. Getting to hear my grandmother tell me ‘I love you too’ still makes me emotional. Although being unresponsive at points during this, in and out of coma, she knew who I was. From the second I said ‘Grandma,’ she opened her eyes and said, ‘Hi honey.’ She knew me, and that meant EVERYTHING! Heaven sure gained one of the brightest, most intelligent, humble, giving, and loving people I know. You were so strong gram, I love you, forever.
Through this experience I truly hope others can understand that this disease is a silent killer. One that will strip away everything the person has to offer. I hope people will be more aware and realize that through Dementia, although most forget everything, they’re still human. My grandmother still remembered little things, she still hurt, cried, was scared, and felt alone. She didn’t understand any more than we did as to why she was going through such a horrible process. She was aware that she was forgetting, and nothing could change it. I hope others take these precious moments and remember to not abandon the ones you love, even if dementia sets in. What matters most though, is the love that we had for each other, the love that will last my entire lifetime.”
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