‘When I got there I saw the saddest bracelet on my grandma’s fragile, bruised wrist. A purple band that said ‘DNR/DNI.’ I couldn’t hold it in anymore. The tears were now streaming.’

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“I come from a family full of strong women, how did that trait skip me? I feel weak like a child again lost, sad, and scared.

My family is not huge by any standard and I have always been super close to my grandparents. They have always played an active role in my life. That role became even bigger when I was 15 years old.

Husband and wife stand arm in arm smiling in blurry old photo
Courtesy Stephanie Hutchison

My life was that of a typical teenager school and friends. Then one day while in my 5th period computers class I got a message to go to the office because I had a phone call, a call that would forever change my life. It was my mom’s fiancé on the phone telling me my mom had been in an accident and he was coming to get me right away to take me up to the hospital.

Little girl smiling in dress beside her mother in old portrait
Courtesy Stephanie Hutchison

My mom and I had our ups and downs but through it all I loved her with all of my heart. She was amazing and unfortunately it wasn’t until I was older that I would understand exactly how much she did for me.

At that point I was going through the worst 3 days of my life. From seeing her car underneath the semi on the way to the hospital, to seeing her hooked up to all of those machines, to then having the pressure of deciding whether or not to turn off life support. Oddly enough about two weeks prior my mom out of nowhere told me she would never want to live like a vegetable. With her own words in my head I agreed to turn the life support off. I crawled up onto her bed in the ICU and held her hand as she took her last breath. To this day I don’t know how I made it through those couple days.

Enter my grandparents. They were there for me for every agonizing minute those three days. My mom was their youngest daughter, only 34 at the time of the accident. My grandparents were also young (in their late 50’s) they were empty nesters, they had raised their children, and this was their time to enjoy each other and the life they had worked so hard to build together, but without hesitation no questions asked they decided to take on raising another child. A teenage girl now with more baggage than most teens.

Between school, counseling appointments, and all other teenage activities my grandparents never once showed any signs that they regretted their choice to take me in. I am eternally grateful to them because they showed me nothing but love and became the model for which I have built my marriage on.

5 years and 1 month after my mom’s accident tragedy strikes again. My grandpa had a massive heart attack and was gone almost instantly. This was another hard hit to my family. I felt as though I couldn’t take anymore. Through all of the pain and loss my grandma seemed to be the only constant in my life. She was there to wipe my tears, give advice, and tell me we would make it through.

Fast forward another six years and I meet this amazing guy. A guy who treats me exactly how my grandpa treated my grandma. A guy who makes me laugh even when I don’t want to, a guy who always listens to me, a guy who wants nothing but the best for me. Everything is great and although there are pieces of my heart that are missing, I’m realizing that this man has added pieces to my heart that were never there before. After 3 years of being engaged (there was never any dating we both knew right away what lies ahead for us) we were married. On an extremely hot June day in 2011 in front of our family and friends we said, ‘I do’. We had laid out 4 roses on the first pew of the church for our family that were not there in person. It was an emotional day but still the best day of my life thus far!

After our wedding me moved back to my home town for better job opportunities and to be closer to my grandma. We ended up moving in with her for a while, so we could get on our feet. It worked out perfectly. We were there to help her out around the house and cooked dinner for all of us. Even when we were financially stable and moved out on our own we didn’t go far. We were a 5-minute drive to grams house and would still go over often to help her do household chores and visit or even pick her up to go to dinner.

Grams was a very independent self-sufficient and tech savvy woman. She wasn’t like your typical grandma, she would text me throughout the day and tag me in stories on Facebook. She was a fire ball and not afraid to state her opinion! She never wore makeup or jewelry, she didn’t color her hair she was who she was and said, ‘You can like it or not I don’t care!’

Elderly woman sits on couch smiling at dog sitting beside her on red blanket
Courtesy Stephanie Hutchison

I always thought my grandma was invincible and nothing would ever take her down! That is until 2 months ago. She was scheduled to have surgery on her coratid artery, but surgery was cancelled the day of because they were unable to get a blood pressure reading on any of her extremities. When they were finally able to get a true reading, they discovered it was extremely, dangerously high. She ended up in the ICU until they could get her blood pressure under control. From the hospital she went to a rehab facility, then back to the hospital, then to another rehab, then to a nursing home. I went to see her the night she got to the last nursing home, I tried to be encouraging and keep my s**t together all while watching my grandma deteriorate over the last two months.

The next morning, I get a text message that she is back in the hospital because her blood pressure was extremely low and she wasn’t responding. I rushed up to the hospital praying aloud the entire drive for God not to take her. When I get to the hospital they had got her somewhat stable and we’re transferring her to the local trauma center as they were better equipped to care for her there. When we walked out of the hospital to follow the ambulance to the trauma center my aunt told me that the Doctor needed to know whether or not they should resuscitate my grandma should she code. I knew this was bad, I felt like that same 15-year-old girl having to make the decision whether or not to let my mom live. I cried in the parking lot with my aunt and my husband then hurried to get to the trauma center as soon as possible. When I got there I saw the saddest bracelet on my grandma’s fragile bruised wrist. A purple band that said ‘DNR/DNI’ I couldn’t hold it in anymore and the tears were now freely streaming.

Close up of elderly woman's arm who has purple bracelet on that says, "DNR/DNI"
Courtesy Stephanie Hutchison

Over the next week that hospital would become my second home. I would go to work out in my 8+ hours then go home eat a quick bite and head to the hospital for a few hours and get up and do it again the next day. My uncle and his family came up from Kansas and many distant family members came to see my grandma. The weekend came, and I was able to spend more than two uninterrupted hours with my grandma. Although she couldn’t respond I feel like she could hear me. In between visitors I found myself alone with her and I cried and cried and told her over and over how much I loved her and that it was ok. I told her that if she wanted to go be with Mom and grandpa I would be ok. I played her one of her favorite Elvis songs and held her hand. That night surrounded by myself and my husband, my aunts and uncle and two cousins I held my grandma’s hand as she took her last breath.

Close of up woman's hand holding grandmother's hand in hospital bed
Courtesy Stephanie Hutchison

As I said I come from a long line of strong women and at this point I feel as though the strength skipped me. Although I feel weak right now I know I will make it through. My grandma, and grandpa, and mom would want me to push through and live the best life I can so that is exactly what I will do. I will never ‘get over’ the loss I have endured, but I will learn to live a new normal. I will be thankful for the time I had with each of them and the memories we mad. I will be thankful for the wonderful life I have and will never forget them.”

Woman kisses grandmother on the cheek who has since passed away
Courtesy Stephanie Hutchison

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Hutchison 36, of Omaha, Nebraska. We’d love to hear your story. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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