Chronic illness, faith, family, hope, encouragment, life

One of my greatest treasures, my Grandma, Polly Usrey Mabe

This time of year is always rough.  My Grandma, one of the most beautiful women (inside and out) that I’ve ever known, went to be with Jesus 11 years ago today.  Time does help make things easier, but sometimes I’m still struck with a force equivalent to a hurricane if I see a picture or hear something she used to say.  Or sometimes just because I want to talk to her so very bad and get her opinion on something or just hear her sing again. 

I was the first grandchild so when I was born Grandma left work to stay home and take care of me.  But not only did she take care of her grandchildren, she became “Granny Polly” to so many more kids that were blessed to come into her home and stay with her.  It didn’t matter if it was family or not.  They became family to us.  One important lesson I learned from this was to treat everyone the same.  Nobody is better or worse than anybody else.  We are all just supposed to love on people and help them up if they are down or celebrate if they are up.  Even though she did earn some money taking care of kids, I do believe she spent most of it on our Friday grocery trip because she bought more stuff for us kids than anybody else.  She made sure she had a huge breakfast and a huge lunch.  Every day.  And more than anything, we were loved.

Another thing my Grandma did pretty much every day of my life until she got sick was sing.  She sang while she worked and cooked, she sang special songs for the little ones, she sang in the choir.  What she sang the most though were hymns from church.  In fact, she sang them so much that when we sing hymns at church now I can pretty much remember them all just from hearing her sing them.  After she got sick with cancer, she didn’t sing as much.  But that is what my sons came to expect whenever we went to Granny Polly’s house.  Dalton, my youngest, was close to his first birthday while she was sick.  She would lay on the couch to be near us, but he would walk up to her at the couch and start dancing.  That was his cue for her to sing.  And she did.  Whether she felt like it or not, she sang to him so he could dance. 

My Grandma was also pretty funny.  There are times growing up that we would be talking and she would say words that I have never in my life heard.  I didn’t even know what they meant.  But they were always funny.  She had this way of giving you direct advice and telling it “like it was”.  She knew when to be gentle and she knew when to lighten the mood.  Our family laughs.  We always have.  Even toward the end we could find things to joke around about and even laugh at some of the hardest things we were facing.  But it was the best medicine for us.  Because she told us not to sit around looking so “sad faced and depressed”.  She knew where she was going, she knew she had a mansion waiting and she told us frequently that “God doesn’t make any mistakes.  He knows what He’s doing”.  Her only regret, she said, was not being able to see the “babies” (her great grandchildren) grow up. 

My Grandma loved.  She loved her family and would do absolutely anything for us.  Yes, she spoiled us, but not in material ways (though sometimes that happened lol).  She spoiled us with love, care, and dedication to us all.  I have to say that our immediate family has always been so close and no matter what happens between us, all it takes is a phone call and an “I need you” and we are there. But she loved others, too.   She taught me that when a family has troubles, you help.  She taught me that taking food to people who were sick or had just lost a loved one was something everyone should do.  And she lived that.  And she always said that if the time comes people will do the same for you.   And when she was near the end, I cannot even remember how many people came to see us and brought tons of food and other things to help us out.  We were so busy taking care of Grandma and all that food was a blessing when we were exhausted.  I had already been trying to live this lesson out myself but what I saw then was truly amazing. 

There are so many other things I could say about my Grandma.  I could fill page after page of the awesome qualities this Godly woman possessed.  I could  tell you that she had a temper at times, she could fix things around the house better than most men, and she was very opinionated lol.  And I loved all of this about her.  And I suspect I have a lot of that in me, too.

Grandma had a final surgery near the end and when the surgeon came out to talk to us after a very short time in the OR, I knew that it was not good news.  And it wasn’t.  Essentially the cancer had grew throughout her entire abdomen and all he could do was make a bypass around some of the cancerous masses to try and give her more time.  Only about 3 months more time.  We were devastated.  It was like living in a horror movie.  You know that there is going to be a bad ending but you are still never really ready for it.  When we found this out, I did everything I could with my job to make sure I got to her house more and more.  When she was finally ready to call in Hospice, I packed suitcases and my 3 boys and I planned to go and stay with her until the end.  You see, when she found out the doctor said “3 months”, I promised her two things.  First, I told her that I would not leave her and second, I told her that I would not let her hurt during this time.  And I did that the best I could.  She held out until the very end to get a morphine drip.  My husband would come on weekends and stay with us.  He would take our boys to his parents house at night and I would stay with Grandma.  One night, they went in to tell her bye like they always did and she had Keith put each of the boys on the bed with her.  She told them how much she loved them and she got upset.  She kissed on them and loved on them even though I know it was so painful to even move.  But he managed to sound like Granny Polly to them and not let on that she was going soon.  When I heard her tell Keith to take care of me and the boys, my heart broke.  Because I knew then that she wouldn’t be saying these things again.   The night of July 4th, our family decided to do a cookout and fireworks outside her window because this was something Grandma would’ve loved.  But she didn’t watch them. Her face was turned to the window but she was already leaving.   I stayed with her the entire time, talking to her like usual and telling her all about the fireworks.  I read the Bible to her as she slipped into that semi comatose state that happens right before the end.  She held all day the next day, July 5th, 2003.  Our immediate family was all there, coming in and out.  I still could only leave the room for just a few minutes at a time.  She got agitated and seemed uncomfortable so I called the Hospice nurse to come but she was not able to come right away.  I told her I promised my Grandma she would not be in pain while I was there, that I was a nurse, and she could tell me about much morphine to give her because we weren’t waiting.  So that’s what we did.  Hospice was awesome, walked me through it all, and Grandma calmed down.  Her breathing changed and we told everybody that they might want to come in her room.  She passed away that night surrounded by the family that she loved so much.  Just as I was with my Pop, I was on my Grandma’s side holding on to her when she took her last breath.  As much as I hated to see her go, I knew that I was forever blessed to have had this precious woman with me throughout my entire life. 

My most precious memory though happened the day before she slipped away, the last day she could truly still talk to us.  I was in her room and it was just the two of us.  I was upset and she told me not to cry.  She knew where she was going and I would be with her again.  I said, “Grandma, I just want you to know that when you do go, there is a piece of my heart that you will be taking with you, because that’s where you are:  so deep in my heart”.  She said “Oh darling, you have always had a piece of my heart since the day you were born, and it won’t ever change, no matter where I am”. 

Grandma, I miss you and I thank you for being the wonderful person that you were.  I hope that you can see my boys and how they’ve grown.  I hope that you know that I tell them stories all the time about you and how much you loved us.  And one day, I’m going to see you again, and we will pick up right where we left off:  heart to heart.

Still loving you even more,

Amy

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