December 3, 2013

The Second Most Difficult Phone Call


My Grandma (center), her brother and sister-in-law, February 2013 My Grandma (center), her brother and sister-in-law, February 2013

Elder Care

I’ve had to make difficult phone calls. I think we all have. And we’ve likely all been on the receiving end of those difficult phone calls too. So we know, a little bit, about what’s going on when all we hear is silence.

When my grandfather passed away I’m the one who called everyone. My grandmother wasn’t in a position to do it, having lost her daughter 4 years prior and her son just one year prior. When my mother died, my grandfather called me. I don’t really know what he said after “Sara, this is Grandpa.” It didn’t really matter because I knew why he was calling. Same with when he called me when my uncle died. Despite knowing it was going to happen, there was nothing I could do to keep my brain from not wanting to hear the words.

Yesterday I was the one making the call. Not about death, that call will come sooner than later. It was that call I thought would be the hardest. I never thought about the one that would come before.

My grandmother and her baby brother are best friends. Have been since the day he was born. He was “her” baby. She was 7 when he was born and as the youngest it was her job to help take care of the new baby. Today, they’re both in their golden years, she in her 90s and he in his 80s. They speak every day. That’s how it’s been for almost 20 years. The only times they’ve not spoken were when my grandmother’s been in the hospital and unable to use a phone.

This past spring, my Uncle and his wife came to visit his sister. My grandmother and Aunt are very good friends, having known each other over 70 years. It’s like they’re sisters, to some extent. They laugh, share stories of people they’ve known since childhood, and talk about friends who’ve passed away. That last part, at their age, is very common.

I adore my Uncle. My great uncle, really. And, he truly is great. If I could call him my super uncle I would, he’s that wonderful. Which is what really makes having to talk to him yesterday so difficult.

So far, in my nearly 45 years, calling him yesterday morning was the second most difficult phone call I’ve had to make. Yes, the second. The first will always be reserved for the one in which I had to tell my husband something bad happened to our daughter.

I knew there would come a day I had to call and tell him his sister passed away. When you’re 93, it’s not a matter of if just when. I also knew that would be a hard call to make. But he’s been on the receiving end of 7 of those calls letting him know a sibling has died. It’s how things go when you’re the youngest of 9 kids.

But this call. Sigh! My grandma is dying, and while it may be days or weeks all I know is it is imminent. And in her whispery breath she said she needed to say goodbye to her brother. Who am I to deny her that call? She’s weak and doesn’t open her eyes, but when she asked for this I knew I was the one who’d do most of the talking.

How do you call up someone and tell them that in a 24-hour period of time things went from bad to terrible to worst? I had to do that. And while it was difficult, I did it because it’s what I had to do as her granddaughter and caregiver. So I called and told him she wanted to talk to him. I know what she said, and I know what he said when I got back on the phone. She said goodbye to her brother, her best friend. The last person she’s known all his life.

I’ve never seen my Uncle cry. So hearing him choke back what I’m certain were tears, I can’t even explain how I felt. All I know is I wish I didn’t have to do, but I’m glad I did. Because sometimes not being able to say goodbye hurts more.



Christi @ Love From The Oven December 3, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I am so sorry. You are so very strong, but the strongest are usually the ones who carry the most pain. We are here for you for anything that you need. To listen, to take Baby Girl for a while, to make poor attempts at humor to break up the clouds, to run errands or just to be. You are one of the most amazing people I know, the kindest, most loving and most caring. Let those of us around you help return even a fraction of the love you’ve put, and continue to put, out in the world. You absolutely did the right thing, as painful and hard as it is. Those hard things are the ones that are so painful, but that you will forever be glad you found the strength to do. A big hug to you. And again, do not think twice, we are here for anything at all.

Sara January 1, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Christi, thank you for everything you did to help make the past month easier. I am truly blessed that my daughter’s best friend has such a great mom and our girls brought us together as friends.

Valerie Demetros December 3, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I am so sorry. Your Grandma is so lucky to have someone so compassionate and understanding to be in her corner right now. I know that must have been so hard for you, but knowing it was the right thing to do, and knowing that you love them so much must have made it just a bit easier. Sending hugs.

Sara December 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Valerie, I really appreciate all those virtual hugs during what was a very challenging few weeks. ~ Sara

Alli December 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I love you Sara. I hurt for you and you are my sister from another mister. Know that all of the people who love you are sending positive energy and thinking of you. As hard as this is, and I can’t even imagine until I am there one day myself, you are giving your grandmother a gift. And even in these days, in the deepest reaches of her soul, she knows it and thanks you for it. I love you for who you are. Hugs.

Sara December 31, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Alli, I love you too! Thank you for taking time to listen to me. ~ Sara

Ann December 3, 2013 at 5:37 pm

(((Hugs))) My friend.

Sara December 31, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Thank you, Ann.

Renae December 3, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Oh Sara! I am so sorry to hear that your grandmother is so ill. I know that was a difficult call. I know it meant the world to both of them to talk one last time though. When my grandpa passed away early this year, my dad is the one who called me. Hearing my dad cry for the first time in my life was heartbreaking. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it now! Sending you a big hug and thinking of you!

Sara December 31, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Thank you, Renae. I’m sorry you, too, lost a beloved grandparent this year. ~ Sara

Beth @ TheAngelForever December 3, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Oh Sara, my heart is breaking for you and your family. So sorry to hear about your grandmother. I can not even imagine how difficult that call was, but I am so glad that you made it and your uncle and grandmother were able to talk. Please know you are in our thoughts and if there is anything I can do from a distance, I am here even if it is just to listen.

Sara December 31, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Beth, thank you for your support through this difficult time. I appreciate knowing others were sending me strength. ~ Sara

Kate @ Songs Kate Sang December 7, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Dearest Sara, I am so sorry. Your kindness is a true light. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

Sara December 31, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Thank you for your kind words and offer, Kate.

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