So often in life, I find myself asking why.
When Emily died at the ripe age of 16…I asked why. I begged to know why. I asked anyone and everyone to give me a reason as to why she had to go.
People tried to give me answers. I tried to give myself answers. But no matter what I was told…I still wanted to know why.
When my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease several years ago, I asked my parents why. I asked doctors why. I asked my brother why. I spent hours researching it on Google to try and find a reason as to WHY. But nothing told me.
And when I was told that I would most likely never be able to have normal sex or conceive children of my own…I once again found myself asking why.
Today has turned out to be one of the days where I find the same question on the tip of my tongue; WHY?
Growing up, we become accustomed to the fact that our grandparents won’t be around for the larger part of our lives- if at all. We expect that they are going to die at some point. But I never expected my grandma to live out her remaining years in a nursing home sleeping 20 hours a day. I never expected that she would look at me with absolutely no recognition in her eyes. And even though I had known all my life that she would eventually die…I didn’t think she would die while still living. Because essentially, that’s what Alzheimer’s does. It takes a living and breathing person with memories and personality and destroys them. They slowly wilt away until they become just a vessel. A vessel void of feelings and emotions. Of course, our best educated guesses lead us to believe that those affected by Alzheimer’s don’t truly know what’s going on past the initial stage. But the rest of us do.
The rest of us sit by helplessly watching our loved ones float into a state of confusion before eventually becoming a zombie that exists only to occasionally eat and mostly sleep.
I went to visit my grandmother today at the nursing home in which she now resides. I usually try to avoid going to see my grandma. Uttering that statement makes me feel extremely selfish and unappreciative. But if that’s what it takes to avoid remembering my grandmother in such a helpless state, I’ll handle the negative labels.
I remember my grandmother pre-Alzheimer’s. She was my best friend. I remember the way she would rub my forehead when I was sick and the way she always slipped off her shoes when she was in the kitchen. I remember the red lipstick that she wore every single day and I remember her contagious laugh. I remember thinking that I couldn’t imagine going through school without being able to tell Grandma about it. And then, I had no choice.
Alzheimer’s took my grandmother away from me. When I saw her today, I saw nothing in her eyes. The life and sparkle that she once had…it’s gone. She can’t speak. She can’t even stay awake for longer than 5 minutes. She can no longer feed herself, bathe herself, or go to the bathroom by herself. She depends on others for every single part of life. Someone who was once so fiercely independent.
As I was sitting next to my grandmother, feeding her mashed potatoes and gravy, she grabbed onto my free hand and started rubbing it. She held my hand for the remainder of the visit and wouldn’t let go when it was time to leave. As I was prying my grandmother’s frail fingers from my wrist, she looked up at me and for the briefest moment I thought I saw a glimmer of recognition…and then it was gone.
I left feeling more desolate than usual wondering why this had to happen to such a wonderful person.
Once I started asking the question, it spiraled out of control into a mass confusion about life and why things happen. These tragedies and experiences that we all go through… none of it makes sense to me. I find myself constantly searching for answers that don’t exist.
But something finally clicked in me today. I thought about Emily and about my illness and about my grandmother. I thought about every single other time in life that I’ve begged the question; why?
And I finally realized something…
It wouldn’t matter if I had all the answers. It wouldn’t make any difference if someone told me exactly why Emily had to die at 16 years old or why my grandmother had to spend 7 years wasting away in a nursing home. None of it would matter because I would still be upset. I would still miss Emily just as much as I do now. And I would still ache for my beloved grandmother.
Having a reason why would change nothing.
Maybe we aren’t supposed to understand or have all the answers. Maybe we’re just supposed to mourn when we lose those we love and allow our grief to dwindle away slowly as we allow ourselves to let go of the why.
I’m currently raising money for Alzheimer’s Disease. Find out more here.