A Gift

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11016136_10204832792194491_8875586181850525939_oAfter a particularly uncomfortable two weeks… life seemed to be settling back into a normal routine. After weeks of being uncomfortable, I had a nagging feeling to go visit my grandma. I don’t see her as often as I should. There is no excuse. “I get busy. I’m too tired. The weather makes the drive to dangerous.” All thoughtless excuses to not make the 45 minute drive to see her.

In a previous post, I had written about the Alzheimer’s Walk and quite a bit about my grandma. So, if you haven’t read that one, or you are just beginning to follow this blog, its possibly important to know that my grandma does suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. She has been in a nursing home for several years. When I did not live here, I was obviously unable to see her. Now I see her, but not as often as I should. OK. Moving on.

So, these last few weeks… super uncomfortable, I typically refer to it as a shift. Something is changing and it’s either completely obvious or I lay awake at night oblivious to what is happening in the world around me. Either way, the change occurs and I can look back and say, “I made it through that”… whatever “that” was.

So, as the nagging feeling continued, I realized it was time to visit. Yesterday was gorgeous. I was able to roll the windows down as I trekked toward Minnesota. The music was loud and I sang along (thankfully, I was alone so no one’s ears would bleed). Talking to God, I made my way through the countryside that I grew up traveling. It always brings back memories when I head to Minnesota. Thinking about my childhood, euphoric recall came into play. The games we played in the car, counting the trains on the tracks as we drove by and quite possibly my favorite, seeing who could spot all three water towers as we neared the small town of Pipestone. Looking for certain land marks, I recall the pretty white church that I’ve always loved but never stopped to take a picture of, the JASPER YARDS sign and The Glass House Restaurant in a town so small you will miss it if you blink. Memories always flood in faster than my brain can follow and I get goosebumps. Every time. The hair on the back of my neck stands up and I feel calm. I have yet to understand what this is about, but I embrace it as some little inkling of faith that the Divine knows I am making this a part of my journey.

Pulling into this tiny town, I have to find landmarks to keep me from getting lost. Turn right at the “big park” to get to this person’s house. Find the hair salon of a good friend to turn right at and make it to the bank. At the bank I can turn left to get to Grandma. Missing any one of those steps, I inevitably get lost and have to find another land mark to get me back on track. Put me in Las Vegas again and I can fly down the freeway and know where to go. Small town? I need help!

Making it to the parking lot of the nursing home, I turned off the music that got me there. Eminem… because really, who can think about being afraid when he is blasting loudly. Plus, he’s always been a favorite. After returning to silence, I said a prayer. Asking for strength and guidance, I asked God to guide my words and remind me to be grateful. Walking into the nursing home, the aroma of healthcare filled the air and the anxiety set in. Making my way toward her room, I put on the brave face it requires to walk past countless elderly individuals and not be sucked into their world. It’s a learning process to feel safe enough not to want to take them all home with me and take care of them myself. I have always loved geriatric patients much more so than anyone, especially kids.

Seeing my grandma laying comfortably on her bed, oxygen in, resting peacefully brings immediate love. I am overwhelmed at the woman who sits before me. Her beauty radiates throughout the room and I am brought back to the days in her old, two bedroom house filled with family for holidays or other events. I sit down on the edge of the bed and take her hand. She opens her eyes enough to know that someone is there and settles back into a comfortable sleep. I play with her hair and give her a kiss. I tell her, “Hi Grandma, it’s Kylee” and remind her who I am. She allows me to keep holding her hand and I play some music for her. My aunt arrives, and we wait as the aides get her into her wheelchair. Over the last few years, her physical abilities have declined and she is no longer able to walk. We take her down to dinner and help her fill her tummy. This is where the magic happens.

As Grandma begins to wake up more, she holds my aunt’s hand, reaches up and touches her face and tries to talk. When she began to lose her ability to use her words, she whistled, all the time. I loved hearing her whistle. As we sat quietly visiting about family, friends, loved ones… she tried to whistle. She expressed what she could. What others may hear as simple noise, I hear as hope. I see the light in her eyes. I hear the courage in her expressions. I am grateful and my faith is renewed. Sitting there with my grandma, I begin to feel the pull to be a better woman. I understand that I have faults and that when I am uncomfortable it is a direct result of what I am doing in my life… or the lack there of. She gives me a reason to hope against hope that there will be a cure of this disease. This woman, frail yet full of life, gives me gratitude. Life is short. Don’t take it for granted. Be present with the ones you are with. Be kind to those you meet, for you never know the battles they suffer internally. Most of all, be the best person you can be today.

Kylee Christoffels

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