Friday, September 4, 2009

The Ties that Bind

What a roller coaster of emotions we've experienced the last month and a half! Just when we got to the top of a hill, we came plunging down only to twist and turn and climb and fall some more! We've experienced joy and grief--the top and the bottom of the roller coaster and everything in between! And some days, it's all come at the same time!

Adoption itself is a roller coaster ride! When we brought Lily Ana home from New Life back in July, I was honestly in a state of shock. I couldn't cry; I couldn't laugh; I couldn't do much of anything. I kept looking at this little stranger thinking, "Is this for real? Is this really what we've been waiting all this time for?" I didn't feel the instant connection with Lily Ana that I remembered feeling with Emma Leigh. Things were so different. At the point that we first laid eyes on Lily Ana, we had already been with Emma Leigh and her birth family for four full days!

It seemed so strange to be bringing home this little helpless person who we didn't know and who didn't know us! I saw grief in her eyes. I saw grief in the way she wouldn't look into our eyes. I felt her grief for her birhthmom whose voice she had come to know as comforting but no longer heard. It was strange to know that someone this tiny at just a month old was experiencing an emotion that some go their whole lives without knowing.

Even I had never experienced grief the way that my own child was experiencing. I had never lost anyone close to me. Sure I had friends who had moved away and saw other friends grieve over deaths of loved ones. And I know I shared in the grief that Emma Leigh's birthmom felt during the days that we spent with her at the hospital. But to grieve over the death of someone close to me was foreign, something I had never experienced. Until last week that is.

My Grandpa Grimes fell and broke his leg the day that Lily Ana turned one week old. I had taken her the day before to meet him and Grandma, and I'm so thankful that I did. He held her and looked at her toes and said, "Hello Little One," in that sweet drawl of his. He was nervous about holding her because he hadn't been feeling well and was pretty weak. I stood very close to him, and assured him that she was safe in his arms.

My mom was at the house the next day when the call came that Grandpa had fallen and was being taken by ambulance to the hospital. They thought he'd broken one or perhaps both hips. Something inside of me knew right then that Grandpa would never come home. Each winter he was one of the elderly most at risk for contracting the flu and pneumonia, but God continued to give him health, healing, and life. I knew though that if he ever got down, he probably wouldn't make it back up.

The next days were a whirlwind of tests to see if his heart was strong enough to withstand surgery on the broken femur just below the hip joint. In doing these tests, doctors determined he had 100 percent blockage in the major artery on the right side of his neck which accounted for the weakness, dizziness, and fainting he'd experienced in the days before his fall. Surgery would have to be done on this before it could be done on the leg, and it would have to be done quickly.

Following the surgery, he was placed in ICU. Over the next week, he was placed on life support and a feeding tube, and we thought for sure each day would be his last. He did have the surgery on his leg, and had to receive several units of blood afterward. He was eventually moved from the hospital to a long-term care facility nearby where it is believed he aspirated and the pneumonia in his lungs continued to get worse. We were all called in one morning because his breathing had become so poor and oxygen levels so low that the long-term care facility had rushed him back to the hospital.

He was readmitted to ICU, placed back on life support and a feeding tube, and the next days were filled with difficult decisions. The nurses seemed to be more optimistic than things appeared, and on the morning of August 24th, Grandma decided that he'd been through enough. She wanted the ventilator removed. After doing this, his feeding tube was moved from his nose to his mouth and was moved to a regular room where he would be made comfortable, and we could wait for the inevitable. Sometime that day, he became more alert and asked that the feeding tube be taken out of his throat because it was so irritating to him. He began talking to those that were there, and he was awake almost the entire day. My aunt even fed him a small amount of pudding after he asked, "Where's my supper?" Many of us got to go see him and talk with him. I was one of those and will cherish that little bit of time I got to see him that evening.

That night the nurses gave him something to help him relax and go to sleep. He never woke up. The next day his breathing became more and more labored, and that evening most of my family gathered at the hospital to say goodbye to the patriarch of our family. We cried lots of tears, and I especially was heartbroken when Emma Leigh said to him, "Bye Grandpa. I love you." It was very hard to leave that night knowing that we would probably never see him alive again.

Early the next morning, my mom called to tell me that he had gone to be with Jesus just after midnight. The next few days were filled with family and tears. We spent time at my Grandma's house and at the funeral home, and I grieved quietly for the Grandpa that I'd lost. I sat and rocked my little Lily Ana and clung to both of my girls. I recalled wonderful memories of the Grandpa that I loved so much. I heard his voice say to me, "Well hello, Hayley," in his sweet, soft, calming drawl.

His funeral was amazing! The service began with Bryan singing "The Anchor Holds." In the days since, I have realized that Grandpa was a lot like that anchor in the song. He was such a rock in my life. He was constant and steady. He was always there. Our family was very close because of the love that he and Grandma had for each other and for each of us. They are the tie that binds us all together.

And in the days since the funeral, I have come to look at Lily Ana differently. I don't see her as a stranger now. I see her as a little tiny person who needs me and who depends on me for her every need to be met. We have a bond that cannot be broken. And just like Grandpa was a rock in my life--a constant steadiness--she needs that from me. It seems strange, but I now realize grief has bound us together. It took me experiencing loss to feel love for my sweet little baby. What a gift!


Tanci Foster said...

That is beautiful Hayley. I wished I was that close to my granparents, when they both passed about two years apart..grandpa first, I didn't feel anything. But when the day comes for my parents, who are the closest to me, I am not sure how I would be able to handle it. I never was close to my granparents, aunt, uncle or cousins and I know how sad that is. I also know that I cherish what time my children have with their realatives.
Very beautiful

Cathy said...

Oh Hayley! Thank you for sharing your heart. I know how difficult it is for you to not have that connection with Lily Ana. I'm so glad God is able to use such a sad time for His glory!

Susan said...

I never heard that your granpa died. So good to read your blog. Love the music. Lily Ana and Emma Leigh are both beautiful children and they are blessed to be given such great parents.