She refused to treat life the way it had often treated her. That’s what made her special. Her name was Hallie Kathryn Boone, but everyone just called her Grammy.
There are stories too numerous to mention that illustrate the essence of her. When the dust settles I will revisit them and share some here. For now I will take you through the ending of a story 87 years in the making. She was the matriarch of a family loaded with strong, quirky personalities and she selflessly, tirelessly looked after us without complaint as long as she could before her body finally relinquished the fight.
Several years back we’d almost lost her from heart problems and Sepsis. In fact, she told me she was pretty sure she was overdue and living on bonus time ever since. We laughed about it and I told her she should keep gambling since she was playing with house money. In time a host of physical problems began to once again slow her down until finally the Hiatal Hernia had reached a point where it could no longer be suffered in silence.
Unable to eat because of it, she’d rapidly lost weight and strength. They told her the procedure(s) would take about 5 hours and that it was a 50/50 shot to even make it off the operating table. She said that withering away to nothing wasn’t living and she was going to take her chances in hopes of getting back to her old self. I told her she was brave to take her shot and that I was sure I’d see her in recovery. And there she was. A 6 1/2 hour surgery couldn’t stop her. Unfortunately it also wasn’t enough to mend all that ailed her.
Somehow I knew that this time was different. The earliest visits after the surgery were good, but the progress wasn’t happening at the expected rate. Even her will, which was notoriously invincible, was faltering on the bad days. In my mind I remembered the other part of what she’d said years before, “The house always wins eventually.” True enough, but it was not something any of us cared to acknowledge. Still, as the days passed and the setbacks began, it was an unspoken truth that we all had to face.
She battled through location transfers born more of bureaucratic profit margins than concern for her well-being (I will spare you my healthcare diatribe for now) and ended up at Sinai with carbon dioxide toxicity which was poisoning her. Her lungs didn’t have the strength to expel the remnants of the oxygen she was taking in. Again she beat the odds, but at an ever larger cost. The struggle to simply live was sapping her of any chance of truly healing.
The next couple days were a mess as everyone sorted out what she wanted in the way of advanced directives. Ultimately it was agreed that comfort care was the way to go. No more invasive tests or procedures. Make her comfortable and allow her body to dictate what was to come.
Around this time she said she was tired but that she didn’t want to let us down by giving up. Had she not been paying attention for our entire lives? Let us down? I knew this would be her mindset but it was still jarring to hear if only because it upset me to think she didn’t realize just how amazing she’d been at never letting us down.
At that point we knew we had to express to her that if she was ready to go, we were as ready as we’d ever be to say goodbye. The bad days were taking over and there wasn’t much to be done but offset them as much as possible and let her find her way.
On Sunday, I sat quietly and watched her sleep. I watched her labor for every breath. Some pain earlier in the day had warranted medication that had her somewhat out of it. Even so, when awake she responded to questions and did her best to participate in the discussions happening around the room.
And then out of nowhere her beautiful, blue eyes opened and it was very clear that her mind was still as sharp as ever. She recounted stories with various family members, never missing a detail. She cracked jokes that had the entire room smiling. Yes, you read that correctly. The woman who was hanging on via sheer will was also the one taking our minds off of the inevitable.
Somewhere along the way she said, “I’ve enjoyed my life with all of you.”
Understated to the very end. Almost as if she had no idea that she was the glue that made all of our lives together so enjoyable. I am sure she did, but she never required that sort of validation. Some things you just know.
Tuesday evening she was transferred again. This time to Dove House Inpatient Hospice in Westminster. Shortly thereafter she found her way. Now we all have to do the same here without her. There are no words that do justice to all that she meant and will always mean to us.
Thank you and goodbye, Grammy. I love you.