. Little Granny
January 20, 2012 11:28 AM   Subscribe

My grandmother is dying. She is on life support and will be taken off on Monday night. Should I take my 13 yo in to see her?

So my dad's mom, my Little Granny, is dying. She fell and broke her hip the day after xmas and, is it seems to always do in these cases, infection coupled with pnuemonia has taken its toll. She can not breathe on her own, kidneys failing, etc. It has been descided to take her off of life support on Monday and then the inevitable.

My parents want all of the great grandkids to go to the hospital and see her. One of my sisters has taken her much younger (8 and 4) kids in to the room to see her. Another sister with a 10 yo has said she may, she hasn't decided yet. My son turned thirteen this week. This will be the first person in the family to die, so his first real experience with death. I just don't know that I want him to see her that way and for that to be his last memory of her. We saw her xmas and had agreat time with her.

So I am curious what y'all think, especially if you had this experience as a child and how it may have affected you.
posted by holdkris99 to Human Relations (74 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ask him if he wants to go, after talking about it with him.
posted by strixus at 11:30 AM on January 20, 2012 [34 favorites]


Yes. My mother took me into see my grandma, my father's mother. By the time we'd arrived in the town where my uncle whose home she was living in, she was already in coma. We even took pictures. While that may not be the best "last memory" its not really my 'last memory' of her, in fact my best memories still remain of being cuddled on her big plump lap and fed sweets and being taught how to wash myself ;p

But had I not seen her in her last days I would have regretted it still.

This is just my own subjective personal experience. I'm just a person on the internet.
posted by infini at 11:31 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why wouldn't he go? Death is a part of life. Give him a chance to say goodbye to his great-grandmother.
posted by valkyryn at 11:32 AM on January 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


If she's conscious, then that should be factored in. If she'd gain any comfort from the respectful gesture of a last visit, then he should go.

If she's not conscious, then I'd ask him what he wants to do. It will be painful for him to see her that way, but there is a profound lesson there about how to treat our loved ones because life is short. I think it would be better to go. But if he feels he can't handle it, or you know he can't, that needs to be taken into account.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:34 AM on January 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I just don't know that I want him to see her that way and for that to be his last memory of her.

He might feel, years down the road, that if he doesn't get to go see her now he missed his last opportunity to see her, to say goodbye, and he might resent that. I probably would.

He's certainly old enough to grapple with this stuff. Death is an inevitability. Explain to him what's going on, prepare him, and take him.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:35 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


He's plenty old enough. Take him for the sake of your parents. If he has a hard time with it, he can just pop in and out again.
posted by pracowity at 11:35 AM on January 20, 2012


I've had the experience of seeing loved ones die, both with and without life support, though it was as a young adult. For me, I was glad for the opportunity to say goodbye. My youngest cousin (3 or so at the time) was there with my grandmother when she passed away and her words about it were "Then Grandma turned yellow and stopped breathing and wasn't sick anymore." Very matter of fact and peacful. I guess the point of the antecdote is that kids can sometimes handle more than we think. At the same time, my adult cousins did not want to see my grandfather when he was on life support because they preferred to remember him as the lively, engergetic wonderful man we'd all known until the few days he was ill at the end of his life.

In this case, 13 is plenty old enough to have some thoughts and opinions on his own. A 13 year-old will not be harmed by visiting a relative on life support, but may not want that experience. Ask him and support his decision.
posted by goggie at 11:35 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


She is not conscious. The machines are doing all the work
posted by holdkris99 at 11:36 AM on January 20, 2012


Death isn't a scary event, it is a humbling life event.
posted by LeanGreen at 11:36 AM on January 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


Yes, I was about that age when I saw my grandmother for the last time (in the hospital). I'm very glad that I did.

I went to go see my grandfather a year or two later in the hospital and we were ~20 minutes too late. We went in and saw the body. I wouldn't say that I'm glad we went, but it didn't scar me or hurt me in any way, I'm not sorry at all that we went.

So, I'd say go - it could be something that your child is glad of, and if you're there to talk to him, it's unlikely to be something that is harmful.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:37 AM on January 20, 2012


Most 13-year-olds are mature enough to decide whether to go. If he knows what condition she's in and he wants to go, he should.
posted by Dolley at 11:37 AM on January 20, 2012


I wish I had gotten to see my geet-geet before she died. I'm super in favor of giving kids agency, so have a conversation with your son about what this means, but don't go heavy on the death death death parts. Talk about all your happy memories of her, and how hearing his voice might offer her some comfort in her last days. Ultimately, let him decide, but be aware that how you frame the conversation matters. If you come at this from a place of fear or anxiety, he will pick up on that.
posted by bilabial at 11:37 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not unless he asks to go after learning of the situation and his options.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:38 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


She will not look horrible, just the respirator hooked up. If she is still responding to people, even by just nodding, mention to your son a few things to talk about, and then the freedom to leave the room when he wants to. You probably will be surprised how well teens adapt to situations.
posted by francesca too at 11:38 AM on January 20, 2012


6 was old enough for me to have memories of my paternal grandfather's death. 13 is on the long approach ramp to adulthood - it's time to stop shielding him, and start helping him with more complex tools.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:38 AM on January 20, 2012 [14 favorites]


Though I was never in this position as a kid, when I was 9 I was devastated that I couldn't go to my grandfather's funeral. (It was across the country and we couldn't afford it.)

Ask him if he wants to go. Let him know that either choice is okay.

13 is old enough. And seeing a loved one dying or dead doesn't push out all the happy memories of their life.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:41 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was in college, I got home one Saturday to hear that my mom had called to say that my grandmother was dying, but that since there was nothing I could do, to just keep her in my prayers. To which I said, fuck that, and drove 14 hours straight so that I could be there. She wasn't conscious at all from when I arrived to her death, but I am so glad I was there. I understand my parents thought they were saving me trouble and grief, but the trouble and grief of the loss of our loved ones is an essential part of being alive. Take him and support him.

Also: while I know he's out of the target demographic, Sesame Street's program When Families Grieve has been shown affective for older kids. Probably because everyone loves Sesame Street and we're feeling super-vulnerable when we've lost a loved one. The whole thing's up on YouTube.

I am so sorry for your impending loss.
posted by smirkette at 11:42 AM on January 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Not a snarky question: if a similar situation had arisen when you were 13 (or perhaps it did), what would you have preferred? Would you have wanted to have a conversation with your parents about your options, or would you have preferred to have been shielded?

Even if he decides not to go, I think talking about it -- letting him ask questions, express his feelings, etc. -- is really important here. We live in a culture that largely pathologizes and hides death, which I think is immensely unhealthy on so many levels.
posted by scody at 11:43 AM on January 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Seconding scody and a couple of others about letting your son choose, after having an open discussion.
posted by Currer Belfry at 11:50 AM on January 20, 2012


13 is old enough to learn about death, take him!
posted by Tom-B at 11:51 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The kid is 13 years old. In the Jewish tradition, that's adulthood. We all remember being 13; maybe we didn't make good decisions, but we were more than capable of making decisions for ourselves, and we definitely understood what death was. I think it's entirely appropriate to tell him that she's on life support and ask him if he'd like to visit her before she goes.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:53 AM on January 20, 2012


At age 13 he has his own relationship with his Little Granny and should be able to decide for himself whether he wants to see her now. Guilt over letting someone die alone can last much longer than a visual image of a dying person. He also may want to go to support you and/or his grandfather. Sometimes we don't know why we do things one way over another, but it really should be his choice.

I wanted to see, touch, and talk to my father the day he died (he was at home) and nobody thought I "should" but I'm glad I did. I don't picture him that way now. My mother didn't even want me to watch Field of Dreams because it had a dead father in it. Don't be like my mother.
posted by headnsouth at 11:54 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


My grandmother died when I was 14. I was lucky that I spent a lot of time with her in the hospital while she was perfectly lucid and very happy.

My last memory of her, however, is of her in terrible pain. She wasn't totally lucid. Doctors were trying to get her more comfortable, and she just kept mumbling, "I don't want you to see me like this! I don't want you to see me like this!" We didn't stay long, given her wishes.

All the same, I'm glad I got to see her one last time. It's not the best memory of her I have, but it doesn't have to be the best, it's just the last.

Ask him. He may not want to, and that's okay. But he may want to, and it may be significant for him.
posted by meese at 11:55 AM on January 20, 2012


I would take him to the hospital, but let him know he doesn't have to go in the room if he doesn't want to, and offer to let him be alone with his grandma if he prefers.

At 13, he might be more concerned about feeling vulnerable in front of you than about feeling vulnerable in the first place. Kids that age like to be tough for their parents. Letting him know in advance that he'll have privacy may be comforting to him.

I'm sorry for your loss. This is always a very sad decision.
posted by elizeh at 12:07 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


My niece was 6 when her grandfather died (my nephew and infant was also there). She wanted to come and see him and she sat and held his hand in the ICU and talked to him as he passed. My father loved her more than anyone else in his family and her face was the last one he saw. She was sad, she cried but she also understood very clearly what had happened and had her entire families support.

Your son is older so talk to him about what he wants to do but I would offer that from my families experience as long as you are willing to answer any questions your son might have as honestly as you know how about what is happening that giving your son a chance to say goodbye is a good thing and an important part of life.
posted by wwax at 12:09 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 12:10 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ask him, with a side of encouraging him to go. Death is disturbing, but having the chance to say goodbye is extremely important. One sad last memory shouldn't tarnish the good, older memories of grandma. I'm not sure from your question how lucid Little Granny is, but if she's at all conscious of what's going on around her, I'm sure she'd appreciate it, too.

My grandfather died of cancer when I was in kindergarten. I remember the last time I saw him before he died. It was excruciatingly sad at the time, but it was important to him, and later on, I appreciated the chance to say goodbye and tell him that I loved him. At thirteen, your son can handle this moment better than a five-year-old, and I did all right.

And I'm crying at work.

I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:17 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's old enough to be asked, after you explain what's going on, and being told other family members are also going in to say goodbye. Still, old age, sickness and death are things in life that cannot be avoided or feared, we must all learn to deal with them, and it's a good thing your kid can do this at an age where he can have company and support from family and also learn to be company and support himself.

I think that people who don't like to visit hospitals or funerals because "I don't know what to do" are really missing out on important aspects of life.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 12:19 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have been around animals and people who didn't know, I don't think, that I was there to say goodbye. But I knew and I remember that and I think you should take him.

My vote is to let him do the respectful thing.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:23 PM on January 20, 2012


The benefit to be considered here is not to his grandmother but to your son. I won't go into the details because they're not relevant, but I spent a significant amount of time (all day for weeks) by the bedside of my comatose grandmother until she died. At the time, the hope was that she might regain consciousness, but even though she never did I can see in retrospect that it was good for me to sit there. I had a lot of time to think, at first about her of course, but eventually, as it became less likely that she would recover, I also thought about my own life and eventual death. The funeral was a very ritualized and attention-consuming affair, I think deliberately so in order to distract the mourners. It was in the hospital that I came to accept her death. Had I been told in advance that my grandmother would never wake up, I would now still choose to visit her.
posted by d. z. wang at 12:24 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let your son decide. If he feels a visit would be meaningful to him, he's probably right. If he feels he already has a great last memory of her and doesn't need another, he's probably right about that too.
posted by escabeche at 12:25 PM on January 20, 2012


d. z. wang: "It was in the hospital that I came to accept her death."

Excuse me, I meant to write, "It was in the hospital that I came to accept her death, and mine."
posted by d. z. wang at 12:28 PM on January 20, 2012


I did not have *this* experience, but I did have the experience of being asked if I wanted to see my father in his casket at the funeral home (it was a closed casket visitation/funeral). My sister saw him and I declined, and it was clear that both of us made an okay choice. I vote to let him make the choice.
posted by epj at 12:29 PM on January 20, 2012


My opinion having lost a grandparent at age 12: give him the choice.

My experience of the whole process was being dragged along through something that was entirely out of my control. The adults ran around and sat me in waiting rooms making decisions I didn't understand, or comforting friends and relations that I barely knew. Those few minutes were a time where I didn't feel completely powerless over what was going on around me.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:31 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for all the advice. I will be picking him up from school in about an hour and I will explain the situation and let him decide. I will let y'all know what he says
posted by holdkris99 at 12:40 PM on January 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Ask him.

I still resent that, at 21, my aunt came and took me by the hand to drag me off to view my grandfather's body, when I had already decided for myself that I did not want to. It wasn't about accepting or avoiding death, simply a matter of personal choice (our last day together had been a very positive one, and the one I would have preferred to hold on to as our last memory together). 13 is definitely old enough to make that choice. He might feel like he needs to see her to say goodbye; he might feel that the body is a shell and that she's already gone. It's up to him.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:42 PM on January 20, 2012


I suggest letting him decide, but suggesting that he go see her. In situations like this, where I could really see deciding either way, I try to envision myself in the future and consider whether I would be more likely to regret having done it or not having done it. I nearly, but not quite, always decided I'm more likely to regret not having done whatever it is I'm considering.

I suspect that the same is true of your son. If he goes, it seems not very likely he'll think back on it and regret having seen her. If he doesn't, though, it seems at least somewhat likely he'd look back on it and regret not having gone to see her while he had the chance.

But he's 13, and in my opinion old enough to make the choice, but not quite old enough to do so without some guidance from you.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:43 PM on January 20, 2012


I lost a grandmother at 12 years of age, and -- because I misunderstood the timing -- I didn't get to say goodbye to her. (She had a living will that said they were to take her off of life support after some period of time; that time had come; she wanted to be taken off of life support.) I thought I'd be back to see her one last time, but (for eminently sensible reasons) I was't in the room when she was taken off the machines.

I really, really wish I'd gotten the chance to say goodbye in person.

About a week later, I had a dream about her that was so real, to this day I can remember the sensation of touching her. I said goodbye in the dream, and she understood. Whether this was her spirit visiting me or my brain helping me to process a loss, I have no idea and take no position. I just know that I felt like I got to see her once more.
posted by gauche at 12:43 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry -- got carried away thinking about my own stuff.

I wish my parents had made it clear to me that this was it and given me the option to say goodbye when I had the chance.

Give your son the option.
posted by gauche at 12:46 PM on January 20, 2012


I haven't read all the responses, because it's kinda difficult. So, I apologise if I'm repeating what others have said.

My parents took me to see my dying grandfather when I was about that age. He was barely conscious, and passed just a few hours later. It was difficult, painful, but it did teach me about the reality of death. It's a painful memory, seeing him like that. I don't know whether it was a good thing to be there or not. But one thing I DO know, is I would have preferred my parents had told me what I was getting into, and given me the choice. They just said "you should come in and see your Pa", and being bright-eyed and innocent, I didn't really understand what that meant, until I actually saw him. It was quite a shock.

So yeah, talk to your little tacker, and be blunt with what he's in for, and let him decide.
posted by Diag at 1:00 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would talk to him so he's knows what's happening, and ask if he wants to see her. He may agree out of confusion/fear/respect, or he might be frightened. Whether you lead him to either of these choices -- "it's totally up to you" versus "you'll never get another chance" -- is a hard choice.

I knew someone in college who'd never had a relative die, and had never been to a funeral before. It boggled my mind. *shrug* When my parents & in-laws reach this point, I expect I will just take my kids -- but YMMV.

I am sorry about this: grannies are awesome and they are hard to let go of. I miss mine.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:00 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with elizeh to offer to let him go into the room by himself. That way he can process his feelings without being self conscious in front of his family. Some people need privacy to say goodbye. (also, if he doesn't show emotion, that is o.k, too)

Death should not be a mystery, that can add a fear element to it that comes from lack of understanding. I would bring him with you and then give him the option of going in. The only time I would think twice is if there is something very visually difficult going on with her that might be traumatizing.

Death is such an important part of life. Letting him say goodbye will only add value and depth to his growth.
posted by Vaike at 1:09 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


i agree with IAmBroom - part of being a parent is teaching your children complex life stuff in safe ways. chances are he's going to have a classmate or a teacher or someone closer to him than you die before too long and if it's the first time he deals with death, it's going to be worse on him. a great grandmother who is on life support and is being let go in a respectful and loving way is a gentle way to experience death - not that this doesn't hurt and i'm terribly sorry for your loss. i know there is no way out of pain here - but at 13, a great grandma dying isn't as scary as the kid who sits next to him in math class dying.

also, depending on your family dynamic, another part of dealing with death is overcoming our own uncomfortableness to comfort those who are hurting more. it might be good to point out to your son, in as neutral as a way as you can manage, that it will probably be good for your dad to have the family he helped create around him as he says goodbye to his mother.

finally, my family adopted little old ladies from the nursing home who didn't have family close - we'd go hang out once a week or more. our first one was at my (8 years old) baptism. before i turned nine she was dead. it was really hard on me. i thought she was wonderful and hilarious and kind and i couldn't believe she had just died. if i remember, i didn't know it was coming so i don't have a concrete memory of the last time i saw her. that's always saddened me. i would have liked to have said goodbye.
posted by nadawi at 1:30 PM on January 20, 2012


Having seen the slow deaths of two close family members when I was ages 11 and 13, my answer is a wholehearted Yes, take him in. I wasn't really given a choice in either case; both deaths came after long periods of hospitalization that went from illness to unconsciousness to a quiet death, and my family was there for all stages of them.

Prior to that, I'd been to a number of funerals for extended-family folks, and those were almost always open-casket. I don't think my family was ever cagey about what death looked like, and I don't think it was ever presented as a matter of my personal choice.

I truly believe that this -- presenting the witnessing of death as a reasonable duty rather than a choice -- is the right way to do it. It naturalizes death and illness and establishes them as forces which exist beyond our own individual desires. It reinforces the idea that death is saddening but inevitable, and encourages us to remember that being a family involves bearing witness to each others' lives.

In your position, I'd probably phrase the whole thing as "I'm going in to see her, and I'd like you to come in with me, because I love you and we can be there for each other."
posted by Greg Nog at 1:31 PM on January 20, 2012


Ask him, and then respect his decision.

When I was 18, I lived with my grandmother, and my great-grandmother was dying. She didn't tell me anything about it, and wouldn't take me along with visits, despite me asking. So, I took matters into my own hands and visited her in the hospital myself to say my goodbyes. Grandmother really resented that I went ahead and visited, but to me it was more important to visit her one last time.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:47 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


My great-grandmother, who was pretty much my ONLY grandmother growing up (maternal grandmother was half a country away, paternal grandmother died when I was very young), slipped, fell, broke her hip and spent the night on the floor -- when she was hospitalized, she got really sick, really fast and went downhill mentally almost overnight. My father refused to let me go see her (and I was in my 20s!). I regret it still. I'd err on the side of going, personally, especially if they do have a relationship.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:51 PM on January 20, 2012


My paternal grandfather was ill and in a hospice for two weeks, and my father didn't tell me he was dying until he was already dead, and I was 15. I was preeeetty pissed about that. I think there was a chance that he would come out of it, and my dad didn't want to make us all sad or something, and my dad's family is kind of private and terrible with sharing information (I really don't hold it against my dad), but I really wish I'd have been leveled with.
posted by kpht at 2:14 PM on January 20, 2012


Based on my own experience of my grandmother passing when I was 10, without going into details, explain the situation honestly and let him decide.

Well, more details. I was taken to see my dying grandmother (natural old age causes but too soon anyway) in her hospital room when I was 10. At 10, I didn't really know what was going on and living 1000 miles apart I had only seen her a few times in my life. Nobody asked me - my mother took me in to see her. My father stayed out but he had been in a bit earlier.

I am glad, very glad, I got to see and talk to her a bit for that last time, which is the time I remember the most with her and the only time I remember talking to/with her. It was only a few minutes. At least I have that.
posted by caclwmr4 at 2:22 PM on January 20, 2012


Ok, talked to my son. We are headed to the hospital later tonight and he wants to think about it until then. He said if she was conscious he definitely would want to go in, but since she is not he's not sure.
posted by holdkris99 at 2:24 PM on January 20, 2012


My best wishes to you and your son (and your whole family) during this time, holdkris99.
posted by scody at 2:30 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


He said if she was conscious he definitely would want to go in, but since she is not he's not sure.

Whether it's true or not, I don't know, but conventional wisdom says that hearing is the last thing to go. What I know from personal experience is that my Grandfather responded to my voice (by squeezing my hand) long after anyone thought he was capable of responding to anything.

It's fantastic that he's going to go. Do let him be in the room by himself if he wishes. Emphasize that if he has anything to say to her (even just "I love you") this is the time to say it.

I wish peace and the joy of a thousand happy memories for you and your family.
posted by anastasiav at 2:41 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd take him without a second thought (whether he wanted to go or not).

If he'd had previous experiences with loved ones dying I might listen to him if he didn't want to go, but for the first time he's going.

Besides, your dad's mom is dying. Your parents (dad?) want your son to see her one last time. Younger relatives have already visited her. This could easily become a thing that strains your dad's relationship with you or your son if he doesn't go.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:00 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


He said if she was conscious he definitely would want to go in, but since she is not he's not sure.

At this point, just keep in mind that it's not always for the benefit of the person that is ill, but also for the benefit of the family itself.

Saying goodbye is important to you, personally, of course. But it is also important to show other family members that you care about the family as a unit, and the family members as parts of that unit.

In other words, you being there shows the family that you would do the same for them if they were the one that was sick. "John is a good person -- he was there when Grandma was ill. This is a good family that does good things for each other."

Your son needs to know this. This is what adults do.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:01 PM on January 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Might be too late to answer, but I just wanted to add that seeing his immediate and extended family dealing with this could be valuable to him. I know that when my grandma died, sitting with her even though she wasn't conscious, and sharing memories with my parents, uncles and aunts, left me with a sense that we were all in it together as a family.
posted by lookoutbelow at 3:12 PM on January 20, 2012


It isn't just for great-grandma you know.

Would it be a comfort to your Dad to have you and your son there? When my grandpa died I wasn't really interested in going to the funeral. He'd never been much in my life and I was 7 months pregnant while living in a different state.

My Dad wanted me there though, so I went. It comforted my dad to have all his grandkids around him while he was grieving for his own father.

It might be the same for your parents. Having the great-grand children there may be more for your mom than for Grandma. I would let your son know this.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:35 PM on January 20, 2012


Your son needs to know this. This is what adults do.

No, no he doesn't.

Please respect your son's wishes if he doesn't want to see her. While I respect the strong philosophical sentiments of those who have spoken here, we all grieve in our own way--and whatever way your son wishes to grieve should be respected. I believe, more than anything, that kids know their own capacity for pain, and if it's something he doesn't believe he can handle, that should be respected--not pushed.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:03 PM on January 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Having been that age and in that situation (repeatedly), I would advise him to go. Not make him, mind, just strongly suggest. It's something he will almost certainly have to confront someday, and TBH I think it's better to get that out of the way early on when you're (usually) more resilient.

As with everything, dealing with illness and death is something you don't really know how to handle until you learn, and you learn, unfortunately, by doing.
posted by wierdo at 4:19 PM on January 20, 2012


I believe, more than anything, that kids know their own capacity for pain, and if it's something he doesn't believe he can handle, that should be respected--not pushed.

One's "capacity for pain" is neither quantifiable or knowable. It is circumstantial, fluid, fleeting, deep, shifting, unreliable. There is nothing more eye-opening -- in fact, maturing -- than being in pain and navigating your way through it. It is a gift to a child -- not to be pushed, but to be supported through a controlled experience, with a parent on board to talk to -- before you are dropped in to it for real, as a grown up, with no touchstone back to unpain.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:41 PM on January 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


As someone who has, indeed, faced quite a bit of death in my time (lost a parent at 8, three grandparents at 12, 18, and 20, and a beloved family friend at 16), who has seen the very ill and the dying as well as dead bodies, I still believe it is just as valid to choose not to. It's a cultural platitude that "we all grieve in our own way," but I would hope that both OP, and those here advocating that her child be made to feel obligated to do this because he will look like a "good person" for family members or because, apparently, there's no other way to come to terms with mortality recognize that there's a sort of absolutism they're advocating here. There are many ways to say goodbye, to be supportive and honor one's living family, and to come to terms with death. Bearing witness to the dying is just one of them. Of course, if he chooses to see her, more power to OP for standing by his side and being a supportive parent then, too.

Best of luck to both of you, holdkris99. You'll both be in my thoughts.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:51 PM on January 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm glad you're letting him make the choice, holdkriss99. My condolences to you and your family.
posted by deborah at 6:57 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hello everyone. Thanks for all the feedback and sharing your stories that may have brought back some painful memories.

Like I said earlier, we headed up to the hospital this evening and my son was still undecided about whether or not he would want to go into our Little Granny's room. I did not really push it on the way there and he didn't say anything about it until we got there. Before we got out of the car he asked me a couple of questions that you would expect from a kid - he wanted to know if she was in a coma, if she would hear anything, things like that and I did my best to answer.

When we got there two of my four sisters were already there along with my dad and step mom and a couple of other relatives. We are only allowed in three at a time so I went in with my sisters and we just stood and talked to her a little bit and talked about some good times we had with her, that kind of thing. She used to make us a dessert that was just a chocolate snack pack with some whip cream on top, we called it "pudding in a cloud" and it is the one thing that we all associate with Little Granny, so we talked about that.

When we came out my son told me he wanted to go in but he had a "tornado in his tummy" (when he was a kid we had a book called A Volcano in my Tummy or something like that so that's kind of our thing between us, we let each other know how we are feeling by using [weather related word] in my tummy. Volcano for angry, earthquake for anxious, sunshine for happy/energetic, etc. Tornado means nervous, same as butterflies). After a couple of minutes he said he was ready and we went in with my dad. So we went in and he saw her and all the tubes and machines and all of that and he kind of stopped at the door, but then came in and just sat down and didn't really say anything. My dad and I talked to her some you know and we realized that this was the first time we could remember just the three of us guys being together without our spouses or any of the other grandkids around. It made it really special. So we stayed for a couple of minutes and talked and my dad and I held her hand and kissed her on the forehead.

So we went out and he seemed kind of shaken, but did not really say anything. After everyone had gone in and come back out I went back in by myself to spend a few more minutes with her alone and just say some stuff to her and I came out and got ready to leave. Right before we left my son said he wanted to go back in by himself, so I let him. He stayed in for about a minute and came back out and said he was ready. The drive home was about an hour and he didn't say much. I didn't ask him what he did or said when he went back in, I figured it would be best to let him have that to himself. I tried starting conversations, but he mainly just sat in silence so I let it be. As I was driving him back to his mom's house I got kind of worried about the fact that I wouldn't be there for him but he had plans with his mom to go out of town early tomorrow morning so he had to go home. As we got closer I asked him if he wanted to talk about her or anything and he said no and then he pointed out the window and said "OH MY GOD THAT IS AWWWWWWESOME" and just started laughing. It took me a few seconds to see what he was pointing at: it was an Acura Legend with a vanity plate that said "OF ZELDA." After that he was more talkative and his spirits seem to raise a little. I dropped him off and he told me that he was glad I took him and that he went in to see her.

"Do you want to know what I said when I went in there?" he asked.

"Only if you want to tell me, you don't have to"

"I want to tell you. I thanked her for inventing pudding in a cloud and I told her that I never understood why everyone called her Little Granny because she always seemed so big to me"
posted by holdkris99 at 8:13 PM on January 20, 2012 [41 favorites]


Thank you for sharing this with all of us, holdkris. I'm crying and laughing. Thanks.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:27 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Great kid you got there.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:29 PM on January 20, 2012


You have a good kid!
posted by misozaki at 8:29 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, now I'm crying (and laughing, too). What a great son you've raised! Hugs to your whole family... and a toast (of pudding in a cloud) to Little Granny.

My parents prevented me from seeing three of my grandparents when there was still a chance to do so before they died (I was in my teens and 20s, so older than your son), and although they supposedly did it for my sake, it's been a source of real anguish for me ever since that I wasn't there at the end. Thank you for giving your son his agency during this time, bittersweet though it is.
posted by scody at 8:31 PM on January 20, 2012


I am SO SO glad I read this thread - it was like a good story with an absolutely wonderful ending. Your son is a wonder, holdkris99, and his Little Granny smiled a big smile in her heart when she heard what he had to say; you can be sure she knew it was hard for him, too.

My condolences to you and your family. I must also tell you that I think you're an exceptional father.
posted by aryma at 11:00 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you, anonymous Acura Legend Of Zelda license plate owner, you were in the right place at the right time and did something very good today.
posted by hazyjane at 11:50 PM on January 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


Thank you!! Your son did you proud, and you did him proud too.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:04 AM on January 21, 2012


Totally crying right now. That right there is the perfect picture of honoring your loved one's life - thanking them sincerely for the little special things that they mean to you, quietly contemplating the process of death and dying for a bit, and then honoring their wish for you to continue enjoying life when they're gone by being able to appreciate the awesomeness of an Acura Legend of Zelda.

I see a lot of people die, but not everyone is able to appreciate what a gift it is to be with someone as they're actively dying, both for the person as they're passing and for the people visiting. I really do believe it brings some sort of closure, in a way, and I'm not even sure what that word really means. It's a precious, precious thing, and by giving your son the choice and the encouragement that it was a good and a non threatening thing to do, you really gave him a gift. He might not realize it now, or not for a long time. But it was definitely a gift.
posted by takoukla at 7:50 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you for the update, OP. I'm sure your son really appreciates having had the chance to go in completely out of his own will and say goodbye. An important lesson, too, about correctly dealing with the tornado in his stomach (anxiety) and not letting it take over and make you back down from important but scary things.

May your little granny have a peaceful passing.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:07 PM on January 21, 2012


Thanks for sharing. I am moved by you and your son.
posted by francesca too at 10:39 AM on January 22, 2012


.
posted by holdkris99 at 6:23 AM on January 23, 2012


So sorry for your loss, holdkris. Peace to you and your family.
posted by goggie at 7:01 AM on January 23, 2012


Holdkris99, this just popped up as I was surfing around this evening and thought of you. Perhaps a wink from your little Granny? Thank you again for sharing this process with all of us.
posted by goggie at 5:40 PM on January 26, 2012


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