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End of Life Signs & Spending Quality Time with Grandma

It was Thursday around 3AM when I received a call from my mom letting me know my halmoni (grandma) was sick and was unlikely to make it. Halmoni had been like a mom to me. She raised me while my mom was getting her Ph.D. There was a time when I actually thought she was my biological mom.

All the signs were telling us that death was near. She slept all day, and when my mom persistently questioned her, she could barely peel her eyes open. She had labored breathing and her words were no longer coherent. My whole family had caught pneumonia, and halmoni being 96 had the worst of it. Was it okay to fall apart now? Do I have to stay strong on behalf of my mom? Does it get easier to cope with death as you get older? Seems so.  Is it because it’s all around you and you’re more aware of the inevitable? Is it just selfish for me to want her to live when her pain just gets progressively worse?

While I was distraught, Jacob calmly packed my things and booked the quickest flight for me back to Atlanta. It was the next evening when I found her on the floor of her room unable to move. I held her hand and as I started asking her questions, it came as a surprise to all of us that she began speaking back.
Dealing with Death & Spending Quality Time with Grandma.Pin
By the next day she regained enough energy to sit up by herself if we propped her up. And then a few hours after that, I saw her stand up and wobble over to the bathroom. It really was a miracle. She started dancing, arms only since she can only move so far. She sang how grateful she was to be alive again. Despite all the pain, she was so grateful.
Dealing with Death & Spending Quality Time with Grandma.Pin
Thankfully now she has almost recovered fully from pneumonia, but I am learning how fragile she still is. A few days ago she fell, and I have to accept that this will be a normal occurrence. She gets a little better and then worse. A little better and then worse. You never know when it will happen. Over the last few years, we’ve noticed that she has been prepared and willing… maybe even hoping… for death to come. But I am asking myself.. Am I prepared to let her go? I really can’t stop crying whenever I think about it.
Dealing with Death & Spending Quality Time with Grandma.Pin
Dealing with Death & Spending Quality Time with Grandma.Pin
From this experience, I’m thankful to be reminded how important it is to make time for those you love. You really never know when it will be the last time. I kept feeling regret that I didn’t come back home to visit enough or call home enough. I am grateful that we have been given another chance to love her the best we can for whatever time she has left with us. I’m also grateful that she has her joyful smile back. You can really see the difference just on her face. This one was taken yesterday:
Dealing with Death & Spending Quality Time with GrandmaPin

I’m so thankful for all your kind words, thoughts, and prayers over the past week or so. It was such a difficult week for the family, and I really appreciate the support. I had started prepping and editing my favorite photos of her while here, so I will eventually share those, but for now you can find more here, a couple here, and on instagram.

Sorry I didn’t have a travel tuesdays post yesterday. Unlike a good blogger, I haven’t had much scheduled ahead of time. This is week 31 of practicing gratitude. 21 more weeks to go! Click the banner below to see my previous gratitude posts:

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This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. I love these pictures! Her smile made me smile. Reading your post brought back memories of my grandmother. She died years ago, when I was 13, I think. Grandma’s are special people and it’s really hard to let them go. I’m glad to hear she’s doing well. :)

    1. esther julee

      Thank you. :) I like to look back every now and then and smile. Also.. you should watch this video my husband made about smiling. it’s SUPER cheesy, but i think smiles are contagious. when you see a bunch of people smiling, you can’t help but smile.

      I agree. As much as she drives us all crazy bc of her alzheimer’s, she’s a wonderful person.

  2. Hsiao-Ting

    Awww halmoni looks awesome and I’m glad to hear she’s doing better. Yea – it’s always sad when you see your loved ones getting old and on the cusp of death but at least she’s saved and we know where she’ll be when she passed on. I always have a soft spot in my heart for old people since it sucks aging and not being as agile as you use to be. I’m glad you were there for your halmoni when she needed it :)

  3. Erika

    Wow, this post is everything that life is: beautiful, sad, complex, contemplative, uncertain, joyful, loving. Everything.

    I’m glad that you got to see your grandma be alive again. I’m glad you got to experience these moments with her and capture them on film. I’m glad that at 96, people still have the will to fight to live — that is amazing. It is inspiring.

    Thank you so much for sharing such a personal piece of your life with us, Esther.

    1. esther julee

      thank you erika. :) i am definitely drawing inspiration from other bloggers with writing i like.. like yourself!

      i guess my problem is sometimes i am busy documenting that i’m not in the moment.. but now that i’m more conscious of that.. i’m trying to juggle the two. :)

  4. Jennifer Chong

    glad to hear grandma is feeling better :) enjoy your time with her – she is so cute!

    1. esther julee

      thanks! yeah.. trying to spend as much time as possible with the fam.. since these are the things we can never predict. but i feel like i am missing out on a lot of food! haha i only got to eat out at two places i liked. i guess family first this time. :P

  5. aww. loved this post girl. your writing is slowly flourishing. =) i think you captured well here, who Halmoni is, and how she radiates with joy and gladness. when i’m her age, i hope that i can have that kind of praise and worship for God.

    and you are indeed blessed. i’ve never had a grandma. can you share yours? =) anyonghaseo halmoni! =D

    1. esther julee

      sure! you can certainly borrow her if you want.. but it’s def not gonna be easy. :P

      i feel like i don’t really have many “stories” to narrate in general so I don’t get practice. most of my stuff is matter of fact and informative. but thanks for noticing! :D

  6. camillegal

    thanks for posting esther! i miss my grandmother still, she passed away the summer before i got married and it was hard for me even though she was so sick she wouldn’t have been able to attend the wedding anyway. i’m glad your grandmother is getting better and that you are getting to spend time with her. its part of life, but its hard regardless and that’s ok too.

    1. esther julee

      Thank you for your comment. So sorry about your grandmother. I know you probably really wanted her to be part of those memories and photos. I kept hoping my grandmother would be around to see our kids one day & that’s if we have any. I guess you can’t really plan out life like that.

  7. so happy that she has recovered. this was so touching. Your relationship wit her reminds me of the one I had with my great grandmother (who passed away last September at 99). Keep sharing those precious moments with your halmoni!

    1. esther julee

      oh no! :( i guess it really is just a part of life that i need to accept. no one will be here forever. it’s just so hard letting go. were you able to see her a lot before she passed away? i guess if we lived in the same city it would be much easier.. but it’s so hard to keep flying back and forth & you really just never know….

  8. So glad to hear she is doing better! 96 is quite a lifetime and you are lucky to have her around, glad you got to spend some quality time with her! It’s hard when you live far from your family.

    1. esther julee

      Yes it is. And if i’m honest, she’s has lived a long and fulfilling life and it’s okay for her to feel complete and it’s the end for her. I guess it’s mainly selfish bc I want to make sure I am as good to her so that I won’t have to live with regret later. It really is so much harder when you don’t live as close. Can’t just pop over whenever.

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