I still remember the day she left for good. As well as the weeks before and following. It all started when she fell. It was five o’ clock in the morning. I had tired of attempting to go back to sleep, so I decided to pick up my old DSi before it fell into disrepair. I remember that I was playing one of my Pokémon games. I was joyfully battling a trainer in the game at around 5:30 or so, I began to hear pounding coming from upstairs where my sweet, beloved great-grandmother used to reside. I ignored the loud, angry sound of the pounding for five minutes before finally growing weary of the sound and proceeding to go and investigate. I held my DSi tightly in my right hand, the bright screen pointed in front of me, sending a soft white light to illuminate the path in front of me. When I had arrived at the dining room I found my great-grandmother lying on the floor surrounded by a large pool of water and some diluted blood. I gasped at the sight of this.
“Oh, my gosh! Grandma! What happened?!”
“I fell down, I was banging my mug on the floor to get someone up.”
“I’ll go get nana!” I told her and dashed off towards the stairs and ran down straight to my room to wake up my nana. “Nana, wake up! Grandma fell down!” I said. She stirred a bit, but was still asleep. “Nana! Wake up!” I yelled as I shook her. She jumped a small bit, then sleepily asked:
“Grandma fell down, she needs help.” I told her, traces of panic littered throughout my voice. Nana jolted wide awake as she energetically hopped out of bed and went straight upstairs. I dashed after her to make sure everything would be okay. After my nana and grandma got into her living room, I was instructed to clean up the watery mess that was all over the dining room floor. I felt absolutely terrible for forgetting that my great-grandmother’s way of getting my family’s attention or saying, “I need major help” was to bang on the floor. The guilt crept its way into my mind and all I could do was feel awful while I dried the floor.
The same day, we brought her to the doctors to get her right arm x-rayed, despite her protests. When the results came back, we learned that she had shattered her right elbow. In the following weeks after the incident, she went into surgery to get some plates and screws installed in her right arm to allow her to use it. After the surgery, she was sent to Copper Ridge Rehabilitation Center, a place that I can only describe as an absolute killer of fighting spirit. My great-grandmother always had a lot of fight, which began to gradually disappear after being that place. She was there over my birthday, when I was only in the 6th grade. It was my last year I ever went trick-or-treating. That night, after my family got back and my little brother, my mother, and I had just finished getting ready to go out, my nana and mom gotten into an argument. Their arguments never had gotten physical, but they were none-the-less frightening. My brother and I were upstairs and could hear them yelling at each other from the living room. My sweet, little brother was scared, and began to cry. As my big sister instinct kicked in and I held him, giving him a shoulder to cry on as I did my best to reassure him that everything was going to be alright. Although, at the time, I, myself, wasn’t too sure that everything would be okay.
My mother came up to find my brother and sobbing and staring out the window. Her anger seemed to have completely dispersed.
“Kids, what’s wrong?” my mother asked, concern flowing through her voice.
“Is everything going to be okay between you and nana? Braxton and I heard you too yelling at each other.” I replied, a knot sitting my throat.
“Yes, sweetie. Everything’s going to be just fine. I promise.”
“You two are scary when you fight.” My brother commented, his voice quivering and shaking, as he was just starting to calm down. A single tear streamed down his bright read face. He lifted his arm and wiped it away.
“I know, honey, I know” My mother gave him a big, comforting hug, filling him with reassurance. He nodded and she smiled. “Now let’s go, you two. This is your sister’s last year where she can trick-or-treat.” She chirped. Braxton happily dawned his Spiderman mask and snatched up his Buzz Lightyear grocery bag to pile candy into. I scratched the back of my head, and picked up my white rabbit themed apron.
“Hey, mom, could you help get this on?” I asked, rather sheepishly.
“Sure!” she replied and helped tie the apron around my waist. As we started out the door, I couldn’t help but think of one phrase that said a lot about what was happening. This place is broken without her here. That fear and unease melted away two weeks later when we were able to bring grandma back home. I honestly don’t know where the time went. For so many years, I was an obedient, eager-to-please yet mischievous girl, who always did her best to find the silver lining in any mushroom cloud. Maybe that’s why they knew.
Within the following year, everything started to get worse, as my great-grandmother’s health began to worsen. I accused one of my many cousins of stealing two hundred dollars’ worth of money on my great-grandmother’s birthday and then buying a vacuum cleaner with it after I heard my mom and nana talk about their suspicion with grandma. My outburst stirred very negative feelings towards me from my other family members.
Many months later, I heard talk of the others wanting to place the care of my great-grandmother into the hands of a nursing home, which my family strongly disagreed with. However, my nana’s siblings found the idea of placing their own mother in one would be alright. I was shocked and enraged by their idea because I never wanted to just visit my great-grandmother, I wanted to see her every morning, afternoon, and evening as per usual for, at the time, my family lived with her as her care takers. My job was to fill her mug with Dr. Pepper and ice. When one of my uncles came to help look after her for a day, I gave him specific instructions on how she liked her drink made. I was very particular about that and took great joy in doing so. It was what I did for so long, I only wanted her to be happy. That was my wish. I could never picture my life without her being there before my world shattered. My mother, brother, and I went to go see a movie and have breakfast the day my uncle was there to look after my great-grandmother.
While we were gone, she had gotten a little hungry, so my uncle tried to find her something she would like to eat. When we had returned home, he approached us and told my mother that we were hiding all the food from my great-grandmother, accusing us of starving her.
“Kids, mammy’s hungry. Can you go find out what she would like to eat?” my mother asked my brother and I sweetly.
“Absolutely! We can go find out!” My brother and I walked upstairs and proceeded towards the living room, where my grandma could be found watching QVC or CSI on her television. We walked in happily and asked her what she would like to eat.
“I don’t know.” She replied, as it was her usual answer. I began asking her if she would like a variety of different things that I knew she liked to eat.
“How about a butter-pecan flavored Ensure?” my little brother suggested.
“Alright. How about some clam chowder?” I asked.
“Yeah, that sounds good.” I was completely oblivious to my uncle’s amazement by how many choices my brother and I presented to her off the tops of our heads.
“Wonderful! Would you like it chunky or blended?” I asked happily.
“Chunky.” she replied.
“Alrighty, then! Braxton and I will make sure to let mom know!” Before my brother and I left the room, we both got up and gave our great-grandma two big hugs, one from each of us. I hold that memory close to my heart, as it was before she had given up on fighting. I hated seeing her lay in bed all day, watching Forensic Files, refusing to eat anything. It hurt me and the rest of my family to see this. Looking back at it now makes my heart ache with sorrow and pain. I always feel like I’m on the verge of tears when I remember how miserable she was before she died. I always thought of a few big questions that I’ll never understand the answers to: How could they do that? Why would they do that? Especially to their own mother?! Even today, I still don’t understand how anyone could be so cruel. They wanted to send their own mother to a nursing home and forget about her. Then, that fateful day came… December 19th, 2015.
The day before my nana, grandma, and I went to the doctor’s office for my grandmother to get a check-up. I was innocently playing Pokémon on my DSi while my nana and grandma were talking to the doctor, who happened to be an old friend of my grandma. Nothing stood out to me, except for when the doctor checked her heartbeat. He held the stethoscope to her back for a long time. I noticed this, which was rare since I never paid any attention to the environment around me back then. He finally lifted the stethoscope from her back after such a long pause, a sudden feeling of dread and worry swept over me. I began to worry about what was going to happen to my great-grandmother. I shook off the feeling and scolded myself slightly, reassuring myself that it was probably nothing to be worried about.
I remember going about my normal morning routine of watching YouTube before going up to wake my grandmother so she could take her pills and her puffer, or inhaler, for the day. It was around 8:30 in the morning when I calmly crept up the stairs and through the dining room, making my way towards my great-grandmother’s bedroom. I was trying to be quiet, so as not to disturb my mother and avoid startling my grandmother, as to avoid accidentally causing her to go into cardiac arrest, or, in simpler terms, a heart attack. I entered her room, as silently as I could, but something felt off.
“Grandma, it’s time to get up and take your medicine.” I said quietly. She didn’t stir what-so-ever. I stood there, watching carefully, looking to see if she was still breathing. I crept closer towards her, accidentally knocking my foot against her bed’s wooden frame. The sudden noise startled me, and I caught my breath, expecting her to jump a little. Still nothing. I carefully placed my fingers on the top of her hand, it was freezing. I ran out of the room to get my mother up and help me. I quietly opened the door to her room, not knowing that I had discovered my great-grandmother dead in bed. “Mom-“I started. She instantly jumped and inhaled a sharp breath.
“Baylee!” she yelled groggily. “What is it?”
“It’s grandma. She won’t wake up. Even after I accidently made a noise. I felt her skin and it’s cold, and I don’t know if she’s breathing.” I explained, large amounts of panic and worry in my voice.
“WHAT?!” my mother yelled, and bolted out of her room and up the stairs, myself in close pursuit. We had both arrived in my grandmother’s room, where my mother started freaking out and crying as I began to bawl. She instructed me to call 911, so I obeyed her command then, told the operator that I’d pass the phone onto my mother. “Please! Send someone out! My grandmother’s dead!” she yelled as I continued to cry, warm, salty tears streaming down my cheeks. My mother had practically checked out mentally, as she was running around the room screaming: “She promised she’d be here for Christmas! She promised!” I was both sad and frightened. Never before in my life had I even imagined what my life would be like without my grandma. My mom then dialed my nana’s cellphone number and told me to tell her to come home. I did what I was told, not giving any real reason to her to leave work, just saying that she needs to come home and that my mother was losing it.
Fifteen minutes after I hung up the phone, the police were at the door. I opened it and when they asked where we needed them to go my mother told them my grandma’s room. I stood at the doorway, exhibiting closed off body language, practically hugging myself. One of the officers checked my grandmother’s pulse and confirmed that she had died.
“She hasn’t been dead long. I’d say she died about eight hours ago in her sleep.” He said. I felt more tears begin to prick at the corners of my eyes. I closed them tightly and began to remember my grandma’s warm, loving hugs. I felt as though I was a helpless little child at that moment, lost and afraid of what would happen next. I heard the officer say something to someone over his walkie-talkie. I ignored it and walked over to the living room coach and sat down, staring blankly out the window. About thirty minutes after the fact, my nana came home. As soon as she came inside and shut the door, I got up and walked over to her and threw my arms around her, burying my face in her blue work shirt. She walked towards grandma’s room and stood by her bed.
“Well, she got her wish.” My great-grandmother said that when she died she wanted to pass away in her sleep, in her own home. At least we were able provide that.
Soon after leaving grandma’s room, nana began to call other family members and told them what happened. Within the next half an hour or so, they all started to show up. I went downstairs to the living room to try to calm myself down. About 2 hours later, I went back up and saw two tall men in black suits take my grandmother’s dead body out under a white sheet, while a few of my aunts began taking pictures off the wall. I decide to take a few things my grandma had that meant a lot to me. I picked up a little chihuahua bobble head I remembered playing with as a little girl, my grandma’s little sailor beanie-bear, my grandma’s sweater of months’ teddy bear, her favorite mug, and a necklace I made for her when I was 9. I put on the necklace and held it close to my chest, pressing against my shirt. I looked around and saw all my other relatives taking photos off the walls. The same day I found her, I overheard my mother and nana talking about something that caught my attention.
“Tiff, we both knew that she’d find her.”
“I know, mom, I know. We both know that she’s the strongest out of all of us. We’re lucky that Braxton’s with his father right now. He’s already lost one grandmother, and he was very close to Liz. If he found her, his world would come crashing down all around him.”
“I know, Tiff I know. I just wish she didn’t have to find her. But there was nothing we could do about it.”
“What are you talking about?” I cut in.
“We knew that you were going to be the one to find mammy, Baylee.”
“What? But- but how?”
“You’re the strongest out of everyone here. If Tiff found her, she would’ve snapped and fell into depression. And I know that I would’ve not been able to handle the situation like how you did.”
“But I lost it. I screamed and cried.” I replied, completely baffled by what my mom and nana were saying.
“Not as bad as me.” My mother replied. I couldn’t comprehend what my mother and nana were explaining to me. I felt as if I was falling into a dark abyss where sunlight could not reach. My mind was swimming.
“I’m going back downstairs. My head hurts.”
“Alright, dear. Go get some rest. I don’t want you up here anyways,”
The next two weeks were very tough, since my family and I were getting kicked out by my uncle. For some odd reason, whenever I went upstairs after she died, I felt like I wasn’t alone. It felt warmer up there more than anywhere else in the house. At night, we’d hear what sounded like grandma moving around with her walker. The noise stopped after my nana went upstairs and opened the window in my grandma’s old bedroom. Over past two weeks, the day we moved out, and the weeks after we left, my other relatives looted and took whatever they wanted. I hated that I was related to them. They were selfish, cruel, and spiteful towards my mother, little brother, nana, and I.
I didn’t understand why they all hated us so much, but at that point I had given up trying. All I knew was that we have what they don’t. We have all the memories, guilt free minds, and we had all her love. I took the few small things that meant the most to me, and to this day, I still have them and wear the necklace of purple hearts and tender love with pride, knowing that I gave as much love to my great grandmother as I could before the day she left for good.