Monday, March 22, 2010

Fly Grandma Sugar

This is my Grandma Sugar.  When we were kids she always called us "sugar, sugar."  My sister couldn't say Grandma Hammon, so instead started calling her Grandma Sugar, and it stuck.

My Grandma Sugar, Doris Hammon, passed away on Friday at the age of 91.  I had the honor to be present for her last breath.  We heard word, last Wednesday evening that she had taken a turn for the worse.  So Thursday morning my sister, Lindsay, Kestan and I loaded up the car and headed to Minneapolis.

We had no plan in place, yet we simply knew that we wanted to be there for her.  On the way up we reminisced about our childhood memories.
Like how every time we'd go to visit grandma in Des Moines she'd be waiting for us at the door.  The moment we pulled into the driveway she'd run out and we'd have to take big breaths in because we knew she was about to squeeze us so tight into her bosom that we'd have to come up for air!  Or the fact that grandma spent most of her life in the kitchen.  She cooked the most amazing meals, like chili sauce, corn casserole and pumpkin pie.  And we laughed about how funny grandma is.  She's the queen of one-liners and anyone who knew her would simply laugh because she always had them in stitches.

Or the time we surprised her with her first limo ride on her 85th birthday.  The limo picked her up and we all piled out of the car. She was so excited; in fact, I remember she was glowing all day.  The first thing she said once we all got back in the limo was, "Where's the champagne?"

We arrived at her nursing home around 5:30 in the evening and spent some time with my cousin Molly and her daughter Mariah.  They left to make dinner and we stayed in grandma's room for a few hours just sitting by her side.  Her eyes were closed, her breath was heavy, and she had a washcloth on her head to help bring her fever down.  Luckily, my mom's friend is a hospice worker and she shared some wonderful words of comfort with us.  She reminded us that the hearing is the last to go.  So we knew what we had to do.  We had to tell grandma all the things we wanted her to hear before she left.

We played her favorite music like, Danny Boy and Ava Maria.  We held her hands. We rubbed her shoulders and head.  We kissed her cheek.  And then, we talked.  We told her how much we loved her and how much we'll miss her when she is gone.  We thanked her for all of her love and the amazing things she's done for us over the years.  And we told her to let go.  We told her she was safe.  We told her to trust.  We told her grandpa was waiting for her.  We told her it was time to fly.

Although she couldn't open her eyes or speak, we knew she heard us.  She'd squeeze our hands from time to time, her eyelids moved back and forth, and her arms would move slightly.  
My mom wasn't going to make it in time, so we called her to let her speak directly to grandma.  Hearing my mom talk to her mom, while we held grandma's hands, was so touching and special.  When my mom said, "We will all miss you so much," grandma let out a huge sigh.  Of course, both my sister and I lost it.  Kestan grabbed the Kleenex box and went to each side of the bed, first to me, then to Lindsay, handing out tissues and dabbing our noses.  At one point he said, "Blow mommy.  Get your boogers out."  Just the comic relief we needed in that moment.

We returned to her side Friday morning.  As we left for lunch, my cousin Brian and his boys came for a visit.  The priest and an old neighbor friend stopped by.  Molly, Mariah, Lindsay, Kestan and I returned in the later part of the afternoon and were so happy to hear that she wasn't alone once that entire day.  We also enjoyed being there for visitors, especially the nursing home staff. They were so loving and so kind, and we could tell grandma played a special part in their lives.  

A hospice worker came to pray with us.  She told grandma that she has planted many wonderful seeds in the world, and reminded her that these seeds will continue to grow without her.  She told grandma to trust that the spirit is with her, and she and her family will be taken care of. 
At 6 p.m. grandma took her last breath, and her 3 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren, were there  surrounding her with love.  It is an experience I will treasure and will never forget.  I feel completely blessed that I was present during her last moment on earth.  I saw grandma make the transition from being unsure to being ready to leave.  She looked so peaceful and it was just beautiful.  I felt so proud of her, that she found the courage to let go.  She has made the journey home, and I know she is happy.  She is at peace.
Photo borrowed from Flickr Creative Commons.

Later that night, I walked outside alone and looked to the clouds.  I saw the most amazing flock of geese flying overhead.  They were flying free, just like grandma.  

Your Personal Reflection:  Witnessing my grandma's spirit leave her body has reminded me that each of us will have a last day on earth.  Thank you, grandma, for letting us be part of your life's journey, and for reminding us to live each day as if it were our last.  

How can you live more presently, more boldly, more fully and more freely, starting today?  Go through your day with the awareness that life is a precious gift, and see what goodness comes your way.


  1. Such a beautiful piece of writing. Written with love and pride. What a fantastic tribute to Grandma Sugar.

    With Love

  2. Shanon condolences.
    Goosebumps .... what a wonderful farewell!
    Such experience allows you definitely more in the moment life!
    Nine years ago my brother took his last breath. He was only 31 years, but I had peace with it. His last 4 years he was blind, had a brain damage and more. But very optimistic, cheerful, a fighter and enjoyed small things.
    Your grandmother lives on in your hearts!
    As I've learned a lot from my brother, you have learned much from your grandma! XO

  3. What a loving and touching way to remember your Grandma Sugar.

    My Nanny Gerri passed away in Dec 2007 and I have been missing her (again) a lot lately. I have vowed to LIVE. Because that is what she did. She lived every second. She didn't even let cancer stop her from fixing her roof!

    Peace and strength to you and your family as you all deal with this transition. Continue to remember those blessed moments and hold on to all of those wonderful memories.

  4. This is so beautiful.. and so true.. what a fabulous way for your beloved grandmother to return home..
    thank you for sharing .. I have had trouble being 'present' at the moment.. thank you for this reminder!!

  5. I am sorry for your loss. I was holding my great-grandfather's hand when he died. It is experiences like the one you described that bring families closer.

  6. I am crying as I read your words. Thank you for the beautiful words and for reminding me what is really important in life.
    I never had a chance to tell my grandmother goodbye and what she meant to me. I was too young, I thought I still had plenty of time...
    Condolences for your loss.

  7. What a powerful post. I am so sorry for you loss. I am glad you got to spend time with her before she died. It made me think of my grandparents I have lost over the years and the ones I still have living. Thank you for sharing.

  8. magic, shannon, thank you for sharing such intimate and spiritual experience. your gramma sugar shines on, for sure. blessings to your family.

  9. This is such a moving post Shannon! Grandma Sugar seems like such an amazing lady and i can only hope my last days are spent surrounded by such love. I am very sorry for your loss and thank you so much for sharing your powerful experience with us!
    You will be in my thoughts!

  10. What a beautiful, beautiful tribute to your grandmother. It brought tears to my eyes. It is always hard to lose someone you love, but it sounds like your grandma is where she needs to be in this moment. Blessings to you and your family.

  11. So sorry for your loss, Shannon. Your post is beautifully written.

  12. Wow! Thanks to each and every one of you for your kind, caring, compassionate responses. You all are so beautiful and I am grateful you stopped by for a visit. Grandma's passing was a blessing and I continue to smile when looking up to the heavens.

  13. I'm sorry for your loss ... but I can see, right here in this post, one of those amazing and beautiful seeds that your Grandma planted.

    Your family is in my thoughts ...

  14. Shannon,

    That is so beautiful, I had to post it to my facebook. You have put into words what we all feel about Doris. I am so glad that you were able to be with her when she left this earth. We all love you very much. Jim

  15. You will carry sweet fond memories for your lifetime of her. She sounds like a wonderful person who loved life and family. I lost my mom a few years ago. I know there are some days that will be harder, but like you said live life to your fullest and cherish our time. That is what they would want! Take care, you and your family are in my thoughts. ~Theresa

  16. What a beautiful way to enter another space of reality for a person like your grandma! Surrounded by people she loves...Your post is filled with love, we can feel it just by reading it. This helps us to make peace with death.

    Big *hug*

    My thoughts are with you and your family,

    Manon xx

  17. What a beautiful leaving of this place... to have those that adore you be at your side when it is time to go. Death is always so hard, but I am always so happy to see families come together and celebrate the life of their loved one, and to give such a loved person a beautiful parting. Wishing you lots of tears and laughter and many, many memories.

  18. Hugs, Shannon. I've just gotten home from my own mother's last days. Wishing you peace. I hope some day soon I'll be able to write about it as you did.

  19. Shannon,

    I can not think of two more precious angels than you and Lindsay by your grandma's side as she flew away. You, Lindsay and Jeff are everything wonderful about your Grandma. Funny, silly, playful, joyful and loving, her spirit lives on now with beautiful Kestan.


  20. You all warm my heart. Big hugs.

  21. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. I am sorry to hear of her death.

    I was at my mother's bedside when she passed away. It was a profound and life-changing experience to say the least!

    Thanks for sharing such private and special moments about your grandmother.


  22. I love that top picture of your Grandma!

    I know you will all miss her a lot.

    {{thoughts and prayers}}

  23. Lump in my throat reading this... How beautiful, how... beautiful!
    "Parting is such a sweet sorrow..."

  24. What a beautiful tribute to Grandma Sugar Shannon. Danny Boy made me cry. It is one of my nana's favourite songs as well and she is very ill. Thankyou for the reminder of how precious and also fragile life is. Your grandma sounded like such a beautiful lady....what a joy to have had someone like that in your life. Lots of love Heather xxx

  25. Your worlds are so beautiful. Sorry i will continue in french to be sure the good words are choose. Seulement à la lecture de ton texte, nous sentons tout l'amour que votre grand-mère et vous portiez l'une envers l'autre. Ta grand-mère semblait être formidable. Et elle a eu la chance de vous avoir à ses côtés jusqu'à son dernier souffle. Tu poses un regard si sain et serein envers cette étape de la vie. C'est vraiment merveilleux de te lire, les larmes ont coulées sur mes joues ce matin. Ton texte fait vraiment réfléchir à l'essence de la vie. A nos priorités.
    Mes condoléances, Shannon. A toi et à toute ta famille.

  26. I echo what everyone else is saying and I really couldn't say it better. It is so bittersweet. I lost my mother last summer - she was 91. She also had hospice and we were all so grateful for her peaceful passing. We had time to gather around her and sing songs and tell stories. It truly is a gift to be present with love and grace for passages - birth and death. I'm thinking of you and your family and sending love -

  27. Thank you Shannon~
    We met dear Doris when we lived 2 doors down from her in New Braunfels. We adopted her as she did us. My girls Natalie and Haley who were little then loved to go down and visit her. They would hit golf balls inthe backyard. They loved Lowell too! It was hard when we all moved but she was great at keeping in touch. I still remember all the kid'sstopping what they were doing at the sound of her car coming up the street. She was so full of life and we will just miss her so much. We love you Doris!

  28. what a beautiful story.. I didn't know Doris for every long . I had cleaned for her while she lived in Texas 2 doors down from my friend Kelly.. she was a wonderful lady with a very big heart.. I enjoyed the time I had spent with her in her home...Regards,Dawn Babula

  29. You all continue to blow me away with your sentiments and wonderful stories. Thanks to all of you!

    Special thank you to Kelly and wonderful to hear that you knew Doris and have a special place in your heart for her. :)

  30. Oh, Shannon. Your words and pictures moved me to tears. Bless your grandmother. She was a beautiful soul, and I'm so grateful that she could be surrounded by her beloved family who gave her such courage and comfort. What I find so refreshing about your tribute is that it is uplifting and positive, not sorrowful or painful. You gave her last journey such dignity and importance and saw it as success, not failure. How beautiful is that.

    Many warm embraces to you and your family. Thank you for sharing this.

  31. What beautiful account of a beautiful life. I was very much tearing up as I read, and as my husband was thinking it was silly that I was in tears I made a silly excuse about it being my contacts just bugging my eyes.:)
    Thank you for sharing these moments!

  32. Oh Shannon, You've touched and moved me to tears with your beautiful writings about you and Sugar and love

  33. Dear Shannon, what a beautiful tribute to Grandma. I'm so glad you, Lindsay, Molly and Mariah (and Kestan!)were there to comfort her at the end. I wish I would have been with you all. I really love that picture of Grandma and Grandpa from when he was in the navy. I have always felt you took after her quite a bit. You're a beautiful girl, and I'm happy for the new addition to your amazing family. Love you, and looking forward to seeing you at her memorial.


  34. Oh, Shannon! I do so wish I had read this before we saw you yesterday; what a wonderful way to end and celebrate a life. I'm so glad you could be there to see her off on the next part of her journey. I know it is very hard losing someone, but faith really helps. Blessings to you and your family during this time.

  35. This is amazingly beautiful- thank you so much for sharing a personal and sacred experience. Grandma Sugar must have been (and still is!) a wonderful woman.

    Thank you!


Thanks for sharing!