A Gracious Goodbye

by Carrie Kilareski on April 27th, 2015

​ Carrie's story...

I love the name of the charity that my very good friend started—Gracious Goodbyes.  Goodbyes should be gracious, especially goodbyes that involve someone dying. 
My grandparents talked many, many times with each other about their end of life wishes.  So, when my grandfather’s health started deteriorating rapidly, my grandmother had complete peace about his wishes.  While my grandfather’s health had been declining for years and he lived in severe pain, I am thankful that at the end things went relatively quickly.  He had one week of not his usual self at home, followed by a week in the hospital, which was followed by five days at a hospice facility. 
I was there at her side when the ICU doctor said that my grandfather wouldn’t live and that it was time to start the process of taking him off of life sustaining support.  There was complete peace on her face as she looked at the man she loved and had been married to for over 69 years and said, “This isn’t living.  He didn’t want to live like this.”  There was complete peace when my grandfather was taken off of life support.  There was complete peace as we sat by his side waiting for him to take his last breath.  That peace was only possible because of two things: 1. we knew he loved Jesus and would soon be pain-free in Heaven and 2. he and my grandmother had many discussions about their end of life wishes. 
What frustrated me the most through his hospital stay, hospice stay, death and funeral was extended family tensions.  Everyone wants to give their input and everyone wants to be in control.  I felt like a broken record, constantly saying, “What does grandmother want?” or “Let’s do what Grandmother wants.”  My grandmother is an extremely smart and active 89 year old.  And yet, it was heartbreaking how often the focus was taken off of my grandparents and their wishes.  I was so proud of my grandmother when she was confident and made sure what she and my grandfather wanted was done.  And yet, I was heartbroken for the many things that happened she said she didn’t want but because she was grieving, she didn’t have the strength to stand up to people.   
So, when it comes to Gracious Goodbyes, I would encourage people to have respect for others’ wishes.  Everyone should have a will, power of attorney, etc.    Just as importantly, others need to understand who is in charge, their voice be heard, and respect their wishes.  Remember while all loved ones are grieving the death of someone, there is usually one person who should be given the highest position of honor when it comes to grief and respect—for example, in the death of my grandfather, it should be my grandmother.   Don’t assume the loudest voice is the one in charge, and don’t try to take over because you think the spouse is grieving and shouldn’t be bothered.   Ask and listen to what their wishes are. 
Finally, let death be gracious and beautiful.  Sometimes we won’t know the days and hours leading to someone’s last breath.  But, when we do, don’t waste it!  I saw the heartbreaking look on my grandparents’ faces over ones who didn’t come for my grandfather’s last days; as well as the anguish it took to convince some to come at all.  My most beautiful memories aren’t of the funeral (when everyone finally came), but they are of the last days of my grandfather’s life.  My children and I sang hymns to the most Godly man I know who loved singing.  He would often get the look on his face like he saw Jesus and saw Heaven waiting for him.  It was so beautiful when my husband would pray with him.  His last smiles, and his last saying “I love you’s” to us are precious, precious memories.  We sang hymns by his side for hours and it was the closest I think I’ve ever been to Heaven—singing praise songs to Jesus at the side of someone about to see Jesus.  It was beautiful and peaceful.  These are the memories that my grandmother and I have often talked about in the last two months that we will treasure forever.
As we left his bedside for the last time, my family (two children, my husband and I) each told my granddaddy, “See you in Heaven.”     Not goodbye.  Just see you in Heaven. 
That is epitome of a ‘gracious goodbye’ when you have prepared by letting a loved know your end of life wishes and when you are prepared spiritually.  

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Angie Adkisson - April 28th, 2015 at 7:15 AM
Beautiful, Carrie! thank you for sharing your heart!

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