Fifteen years ago, November 28 2002, was Thanksgiving Day. The bulk of my immediate family and I were at our Mom's house in Littleton preparing for dinner. The weather was mild as November can be in Littleton, I remember the sun shining through the windows of the kitchen. Hanging out, doing what families do best, BS-ing, the phone rang and it was my dad calling from his home in Highlands Ranch. Brady answered, told my dad, "Yes, we'll go right now", and hung up the phone. Dad had called to tell us that he had received a panicked phone call from his father, our grandpa, and that our grandma had fallen and they needed immediate help to get her up. My Mom's house was barely a mile from our grandparents and my father called us because he knew we could get there sooner. Jason, my sister's boyfriend at the time said, "I'll go with Brady" and I told him no, that I would go. I didn't want a stranger going over there.
Thinking, Oh we'll go help Grandma and be home in time for dinner, Brady and I hopped in the car and within minutes were at Grandma and Grandpa Hansen's house, a place we'd spent ample time at and formed lasting childhood memories. The energy upon entering that house was not what I expected; intense, heavy, almost twilight-zone-like. Brady and I turned the first corner into the hallway and saw our precious grandmother on the floor of her room. Our panicked, pacing grandfather and a neighbor who had come over to help immediately following the accident, were also there. They were able to turn Grandma over so she was not face down, and helped clean her up as she had messed herself in her moment of weakness. What my grandfather and his elderly neighbor did not have was the strength to pick Grandma up and carry her to bed. Nor did my grandmother have the strength or energy to do so on her own. Grandma's breathing was labored, she was clearly stressed out and likely in great pain, but she was communicating clearly and aware of what was happening. I'll never forget the sense of urgency and anxiety that consumed my grandfather in those moments; he was beside himself, helpless to help the love of his life in her time of greatest need.
Brady and I went into work mode, knowing we were there to do a job, one that required great strength but one that we did not know would require deep levels of tenderness. Brady and I positioned beautiful Barbara Hansen in our arms, Brady's arms underneath her armpits and mine underneath her legs. The bed had been prepared for her to be laid down and all we had to do was lift and, in one fell swoop, make sure she got to where she could rest. As we lifted, she was heavier than I expected, the weight of the world it felt like.
We got Grandma into bed and proceeded to bandage some injuries. At 83-years-old, Grandma's skin was as thin as tissue and a large piece on her arm had peeled back likely from hitting a door frame or piece of furniture. Being someone who doesn't deal well with flesh wounds, I thought of who I was helping, what she meant to me, and how much she needed me in that moment to get past the sight of the wound. I remember thinking, How is this going to heal? It's so big. I loaded the wound with antibiotic cream and placed a large bandage over it. There were a few other smaller wounds Brady and I bandaged and took care of some other things, making sure she had water and such.
Grandma was off the floor, comfortably in bed, still breathing heavily from the stress caused by the situation. She expressed her gratefulness for us coming over. Brady and I hugged her and she said something to us that I'll never forget, "Thank you so much. You are such good grandchildren." There was hugs and I love yous all around. We made sure Grandpa was feeling alright and after a very, very intense experience, got back in the car and headed back to Mom's. Thirty minutes absolutely seared in my brain.
As we drove away from their house, I felt infuriated that Grandma was living like that, needing such care and not having it provided for her in her home. I had last seen her in September of that same year and did not realize she was in danger of scary situations like that, living with only my grandfather to help her. I told myself that after Thanksgiving was over I was going to have a talk with my dad and Aunt Linda about her needing more care, a home nurse, something! What Brady and I saw in their home that day made me realize Grandma needed help, I did not want this special lady to suffer like that again. And she would not.
|5643 South Huron Street.|
I decided to leave work immediately and to return to Grandma and Grandpa's house. It was something of the same surrealness, but much more empty. My grandfather was in state of shock, almost as if he couldn't feel or communicate. I don't remember much of "the day after" to be perfectly honest except that it was colder outside and the angle of the sun felt distant.
As funerals usually are, Grandma's was a forced family reunion of sorts. Everyone in our family undoubtedly loved this woman and even her grandchildren that grew up a great distance from her felt a deep closeness to her that was palpable at her service. She was a part of all of us and her love transcended.
My siblings and I were the luckiest of all of grandma's grandchildren as we grew up so nearby and were at Grandma and Grandpa's all the time as children. My childhood memories often betray, but I do not forget the excitement I felt each and every time we were going to go to Grandma's house. Let's face it, it was a lot more about Grandma than Grandpa(God rest his grumpy soul). It didn't matter if we were stopping over for an hour on a Sunday or if we were going to spend the day, I was always pumped! We loved the kitties, the worn out old-fashioned games and toys, the cable TV, the abundant gum supply hidden in Grandma's purse, but really we went to be near Grandma. We loved the love that poured out of her from a seemingly bottomless fountain. Though there were many, many grandchildren that claimed her, she always made each of us feel like we were the only one. How did she do it? Grandma power. I still miss basking in her glow.
Barbara Morgan Hansen was made of love, was made of joy and a sassiness that carries on in many of her children and grandchildren. Grandma was a committed woman. Grandma was committed to her family, to her husband, to her faith, all of which gave her ample grief from time to time, but whom she served with a smile. I remember as she aged, her asking me to come over and cut her hair, a way to bond with me, to help me learn, and to look her best as she always strived for. Anyone that remembers my grandma, remembers that if she had lipstick on her lips that it was also on her teeth, more evidence of her consistent, infectious smile.
I cannot remember a time where Grandma was mad at anyone or anything. I don't remember ever being scolded by her, which if it happened was likely disguised in some loving manner. In fact she even subtly covered her own "wrong doings", as was evidenced in the few R-rated VHS tapes she owned with the "R" rating being blacked out by permanent marker. Nice move Grams!! I mean, really, Grandma could do no wrong.
But even though she was loaded with compassion, and goodness and non-judgement, and sugar and spice and everything nice, Grandma was no softie. In fact, she was one tough cookie(just like the ones she baked, I'm sorry, I had to!). Barbara was married to Whipple for over fifty years after all, and that should be commended! When I was a young adolescent, Grandma was diagnosed with ovarian cancer which she handedly beat, like a boss. I realize all these years later that Grandma may have formed the ovarian cancer from her use of talc powder which she kept in her bathroom; as talc use has now been linked to ovarian cancer. As kids we liked to talc our tummies, kids are weird. Alas, it was part of the magic of visiting Grandma's house, talc tummy. The talc and the fuzzy toilet cover were the best parts of Grandma's bathroom. I know Grandma also gave birth to giant babies(my dad), further cementing her legend, and suffered a miscarriage in between children. There's so much more I wish I knew about everything she endured and sacrificed.
Grandma had her vices also, romance novels being one of my clearest recollections. I'm sure Grandma longed for some of the stories to be her own, but I also know she simply enjoyed reading. When I think of Grandma there's always M & M's somewhere floating in the memories. Usually milk chocolate M & M's, I was always slightly disappointed when there was peanuts involved. Easily forgiven however, as it was Grandma, and she had some other treat somewhere else. Ice cream, sugary cereals, packaged cookies, all to the grandchildren's delight. I could literally write a novel about her...
Being that she passed when I was at the tender age of twenty-three, I did not get to have much of my adulthood with my Grandma Hansen. As a selfish young adult, I didn't take much time to visit her, even though we lived in the same city. I didn't get to show her who I became and am still striving to become. Grandma is mostly a childhood memory for me.
Years after her passing, I had a very vivid dream. She was there, and she was alive, but she was going to die. There was an overwhelming urgency, a pressing need for, for something to happen before she passed. In my dream I could not identify what "it" was, but the emotion of anxiety was causing me to cry. As I felt the pressing and urgency of this thing that needed to happen before she passed, I "arrived", I was there before she passed. I was crying and in my dream I realized something very profound, Grandma could not pass away until I was there, just like it happened in real life. We needed to be together one more time before she rested.
I woke up crying, something that has only ever happened that one time. All the memories of seeing her that last time were instantly refreshed, and now had a new meaning. Grandma had come to me in my dreams to tell me how important it was that I was there on that day. I called my father to tell him, still crying and trying to explain in my morning fog, the meaning of the dream. That dream was extremely powerful for me, it still speaks to me.
I have always been humbly grateful that I was one of two of her cherished grandchildren to see her and help her in her final hours. I know that I was meant to be there, and I am really really grateful that I did not let someone else go instead. I am grateful it is an experience I share with my favorite person, Brady.
As a woman, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, Barbara Morgan Hansen blessed so many with her generosity and steadfastness. When I felt compelled to write this, I knew I would cry, and there has been streams of tears on and off the past three hours, along with some downright ugly crying. I also know that I could write millions more words for a woman that, though I only got twenty-three years with, is literally a part of me forever.
To my Grandma: What you have meant to me and continue to bless me with is beyond what words can describe. I love you deeply and want you to know that your joy is with me every day. I cherish the thoughtful handwritten notes and letters you wrote to me over the years as physical memory of your tenderness and care. Don't be surprised if I keep writing about you. Thank you for everything. Love, your granddaughter, Sarah Kay Hansen
|Memoral Day 2015|