This I Believe

Maritess - Reno, Nevada
Entered on December 11, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family

The Strength of Family

I believe in the power of family. Sometimes you can see a miracle just by the situations that may occur within your family. My whole life I have had a very small family. It was just me, my parents, my aunt and uncle and my grandparents. No siblings, no cousins, just the seven of us. When I was young and in preschool I didn’t enjoy it very much. I felt lonely and had no friends. My grandma offered to take care of me during the day while my parents were at work. Most of my childhood is filled with memories of spending time at my grandparent’s house and all the things I would do with my grandma. Every morning when I arrived at her house she’d be sitting at the kitchen table and carefully applying all of her makeup for the day. I remember just watching her in awe even though I wasn’t familiar with the little make up brushes she was using. She was always very important to me. She was so smart and sweet and everyone got along with her. I wanted to be just like her. She was always so kind to the family and really held us all together.

By the time I had reached my freshman year in high school, my Grandma had gotten the terrible illness of Alzheimer’s. It started out slowly with just her asking the same question over and over again but as the years went by it just got worse and worse. My aunt Mari Kay, my grandma’s daughter, lived in Austin, Texas at the time with my uncle. She was always the leader in my family and was the responsible one who took care of everything. Three years later in 2001, when I was a junior in high school, my grandma ended up falling and breaking her hip. At this point her Alzheimer’s had gotten so bad she could barely remember how to talk. Her fall was her final breaking point. My aunt flew into Reno to see her in the hospital.

Mari Kay and I lay beside my grandma in the hospital bed holding her fragile hand. My grandma looked so innocent and helpless. She hardly looked like the strong, classy, sophisticated women that she had always been. As we sat there, in hopes of my grandma recovering, the doctor entered.

“It doesn’t look good,” He said sadly. “I’m afraid you and the rest of your family need to make a decision. She will either have to go on living on the respirator for the rest of her life, and barely be able to talk or move, or we can unplug the machines that are keeping her alive and let her pass away peacefully.” My aunt and I looked at one another, tears welling up in our eyes.

My aunt discussed this difficult decision with my dad and grandpa. My grandpa feeling all his love for my grandma fill his heart could not make that decision and said he trusted my aunt and whatever she thought was best, he would go along with. My dad, not being much of the decision maker, also told my aunt that he would agree with her decision. My aunt was furious. How could all this pressure be on her? How could she decide whether to keep her own mother alive or dead? She sat and cried for hours and hours and thought about what would be the best decision. She finally made the decision and signed the papers with the doctor to let my grandma go.

I reached out for my aunt’s hand as we both walked back to my grandma’s room. I squeezed it tightly to let her know I loved her and I understood how hard it must have been for her to make that decision. Mari Kay still felt as if maybe she had made the wrong decision and wondered how she would ever know what the right one should be. We entered my grandma’s room. No one was visiting at this time, so it was just the three of us. I closed the door and watched as my aunt approached the bed. My grandma looked up at my aunt, reached out her hand, and said “I love you so much.”

I gasped, my hand came to my mouth, and I started to cry. Those were the only words my grandma had spoken in a very long time. It was as if my grandma knew the hard decision that my aunt had to make, and was letting her know that what she chose was the right one.

In that moment, when only love filled the room, we knew that something wonderful had just happened. I had seen a miracle happen within my family. Even when all the medications and doctors in the world couldn’t make a difference, just the power of family and love did.