What to Communicate at the End

I am writing this sitting next to my Granny’s bedside. I’m at my aunt’s house – my granny has always lived with family. Hospice has provided a hospital bed along with a nightstand on wheels that can be rolled for convenience. I have removed the box of plastic gloves, hand sanitizer, and digital photo frame from the nightstand and have transformed it into my remote office so that I can be next to her as I work. My granny is 94 and it is clear the end is near. She was diagnosed with an  obstructed bowel about 4 weeks ago. Although the condition was reversed, it depleted her  strength and she hasn’t recovered. 

What a gift to be in this room with Granny. She is the mother of six children and my family has grown significantly from there. All in all, when someone in my family starts making a guest list to celebrate a life event an automatic “45” gets put as a starting point because that is how many people from my family will be there. So the fact that I get even a few minutes alone with Granny is pretty amazing. 

Today, Granny is very quiet. Eyes closed. Towel over her forehead and eyes. In the past hour the only thing she’s whispered is “water.” A nurse came to the house to take Granny’s blood pressure and check a sore on her ankle. Granny did not open her eyes, but did wave. 

I realize the end is close. How many days? Who knows? But this is my opportunity to communicate what I want and need to say to my hero. However, my mind is blank. And for good reason: I’ve said it all. I’ve said everything I needed to say throughout the years. My granny fostered and developed a relationship with me that was open and honest. She told me stories about her life that were difficult to hear – but  made it easier for me to confide in her when I had tough life moments. I’ve told her I LOVE YOU countless times with ease. I sought clarification when I was confused about something she said or a decision she made. I’ve asked for her opinion each time I had a major life decision. I’ve giggled each time she fell asleep at the movie theater and have cried with her when we have lost family members. 

These are a few of the many life lessons she’s taught me: 

Be vulnerable with those you care about.

Don’t be afraid to say, “I love you.” 

Be a passionate listener.

Sitting in the room watching over her, something came to mind  that I want to tell her:

It’s okay to let go …

So that you’re no longer in this hospital bed. 

So that you’re no longer unable to eat. 

So that you don’t need a towel over your eyes anymore. 

But I cannot bring myself to say those words to her. So I will just sit next to her and hold her hand.

Dolores Irene Barber died surrounded by family on June 14, 2023

Jennifer Nonn-Murphy, M.S, CCC-SLP​

Jennifer grew up in the Bay Area of California and received an undergraduate degree in Communications from Saint Mary’s College of California (Go Gaels)!   

After completing her Masters Degree in Communicative Sciences and Disorders from California State East Bay, she decided to move back to her hometown and start a career as a speech-language therapist.  She worked at a local school district and speech clinic before opening a private practice in 2011.   

I am the owner and instructor of Clear & Confident Speech Coaching.