Bama is the name I have called my grandmother for…well, for as long as I have known her. She is a special woman with a huge heart with a special place in it for all of our four-legged family members. Nearly three years ago, she was diagnosed with ALS (Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It was a devastating diagnosis for her and for our family. With a diagnosis like ALS, life as you’ve known it is over and a new life of sorts begins. A life filled with medical advice and opinions. A life filled with daily changes to physical abilities and disabilities. A life with a certain expiration date that looms ahead of you, all around you.
My grandmother – Ann is her name – has been nothing short of stoic in the face of the unknown and life-altering symptoms of this atrocious disease. With a sharp mind and a keen sense of hearing, she has endured many losses. The loss of her ability to speak, walk, and now is fighting to maintain a peaceful rate of respiration.
As I have watched her face these challenges over the last few years, despite her fears and uncooperative body, I remind myself – and even reminisce with her – about the wonderful times I have had in my life simply because of her presence. We’ve shared laughs recently about the birds that were attempting to build their nests on my grandparents front porch. My grandma did not want those birds making a mess on the porch and flying at the heads of visitors as they protected their nests. I teased her because, when I was a little girl, they would let the birds make nests and everyday we would pull the ladder out and I got to climb up and watch as the blue eggs turned into naked little hatchlings then feathery baby birds who eventually plopped out of the nest and wandered into the grass to flutter around. In that moment, of sharing that particular memory, it didn’t matter whether or not the birds actually got to make a nest on their porch. What mattered was that I had that memory embedded in my mental archives and on my heart.
Throughout my 33 years, Bama has always shown gentle kindness and thoughtful concern towards the animals in our family. She’s always respected and understood that my animals are my babies. She’s bought them gifts and treats and fun little toys. She’s been there to cry with us and give supportive grandma-hugs when we had to say goodbye to our fur babies. She’s always been fascinated by Zoey and the cats of the family and has enjoyed patting the dogs’ heads when they come right up to her power chair to greet her with a cold nose to her arm. I don’t know an animal that hasn’t loved my grandmother….and it’s probably because she’s always been a warm, welcoming, loving presence. A true gift in all of our lives.
So, tonight, as I work through the emotions of her battle with this relentless disease, I choose to hold memories and thoughts like these in my heart and be eternally grateful for her presence in our lives. My Bama’s love has been one of the greatest gifts in all of our lives.
May the joy of happy memories bring peace to us all.
One of my favorite photos. Bama in her element. Walking along the beach of Hammond Bay in Northern Michigan, her toes savoring the cool water of Lake Huron. Golden beauty, Hope, stares back checking to make sure her Bama isn’t too far behind, appearing to pose for a perfect photo opp. At the time, Mya was off running around near me. Moments later, Mya and Hope ran towards each other and leapt into the deeper water. Another magical moment in this life. Another wonderful memory.