Four weeks back during the last stretch of a three-hour drive home from Missoula, Montana on I-90, I returned to a hazy, eerily quiet Bozeman settling into a new stay-in-place order.
My recent extended weekend visit with my family brought the realization that my 93-year-old grandmother would be admitted back into hospice care.
An ironic twist to an already surreal time in our world.
After a weekend in the hospital with strict visiting restrictions due to the coming COVID-19 pandemic, the bright side was that grandma’s infection had simmered down enough to return home. With getting her back on hospice, my family would have help keeping her comfortable in her end of life care.
Grandma Jean, in her usual fashion, was soon back giggling to herself in her old chair.
Despite her failing health, she was still bursting with stories – beaming as she described the joy she felt the day I (her first grandchild) was born and the details of my youth that were so special for her.
It’s been wonderful to have this time to relive all the good memories we’ve shared together as a family. The moments in life that really matter.
But in the past few months, her world has rapidly shrunk with the loss of her mobility, hearing, and eyesight. As an onlooker, it can be difficult to watch a loved one slowly fade.
The change and uncertainty have been scary especially when it meant every time I said goodbye to drive back to Bozeman, it might be the last time I would see her.
She has been a second mother to me.
As far as life goes, she had lived a full one and had reached the goals she set out to achieve.
She was so excited that she had lived long enough to know her two great-grandchildren. She was just head over heels about being apart of their lives. I was there to capture the moments when she got to hold her great, grandchildren for the first time.
These photos I made of her are so precious to me.
These photos remind me just how thankful I am that she has been such a loving, guiding presence in my life and an integral part of helping shape me into the man I am today. How thankful I am to have family around especially during these uncertain times of social distancing.
She was always able to find the joy in life and laugh in delight at the little things. I admire her for it.
To me, these photos capture her spirit and bring a smile to my face everything I look upon them. A constant reminder to be kind, stay childlike in my curiosity and to celebrate every precious moment in the present.
It was around the time that we admitted Grandma Jean into hospice a month back that I decided to create the Bozeman Front Porch Project so that other families in my community would also have a positive family portrait experience to focus on during this difficult time in our world.
After all, family is everything and is worth celebrating (from afar) right now.
This past week, Grandma Jean actively began her dying process. I was able to race back to Missoula so my family and I could be together with her and say our final goodbyes these past few days.
This morning, back in Bozeman as I made my rounds for this weekend’s Bozeman Front Porch Project family portraits, I received a call from my father letting me know that Grandma Jean passed away.
She is finally at peace.
I can’t express enough my gratitude for all the joy, lessons and love this wonderful woman brought to and provided in my life. What a gift she has been! I love you so much Grandma Jean and I will miss you terribly. Rest in peace.