Phone call brings expected news, unexpected outcome
By Chris Hannas
It was a Sunday morning in July, a time I normally reserved for sleeping in and going to church.
I can’t say I wasn’t ready for the phone call, but until you hear that message for the first time, you don’t realize its impact.
It was when the caller ID flashed my mom’s cell phone number. I had been home since Thursday and hadn’t seen her yet. She was still at the hospital.
“Nana passed away this morning,” she said.
Neither one of us knew what to say after that. My grandmother was the first person I had lost, and my mother had never had to tell us anything like that.
There I was, one month out of college, one month into grad school, one month from my birthday, trying to figure out how I would break the news to my brother and sister.
My twin sister, Mallory, came downstairs about an hour later.
“Nana died this morning,” I said. The sad acceptance in her face told me she had been waiting for that message.
That afternoon we gathered at my grandparents’ house, a quick
half-hour drive from the edge of
the rest of the family arrived. My aunt
Michelle; cousins Shawn, Dayna and Lauren; and Dayna’s son, Aiden, had just
flown back from
With them there, we started talking. Memories came through tears, and it wasn’t long before we were all laughing.
The process of coping with the news was slow, but Nana’s illness was much too fast.
We had only heard the words “breast cancer” for the first time six months earlier. It was hard to get Nana to sit down after that. Her perceived job as hostess to family functions during the next six months kept her in constant motion, making sure there was ice, forks, napkins, music and whatever else she felt was missing at the time.
For years my mother and aunt had been telling her to “sit down and eat” at these occasions. She never listened.
So it wasn’t much of a surprise when after surgery Nana was more concerned about making dinner for my grandfather and trying to get him to do a crossword puzzle than following doctors’ orders and resting herself. That's what we had come to expect.
What we didn’t expect was the infection.
To us, hearing the word in April meant that by July it would be a thing of the past. But it was an infection in the incision from the mastectomy that killed Nana.
When Nana told me in January that she wasn’t sure if she would make it to my graduation in May, I didn’t think there was anything that could keep her away. She made it.
I never thought graduating on time would end up being so important, for both of us.
On June 18, two weeks before her death, she acted every bit the hostess at my cousin Lauren’s high school graduation. For one of the first times I heard her say that she was tired.
In her basement was a shelf with pictures of all of her grandchildren who had graduated high school shaking hands with our respective principals while getting our diplomas—except one. On July 3, there was a hole on the shelf for Lauren’s, but the picture hadn’t yet arrived.
Through her time as our grandmother, some of us got a little off track and none of us visited as much as we should have. But when we really needed each other, all eight were there with hugs and memories. Nana would have been proud.
Copyright © 2005 Chris Hannas