Wednesday, June 9, 2010


My little brother Curtis returned home from his mission in Canada the first part of March. I am so happy that he is home and wish that we were not so far apart so we could do more together. The literal distance between us has become so common that sometimes I forget I can just call him now and talk to him.

Before he came home from his mission and while I was still here in Evanston and counting the days until he would return and subsequently counting the days until we could go to Texas and be a part of his homecoming, my Grandmother Aanerud became somewhat ill. After several doctors appointments it was decided that her heart valve which had previously been replaced was now again, in need of replacement. This is the same grandmother of mine who, mind you, literally faced down an angry cow moose in December last year.

My Grandpa passed away in 1988 and my Grandma has been living in the same house and been 100% independent ever since then. In that time she has been so strong and so healthy that I have kind of taken it as a given. I think in some instances I have and do believe that she is superhuman with powers and strengths beyond one's natural capacity, at least for us mortals.

In the week before we left to go to Texas I went by Grandma's house or called her everyday to check in on her. Even in this time of illness she seemed to be doing so well and dealing with it with little additional effort. The night before we left for Texas I went over to visit with her. Just me. We talked casually as we normally did. In fact Grandma is one of my favorite people to talk to, I guess mostly because she just let's me go and so many of you know how I rant. Also, it seemed like any topic of conversation was fair with her. For me, she's the perfect conversational counterpart. She asked about my day and we joked and talked politics, same as usual. As I was leaving and giving her a hug she put both hands on my face and looked straight in to my eyes and told me that whatever happened with her surgery to not let my dad come back to Evanston and that he needed to be with Curtis. I laughed and said something along the lines of him being just as stubborn as she is and that may be out of my hands.

So back to Texas we went. Curtis came home and it was so wonderful to see him and after 15 minutes or so the feeling was as though he had never left. His personality is so easy. Of course he was oozing that returned missionary maturity that has long since worn off me and had the Spirit with him along with a myriad of stories that we couldn't wait to hear. I am so happy that he is back honorably.

While at the dinner table as a family in Texas, we were awaiting news of how Grandma's surgery had gone. Amber asked Dad point blank if he had heard anything and he shot my mom a look, as if wondering if the timing was right. He began to explain that during surgery Grandma had suffered from a massive stroke and due to a number of complicating factors the doctors were unable to treat it and the extent of the damage was severe.

As he was explaining I started to lose my composure and had to leave the table and go outside and cry. I couldn't believe it was true and if it was true I was so mad at the timing being what it was. The one time that I could have actually been at Grandma's side at time of need in my entire life and I was a thousand miles away. We put dad and a flight back to Evanston early the next morning which was the earliest we could get.

Amber spent literal hours on the phone with the airline and managed to get us all on a flight the following day.

As we were awaiting our flight at the airport Sarah and I were debating on how to explain this whole thing to Jackson, who has become very familiar with and attached to his Grandma Great. We pulled him aside and tried to explain to him that Grandma was very sick and we were going to visit her and she might look different in the hospital than she did in her house. He was so sweet in his responses and we think that though he did not fully comprehend that conversation that he was as prepared as we were to go and visit Grandma.

Off to SLC we went.

It wasn't fair to Curtis and I feel bad that he was so overshadowed almost immediately from the time he came home with bad news. But at the same time it felt so wrong to be happy and excited no matter how good of a reason I had.

We got back to Salt Lake probably around 9 or so and we had all requested to go immediately to the hospital. We did and dad was there to meet us and fill us in as much as he could and give us the essentially same talk we had tried to give Jackson to prepare us before we visited Grandma. We went in the room and there were the beeps and ticks of hospital machines and my Grandmother lying in the bed. Those moments are always awkward for me not knowing exactly how to react but all I wanted to do was to get her out of there and I knew how much she must be hating it all.

Dad had told us all how her kidneys weren't working and didn't look like they were going to kick in and that her body was becoming toxic and that she might be able to be kept alive on machines and medication but that she would not recover. She was there though. I mean she could hear us and react to us. She could wiggle her nose and squeeze our hands and move her toes but that was the extent of her communication ability. I know that she must have been so frustrated in those moments trying to talk to us. We all took turns had her bedside with our hands in hers, talking to her.

At one point when I was talking to her I lost it completely and sobbed bitterly as I was asking her who I was supposed to talk politics with if she were gone. Who could I fake-cheer for the Jazz with and who was going to take care of me when Sarah and the kids were gone as she had done several times before. After several hours in the hospital we all decided that it had been a long enough day and ours kids were completely exhausted as were we so we all went back to stay at my Aunt Becky and Uncle Doug's house.

The following morning we had a family meeting to discuss what the plan was. I think we all knew what the plan was and were reluctant to actually be present to hear it said aloud. It almost seemed like if no one said it that we would be able to harbor some kind of hope that everything would be okay, that Grandma would spring out of bed and everything would be normal again. The family meeting went as I expected though and my dad explained to us that they were going to ask for all the machines to be turned off and we would let her go. We all agreed that this is exactly what Grandma would want and she would be infuriated if we kept her alive trapped in her body. She is independent and mobile and strong.

All through this my Dad and Aunt Becky had been having one difficult conversation after another, trying to comfort us when they could and somehow try to keep themselves strong for us and for Grandma. They were wonderful and I regret not being able to give them any kind of meaningful comfort. Indeed comfort was scarce and I feel that had I been able to say anything of meaning it would have come off wrong and so I didn't say much.

It was decided that we would all be given time to say our goodbyes and have as much time as we needed with Grandma before anything else was done. We all gathered ourselves and went to the hospital.

The mood in our car was somber at best. Sarah looked at me and asked if she could say something and I nodded that of course she could. She then held up a positive pregnancy test that she had taken. I wasn't sure how I should react and I don't really remember how I did react. Although I do remember feeling in that very instant the love of my Father in Heaven. It was almost as if he was telling me that where he takes life, he gives life too. I was so thankful that Sarah told me this because now we would at least have some bit of positive news to share with Grandma before we said our final goodbyes.

The hours following are too precious to me to share publicly. But the final moments we shared together with Grandma and my entire Dad's side of the family in her room are the most sacred and I will never forget the warmth of the Spirit there and how amidst all of our tears that we all knew with surety that Grandma was being looked after. And we let her go.

I was excited for her to see all of the people that she had survived over the years including all of her syblings and parents and friends but I was most excited for her and Grandpa to be together again after so much time apart.

I feel so incredibly blessed to have been able to live in Evanston so near to Grandma for the past 3 years and get to know here on such an intimate level that I never would have realized I was missing had I not moved here. I miss her immensely.

I do feel that I have been strengthened through the whole experience and that the Savior knows my heartache perfectly. All along the way I have felt his strength and the support of the Holy Ghost and especially in those most private and sacred of moments I have felt his personal love for me.

A few days after the funeral and after everyone had left town and we were here in Evanston, this time without any family, we decided to go to McDonald's to get ice cream together. While waiting in the drive-through I spotted something across the road on the hillside that looked like a horse but I knew that that property did not typically have horses on it. After we got our ice cream we drove over there and grazing peacefully there on the hillside next to the road was a cow moose and her calf.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Eric. This is beautifully written and I feel the love you have for your grandma and your family! It is a difficult time and event, but not without a bit of joy in the two things you mentioned - grandma being with her husband again and life continues on as new spirits come to bless a family and love continues to grow strong. It's wonderful how we never forget our loved ones and have such wonderful memories and knowledge of eternity to give us the strength and joy to move forward. I, too, think what a wonderful blessing it has been for you and your sweet family to be in Evanston and be able to enjoy a special relationship and time with grandma that will forever fill you with happy, special memories!

becki said...

What a beautiful story! I'm so sorry about your Grandma, but I am so excited for the new little life in Sarah!! I'm so happy for you guys and selfishly I'll say that I'm excited for when you guys eventually do move back to Texas!! Love you guys!

Becky said...

Thanks for sharing Eric. This is still such a tender moment in my life. It is hard to think that Mom has been gone for 3 months. There are still so many days when I have something I want to tell her, and then go to call her...but of course then realize that I can't. She is so missed, and so loved. I want you to know that Grandma loved you so much. She was so excited that you guys moved to town. She was so excited to get to know Sarah and your children better. She loved Sarah and the kids very much. I am sure that she is getting to know your new little baby now, and loving that new one so much. It is a blessing that families are eternal. Thanks for being such a good grandson to mom. You are a remarkable young man! I love you!
Aunt Becky

Amy said...

I appreciate you sharing this Eric - you've been able to write what has been difficult for me to put in words.
I love you guys so much!

blogginscoggins said...

Eric, this is beautiful. It caught me off guard, as I'm reading at work - and had to close my door when I started crying. The emotions of grandma's death are still so fresh, and I, like you, still have to remind myself sometimes that she's gone. I am so grateful that you took time to put this into words and to share. I hope you will also write them down somewhere where they can live on forever and be passed down. I love you.

AmyJ said...

Thanks for sharing that, Eric! Sare told me a little over the phone a few weeks ago, but I'm so glad to read it in more detail and from your perspective. I've got tears welling up right now, and the whole time reading it. I appreciate so much that you shared this story, and congratulations on the new little one :)

Kristi Clinger said...

I'm sorry for your families loss. It sounds like you and your family were very blessed to be living so close to her.
If she's anywhere close as a great person as your dad then I can only imagine your loss.
Congrats on the news of expecting a new little one.
Aren't we grateful for the knowledge of the gospel plan. Keep an eternal vision on those rough days.

taryn said...

This was so beautiful to read. I'm sorry for your loss. I know how you, and also Sarah, have become very close to your grandma.

Congrats again on the new baby! I'm so excited for you guys :)

caroline said...

your post made me cry...What a special Grandma you have! and what a blessing that you guys were able to have that relationship with her and make memories with her before her passing. Thank you for sharing. love you guys!

Jacki said...

Eric and Sarah- I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your grandma. I hope your family can feel comfort peace at this time.

Congratulations for Sarah's pregnancy, we're excited for your family. This blog post reminds me of Jack Johnson's song "If I could"- "New life makes losing life easier to understand..."

Carrie said...

this is such a sweet post. i cried and cried through the whole thing because i know how much grandma meant to you and sarah and the kids. what a special relationship you had with eachother! and what an amazing blessing to be able to share your happy news with her before she passed. that will be a memory you'll cherish forever, i'm sure. we love you guys. thanks for sharing.

and congratulations on the new little one!

Kristi said...

I needed a good cry tonight. :) As long as I've known you Aaneruds I've known that your Grandma was a very special person in your lives. Your posts about your Grandma have always been such a good example to me about how important it is to foster relationships with grandparents...I've not ever been super close to mine and always had a lot of guilt about it. I'm very sorry you lost your Grandma but I know that you are finding peace and comfort through the gospel and our Heavenly Father's love. Such an amazing gift we have! This was a really beautiful story and I'm reall glad you shared it.

PS-Congrats on baby #3!