Sometimes, there is a day in your life that you know will change  you forever. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not. Some people never even experience such  a day. I’m not talking about the call that tells you your new kidney has arrived, the birth of a child, or a wedding, although all of these are  life changers.

My day started out better than most. Home hemo had been going relatively smoothly, no disasters to speak of. So I rewarded myself with an outing with my dear friend and photographer. It was a perfect fall day. We drove through the foothills of the Blue Ridge, stopping to snap photos along the way.


Photo courtesy of Judy Olsen

The only thing out of the ordinary was when we stopped to take this picture, it started to rain. But only on the ducks, swimming in the pond. We were parked not 100 yards away, and not a drop fell  on us.


Photo courtesy of Judy Olsen

After a leisurely lunch we were heading back home when my phone rang. It was my care partner, who also worked for my 90 year old mom, my daughter and her family. She wasn’t making sense, I managed to get”accident”, “called”, and then the name of my 15 year old grandson. My heart stopped, and I felt a wave of peace flow over me. In that instant I knew he was gone.

My life was changed forever. Even before I knew it. While my friend frantically called to see if he was being airlifted, my phone started ringing. Friends who had seen the post on Facebook, only seconds before. “He’s gone.” I said. Then my phone died. We headed to the hospital, my friend praying for a miracle. But I knew there was none to be had.

His mom, my daughter, and I arrived at the same time, and the tears flowed like broken water mains. I said goodbye to my precious grandson, the light of my life. My daughter’s grief was too pitiful for words. Knowing there was no way to comfort her was even more painful than the loss of my grandson.

When I got home, late that night, I went to log on my computer. It, too had died. A week later, when I got it back from the shop, I saw that it had shut down at 4:18, my grandson died at 4:16. It was 2 days before my phone worked again. He knew I was technologically challenged, and I’m sure,  he was having the last laugh!!

I was there the day he was born. I cut the umbilical cord, and except for some vacations, I was there for him almost every day of his life. We named him Gabriel Christian, our angel, a gift from God. A precious life that ended too soon. I have relived those memories every day since, searching deep to find every single one.  I wasn’t just nana, I was “mynana” to Gabe.

And what, you might ask, does this have to do with dialysis? Well, as I have written. I spent 20 years avoiding dialysis at all costs. I had made peace with my own impending death, and accepted the inevitable. At 62 I had worked on my bucket list, and, when the end came, I knew I could leave this world knowing my time in it was well spent! But when the time came, I couldn’t leave after all, because I knew that, although growing up and entering his teen years, Gabe still needed me.


The past year of adolescent had been a difficult one for him, struggling as he entered his teens. I was so fortunate to have taken him on a 6 week tour cross country, staying for a month in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. I shared my love of travel with him, showing him the St. Louis arch, and so many other wonderful sights along the way. On the way to Aspen one day, he took this photo.


Photo by Gabe

He wrote on Facebook that he hoped it brought him good luck! Sadly it didn’t, but whenever I see a rainbow, from this day forward, I know it will be Gabe, letting me  know he is OK!

So I started dialysis, alone, knowing that, for whatever reason, I needed to see Gabe through until he became the strong, confident, young man I knew was hiding inside.  As he started high school and joined ROTC, he blossomed. Every day his live grades email was delivered to my inbox, and I would open it first! A’s and B’s, even in Spanish, his mostdreaded subject. I would text him “kudos”, “I’m so proud of you”, “way to go” – he never answered. Sure there were some slips, and I’d ask what happened, he’d shrug it off, but I noticed the next time he did better.

I took a deep breath, a sigh of relief, and said to myself “He’s going to be OK, I’m not worried about him anymore”. I was adjusting to the fact that he was growing up into the fine young man he should have become. Soon I would no longer be his “mynana” but just nana, And that was alright with me.


I’m not worried anymore. I am sad, but not lonely, because I have 15 years of fabulous memories to keep me company. I miss him towering over me, and yet he still is, just like that summer in Colorado, when he climbed up the cliffs in Monument National Park.

.aspen in July 056



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