The Waiting Room

The last week and a half has been filled with different experiences for me. My dear Grandma Helen Cannon Stitt is in the ICU right now on life support. I can't seem to process my feelings without writing them down.

Grandma Helen and me at her 90th birthday party


 My grandmother is 90 years old and she has lived an absolutely amazing life. I had the privilege of writing up an account of her life, both through personal interviews and through a thorough research of all her documents and treasures. What a blessing to learn of my grandmother's excellent adventures. And my favorite experience was writing an article about her called "A Zealous Little Mormon Girl" which was published in the Friend magazine.

Grandma has steadily been getting weaker over the past few months. A bit ago, my Aunt Patrica and Uncle Jerry moved in to her basement to help take care of her.

About a week and a half ago, I was leaving my area sports committee meeting out in Sandy. I have grown accustomed to just saying a little prayer on the way home from my meeting to ask who I need to visit on the way home. I don't know how that started, but I think I do it because I'm a little more out of the way than usual and I'm already out and about. That night, I received the distinct impression to stop by my grandma's house.

As I walked in, I headed back to my grandma's room. I saw her halfway on her bed. She was tired and sick and had tried to go to bed without any help but had gotten halfway there and couldn't move anymore. She couldn't reach her cell phone to call my aunt. My aunt would have been up shortly after to help her get in to bed, but I knew I had come at the right time. I gently helped her in to bed and got her tucked in and organized her things so she could reach them. She had a bad cough and could hardly speak. I stayed and talked with her for a while before heading back home, but felt extremely worried.

The next night I received a text that she was in the hospital because her health had declined and she needed more constant care. Due to class that night, I was unable to visit her until the next day. They put her on oxygen and were doing regular breathing treatments to curb her asthma attacks. She looked weak and could hardly talk, but I was sure this would pass. She was, after all, still herself, and I knew it because she was trying to convert every RN and CNA in the hospital! She was finally well enough that she was taken to a care center for rehab. I continued to visit her there, but instead of seeing her heal and get stronger, this past week I only saw her get weaker each day. She had pneumonia and things were just not going as we hoped.

Saturday night, our family started a fast for grandma. I stopped in and ended up staying for several hours. Grandma was not well. She was struggling to breathe with all the blockage in her lungs, but the nurses said she'd already had her breathing treatment, so I just hoped for the best. I sat by my grandma's bedside and just let myself be there. She couldn't complete sentences so I only asked yes or no questions. Frequently, she cried out in pain. I massaged her feet and gave her a lotion massage on her hands. And I sang to her. I don't have a great voice, but I love to sing. And she kept asking for more. She asked me to sing "O My Father" twice. I almost didn't make it through the second time as I sang, "When I leave this frail existence, when I lay this mortal by, Father, Mother, may I meet you, in your royal courts on high? Then, at length, when I've completed, all you sent me forth to do, with your mutual approbation, let me come and dwell with you" (Hymns, 292).

I was so afraid to leave grandma and just plead with the Lord that he would protect her. I told him that if He needed her to go, then to please not let her go like this in the care center, and to not let her go alone. No one should go alone. But I needed to get home. I called my parents to talk to them about her condition and they were extremely worried as well.
Grandma Helen going shooting with us last Thanksgiving


Sunday morning, my sister Katie felt like she needed to call the care center to see how things were going. What a great blessing that she followed that prompting. When she called, they told her they'd been trying to get a hold of some family member to let them know grandma was being transferred to the hospital again. In the meantime, my brother and sister-in-law had felt they should stop by. As they entered, the nurses saw Leah, thought she was me because they'd seen me before, and said, "You are the Stitts, right?" The staff had just been getting grandma loaded in to the ambulance.

I got the message halfway through Church and called to get the details. No one knew much except she was in the ER and the doctors were trying to give more aggressive treatment. I stayed for the rest of Church and then headed over to the hospital, where all the family was gathering. Those out of town drove in and came and visited throughout the evening. My Aunt Carleen booked a last-minute flight to make it down to the hospital.

And so we stayed. And traded off who went back in to ER and who stayed out with grandkids or watched people's things. Grandma was still responding to us and would even smile and laugh as we tried to cheer her up. We talked and held her hand and we fed her ice chips and tried to make her as comfortable as possible. But she still could hardly get a sentence out and my grandma just continually cried out in pain. So hard to see her that way. We just hoped she would be admitted to the ICU soon.

I ran home to break my fast and grab food and treats from my cupboards to feed our crew. When I came back, they were just moving her to ICU. The ER staff had apparently not been working as they should and their poor treatment had worsened her condition. They had made some terrible errors and by the time they realized it, things were not looking good.

We waited and waited for word on grandma. Finally, we were called in to a consult room where we talked to Dr. Whittaker. She explained the situation. In the transport from the ER to the ICU grandma went in to respiratory arrest: she stopped breathing. The ICU valiantly worked to revive and stabilize her and after bringing her back, they intubated and sedated her. But they were struggling to stabilize her. They did not know how long she had not been breathing and did not know if there was brain damage due to lack of oxygen. We would know in 24 to 48 hours what the outlook was, if she did not stop breathing or her heart didn't stop working before then.

The family was informed. People started coming back to the hospital again. Grandma's brother was informed late at night and decided to come. Aunt Carleen made it in from Portland.

The Melchizedek Priesthood holders who were there at the time, my dad, brother, brother-in-law and a few cousins, went in to deliver a blessing. Due to the crowded room, not all of us could go in. But my dad told me that as he pronounced the blessing, a tear formed in Grandma's eye. After the blessing, he gently wiped it away.

More family came back and we each took turns going back to visit. I took more than my fair share and I talked to grandma and held her hand and let her know what was going on. She was, of course, sedated, but I believe she could hear me. Gradually she started opening her eyes when we said someone's name. We asked her to try and squeeze our hands and we felt her try. But she would not open her eyes or squeeze when the nurses asked. They told us what we experienced was merely a reflex, but I believe otherwise.

Grandma's brother, Uncle Russ, and his wife finally arrived and offered a family prayer for all of us who were gathered, several went in to wish grandma a good night, and the family started to disperse. All we knew we could do was wait now.

Around 1:30 in the morning, the last of us finally left. Grandma had stabilized somewhat, but obviously not on her own. I told her that I still needed her, but if she needed to go, it was ok. I will just miss her terribly if she does.

Complete distress when I came home to my dark and quiet house. I could hardly sleep, but managed a few hours.

But I felt a calm peace when I woke up this morning. I had a text that grandma was the same, which, of course, is not good. But I felt peace. As I drove in to work, I put in one of my favorite CDs to calm my heart.

The sun was rising, the skies were blue and I listened as "Gloria" from Lamb of God by Rob Gardner started to play. This was the only video version I could find, but it is beautiful.

With my eyes wet, I silently drove in to work, feeling the solid fire of a testimony of my Savior. The Savior truly did overcome death and grief. He was and is "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" but "surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows" (Isaiah 53: 3-4).

And then I skipped to this song. "Sometime You'll Understand" on the CD

Not now, but in the coming years,
It may not be when we demand
We'll read the meaning of our tears,
And there, sometime, we'll understand

Why what we long for most of all
Eludes our open pleading hand
Why ever silence meets our call,
Somewhere, sometime, we'll understand
So trust in God through all thy days
Fear not, for he doth hold thy hand;
Though dark thy way, still sing and praise,
Sometime, sometime we'll understand.

Sometime, we'll fall on bended knee
And feel there, graven on his hand
Sometime with tearless eyes we'll see
What here, we could not understand
So trust in God through all the days;
Fear not, for he doth hold thy hand;
Though dark thy way, still sing and praise,
Sometime, sometime we'll understand.

Yesterday, I spent hours in the waiting room. Many of us will continue to wait there or elsewhere in our own waiting rooms until we know what will happen. Her 3 children, her 15 grandchildren, her 18 great-grandchildren (and more coming), her brothers and sisters-in-law, her cousins, her friends, her ward members. The thousands of people whose lives she has touched through serving six missions and faithfully serving God all her days. We are all waiting for her to fight and come back to be with us. For her to see me graduate with a master's degree. For her to be there if I get married someday. For her to meet my children. For her to teach me more about how I can live a life more dedicated to the gospel.

But, I cannot help but think of the waiting room on the other side right now. My dear Grandpa, who I never met, must be waiting there as he has for 38 years. My grandma's son, my uncle Greg, who died in the Vietnam war, has been waiting for 42 years. Her sister Sally, her parents William Tenney and Geneve, and so many others whose lives she has blessed. They are waiting too.

For now, I will trust in God. I will fear not. He is holding my hand. I will ever sing His praise. Sometime, sometime I'll understand.

Helen Cannon and Carlyle Stitt on their engagement day.


**Grandma Helen passed away at 5:45 pm on Monday, February 25. God be with you till we meet again.