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True Love Exists

I am sorry that I had to step back a few weeks when it came to writing. I have still been doing things behind the scenes, but these last few weeks I had the heartbreaking honor to care for my grandparents as they ascended to Heaven.

These last twelve months have truly crushed my heart and soul, so bear with me as I continue to grow and adjust. I could lie and add heal right here, but who heals after losing a loved one? No one. I have lost five loved one in death. My cousin who was killed in a horrible car accident to my little sister being murdered. The other three, were my last grandparents.

I now, have no grandparents…

Within all of that, I was betrayed by someone who was supposed to my partner in life.

So, to say I am broken, would be an understatement. Yet, in the same breath, I can say that I have never felt stronger.

My last two grandparents were Grady and Mary Stone. They both had been having medical issues for several months prior to Christmas. The day my grandfather Kegley passed away (December 22, 2021), was the same day my grandma, was taken to the emergency room, again. Fast-forward several emergency room trips, lots of hospital stays, rehab places, they finally chose to come live with my mother. At this point, we had months, even years left with them… but they faded faster than we could imagine. My grandpa Stone, was placed back in the hospital on April 27, 2022 and we found out that he now has kidney failure (also had heart and liver failure). He chose not to fight and to live the rest of his time home with us.

I will tell you, I had some of the most heartbreaking conversations with him during this time. He would always tell me to grab a pen, and what that meant, was he was about to give instructions. He always gave me a to-do list, things to bring him, but this time it was different. He started to tell me where his life insurance was, where the burial information is, his discharge paperwork from the Marines. He was giving me, his final wishes. I wish like hell I could say I handled this with ease, but I couldn’t. I tried to hide the tears, but I couldn’t. My grandpa allowed me to cry, not once saying, don’t cry for me. Just as I saw a tear from him but did not say a word either. We knew what was coming. I have always trusted him with my life. I ran to him for any and everything, and he is the one who built my faith in God. Now, he is trust me with his. He is entrusting me with his final wishes and his final care physically. He knew, I would be there with him as he took his first breath in Heaven. During this visit, I managed to say: ‘when you meet God, you need to have a talk with Him. Tell Him, that you have this granddaughter Stephanie, who is one of the good ones. A little headstrong and wild, but she’s making her way up here. So, grandpa save me a seat next to you, because I will be there.’ He chuckled and said: ‘Yes ma’am.’

It has always been Grady and Mary, Mom and Grady, or Grandpa and Grandma. They were never apart from one another. So, when my grandpa asked us to tell grandma what was going on we had to prepare her. On April 30, 2022, grandpa was being released to come home, and it was time to tell grandma. I gave her some medication to help calm her nerves and one hour later my mom and I headed to the kitchen. My mom said, ‘okay this is what we are going to say. Grandpa is coming home, and his kidneys are shutting down. He decided that he wanted to spend his last time here, with us, and that he will be coming home today.’ I said: ‘that sounds good to me.’ Then my mom popped back with: ‘good, because you are the one telling her, I can’t.’

I pulled every single ounce of strength that my grandma and mother built into me and took a deep breath as I walked into her room. I told her the most heartbreaking news. She was losing the love of her life. My heart was already broken, but giving her that news, broke all over again for her. She is losing her soulmate...

The next day was Sunday, and we had my grandma in the living room with us and grandpa was in his room. The house was filled with family and hospice members. We were getting grandpas end of life care set up and the Chaplin came over to talk to my grandma. I pulled up a chair to the right of her and held her hand as he asked her questions. Some she could remember, others I would help her answer. However, the conversation switched to her family and not once did she have issues remembering anything. She was proud of the girls that she raised. The strength they learned from her. She turned to me and said she had to be extra hard on me, so I could build their strength too. I was rotten, not once was she hard on me, but she did have a big hand in how strong I became. She ended that conversation with two things. One, her family sticks together. She motioned around and said: ‘see.’ We had 7 women and 3 men in the house that day, along with everyone from the hospice team. This is normal for us. The second to last thing, is that she is ready for more grandchildren. As she turned and stared straight into my soul. I was shocked, and my face showed it because the Chaplin cracked up laughing, and I just answered, ‘yes ma’am.’

That day, was the last day she was out of her bed…

I would come over daily to help care for my grandparents, but there was a day that my aunt was just there by herself, and my grandpa needed help. He wanted me. I live two miles away, so I hopped in my car and took off. I got there and helped him with what he needed and as I was tucking him back into bed, he said something that changed everything. He said: “You and your mother are the two people I can depend on. When I need anything, you two do it for me. I just have to call, and ya’ll come running, thank you!” That is the moment, where I decided to pack a bag and stay at my mom’s house.

I had grandpa.

I was not leaving his side until he took that last first breath. These last moments are some that I will treasure the rest of my life. The next day, he had a burst of energy and wanted to get his hair cut, beard trimmed and shaved. I was in talking to grandma when my mom came in laughing and frazzled. She said “welp, he is ready for a haircut and trim and the nurse aid is running late, I guess we need to do it.” I told her that I had it. So, we placed bed pads around him in bed and I got to cutting. All was well, until I got the too the razor blade shaving part. Whew boy, that part made me nervous. My mom and I were both terrified of me cutting him. It took a bit, but I did it, with one nick that did not even bleed. The entire time, he leaned back with his eyes closed enjoying being pampered. I took bathing cloths and cleaned him up and asked if he would like lotion. He nodded yes. This is where I lost it. His eyes were closed, as I rubbed it over every crease, bone, and wrinkle on his face. He was beautiful. I rubbed it on his arms and hands as well and thought: ‘I wonder if this is what they felt when they did this to Jesus?’ Silent tears fail, as I knew I did not have much more time left with my own Savior.

My grandfather.

As my grandfather got closer and closer to Heaven, my grandmothers health declined more and more. Each day her timeline changed. It went from a year, to several months, to a couple of months, and the day before she passed, we were told a couple of weeks. It did not make any sense to us and if left our hospice nurse Ashley baffled. She has never seen anything like it.

On May 7, 2022 at 9:15pm my grandfather entered Heaven.

I kid you not, the moment he did, my grandmother who was in a coma state let out a gasp. Her vitals went crazy, and we were running between the two of them. We genuinely thought that she was going to pass away that moment too… We all said to her: “if you see Grady, it’s okay to grab on to his hand and go with him.”

My grandmother was a very strong and sometimes stubborn woman. Where she would say something and I would always jake and say: “oooo, grandpa get her.” He would always laugh and say to my grandmother “yes, sweetheart,” “okay, sweetheart.” He never engaged her when she got like that. He was the only one who could simmer her down. But that night, I truly believe that she saw my grandfather, and the only reason why she did not go with him that moment, is because he had to get an ear full from her first. I feel like she said something along the lines of: “Grady Ray, I know you did not just die without me. You could not wait for me?”

My grandmother made it through the night and that Mother’s Day morning we spent time right next to her. My daughter gave her grandmother a brownie and placed it in her hand. My daughter would always sneak sweet treats to our grandma. As my mom was checking her oxygen level, I was fixing her hair and noticed some dry skin on her face. So that same lotion I rubbed on grandpa, just days ago, I grabbed to rub on her. I outlined her beautiful face; she did not have many wrinkles and I now see where we get the soft skin from. I also rubbed her arms and hands too… it was another one of those moments where tears fell and I was filled with honor being able to do such a little act. We were supposed to have so much more time with her, but the last thing that she said to Emme and I was ‘I love you!’ before she entered that coma state.

15 hours after my grandfather died…

My grandmother took ahold of my grandfather’s hand at 12:15pm as he led her to Jesus.

My mother just lost her mother on Mother’s Day.

The disbelief is still in me. I often think: ‘did this really just happen? How did this happen?’

I tried so hard, to hold back tears, to be strong for my mother. To see my mom just sit there with her hand on her mother… it is something that is so beautifully soul shattering. I stood back watching the two of them and silently cried. The sunlight was coming through the window perfectly and lit my mother and grandmother up. I knew she was there.

I sent a text to my family, to get over here now (they were at my grandparents), and in a matter of minutes my aunts came through the door. I will never forget the pain and heartbreak my aunt Denise let out when she saw her momma gone. She yelled out: “Mom, oh God mom, nooo…” and just cried. I picked up my daughter and held her tight as I watched my aunts surround their mother and cried.

In a matter of 15 hours, they became orphans.

They have no living parents.

I no longer have grandparents.

I had the honor and privilege to help clean and dress both grandparents before they were taken away. I even painted my grandmother’s nails as we waited for the funeral home.

I was the lucky grandchild. My mother was a single mother for a while and during all school breaks I got to hang out with them. They helped raise me into the woman I am today. I built a special bond with grandpa at the age of 17 that only grew deeper until those last moments I had with him. One of those moments, I was able to tell him: ‘you ARE the reason why I will be in Heaven.’ Hell, my daughters middle name, is his middle name if that tells you anything about our bond.

I don’t think I have said ‘I love you,’ and ‘it’s okay, I got you,’ as much as I did during those last moments. I had so many beautiful conversations with my grandmother too. Lots of smart-ass ones as well. When it came to the bossy side of us, grandma took the cake. Then it was my mom, and me. My two aunts are as well, but nothing like grandma was.

She was a force, in the best of ways.

I will never forget my grandma trying to kick me out when she was having chest pain. I busted through the door, and she immediately said: ‘Nope, you go home, I am fine. I am not going anywhere, go back home.’ She knew the woman I was because we are all just like her. If she needed help from a hospital, she was going. I would make her. My mom came shortly after me, so I got to go back to being the sweet caring granddaughter.

My grandma was dealing with extreme all over body pain. When we had to move her, she would cry out and sometimes even cry. We did it gently, we had to so she would not get an infection. But I would hold on to her, rub her, and say “its okay grandma, I have you, you are doing so good- it’s almost over.” She would have moments of panic and confusion, I would try to calm her down, since I know panic attacks all to well. But what pulled her out of those moments was my daughter. Once she saw Emme, it all went away. She would laugh and watch her. It was amazing to witness.

I took on the duty of getting the service and burial planning done for two reasons. First, grandpa told me too. Second, I wanted to take that pain off my aunts and uncles- allowing them to grieve. I will add, they did a lot too, but I tried to ease the pain as much as I could.

This is why I have not been able to post many updates.

I am going to write their love story, because it has touched so many people’s life’s. I will share that here as well.

Grady died at 9:15pm

15 hours later

Mary died at 12:15pm

Favorite verse John 15

True love exists.

Thank you for sticking with me. God, is teaching me and molding me into the person I need to be with all of this pain. Welcome to my journey, we may hit a bump or two, but know I am here.

XO Stephanie

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