Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bitter {one year ago today…} but Sweet {brownies}

I’ve had a hard time putting this post together.  Not really sure why.  It could possibly have something to do with the fact that today marks the one year anniversary of the day my sweet Grandma passed away.  Today also marks what would have been her 76th birthday. 


Yes, she died on her 75th birthday.  I think it was planned. 

That may sound funny but you’d have to know my grandma.  Besides being loving, caring, happy, carefree, spirited, a phenomenal cook, and overall just amazing… she was also very stubborn.  I don’t mean just a little bit. 

Everyone always believed that she was the type of woman who would live to be 104, at least.  Unfortunately for us, her stubborn ways were no match for the Parkinsons and Alzheimers.  It wasn’t the alzheimers that ended up taking her away, at least not physically.  It was the Parkinsons.  Mentally, the alzheimers was taking over and made her, at times, not seem like Grandma anymore.  However, she was quite witty in that state.  And even hilarious at times. 

I had the privilege while she was sick {along with many cousins and aunts/uncles}, of taking dinner to Grandma and Grandpa at their home once every other week.  It was a huge group effort to keep them both full and keep Grandpa from losing it.  He was Grandma’s main caregiver and often had a hard time.  These mealtimes also gave each of us that helped a chance to spend some quality time with Grandma before she passed.  We knew it was only a matter of time.  The amount of time may have been unknown but it was time we needed to spend with her and we all knew it. 

It got to the point that she had to be fed, like a baby.  She could no longer feed herself. 

Last summer, a nurse and doctor started coming to the home during the day to aid Grandpa in caring for her.  She was getting to the point that she could no longer walk, even with assistance and Grandpa just wasn’t able to do it on his own.  In the evenings, it was a chore to get her to bed on his own.  It became necessary for someone in the family to assist him in changing her and getting her up the stairs.  This task was most often left to my mom or my cousin.  When they were unavailable, Anthony was often called upon to help.  I am a weakling and pretty sure that I would never have been strong enough to do it.  

I will be forever grateful to those people, relatives and otherwise, that helped Grandma during the latter part of her life.

For the last several weeks of her life, she was bedridden.  No one could even touch her without her grimacing in pain and agony.  It was agonizing to watch.  Seeing your SuperWoman grandma in a state like that is heart wrenching. 

A hospital bed was brought to her home and she was confined. 

Around the 8th or 9th of August last year, Grandma had given up.  No matter how hard anyone tried, she just wouldn’t open her eyes.  Her feedings had all but depleted and even when she would eat, it was only a bite or two.  The nurse let us all know that it was only a matter of days.  Usually seven was the max at that point. 

Maybe it was selfish of me but I hoped that I would walk in there the next day and she would be awake, eating and talking.  I knew she could prove them all wrong.  Her communication skills had been… interesting for the past little while.  Often, no one could make sense of what she had just said.  She counted a lot… “One, two, two, two, two, three, three, two, two…” 

There were many times that she would start a sentence but end with the counting.  “I want to… two, two, two…”

It broke my heart that she didn’t believe that she was at home.  No matter how many times we told her, she never believed us.  We were all ‘in on it’ as she would say. 

I must say that I am grateful for the fact that she never forgot who I was.  At least not when I was around.  She did, however, forget my poor grandpa at times.  That broke his heart into a million little pieces.  {He is her second husband… my grandpa P, her first husband, passed away when I was six}

There were times toward the end that I believe she was able to see beyond the veil.  She told me {and other people too} some things that didn’t make sense at the time but as I reflect back, it made perfect sense.  I believe there were many angels {including Grandpa P.} in the living room with her, by her bed. 

I have two favorite ‘beyond the veil’ moments with Grandma.  One of them is when I was holding her hand and trying to talk to her.  She wasn’t looking at me yet but as I spoke she turned toward me.  She smiled then and squeezed my hand just a little tighter and said, “I don’t know why…. I love you!” with a big ol’ smile on her face.  I could have taken offense to the ‘I don’t know why…’ part but I know that’s not how she meant it.  She then looked to my left just slightly {no one was there} and gave a little nod of her head, smirked and said, “She’s mine!”  And then she looked back at me and smiled. 

I’ve never felt more loved!  In that moment, she possessed all the love in the world, just for me!  At least that’s how she made me feel.  I believe she was talking to someone on the other side announcing that I was her granddaughter.  You may think it’s silly, but that’s how I feel.

The other favorite memory is when she looked at me one day when I came for a visit {just before she was bedridden} and told me that she was so sorry.  I couldn’t figure out what she was so sorry about.  She just kept shaking her head in sympathy and saying, “I’m so sorry!”  At first I thought it was just the alzheimers talking.  She often had funny things pop up in her head that made no sense.  But she finally said, “I’m so sorry for what you’re about to go through.  I can’t imagine going through that.” 

At the time this made no sense but I felt the power as she said it.  It was real! 

Grandma, thank you for the warning.  I think I’m living it now.  It’s been rough but we’ll get through this!!  I love you!

Other members of my family have stories similar but I will not write them here.  They are stories for them to tell, not me. 

Anyway, as she neared the end of her life, we all kept holding on to hope that she might wake up again and talk.  It was not meant to be.  After the seven days that we were expecting something to happen, we knew it would be any time. 

Her breaths became very labored.  She was heavily medicated to keep her from feeling so much pain when she had to be rolled from one side to the other to keep from getting bed sores.  It was the only time she showed any sign of life {aside from the labored breathing}, when she would grimace in pain. 

I believe it was the night before our anniversary last year that everyone gathered around her bedside in her living room.  Anyone that could be there was there.  She was going to pass at any moment and we all wanted to say our final good-byes.  Each of us that wanted to took a moment with Grandma, in private, and said our final words to her.  My girls each gave her a kiss as they tried to understand and accept exactly what was happening.  It was hard.  C didn’t want much to do with her.  I think it was a little scary to him.  B was just a baby but held her hand for a brief moment. 

Afterwards, we all gathered and had a meeting of sorts.  It was kind of like a testimony meeting.  People shared their thoughts and love for Grandma.  Told funny stories of better times.  It made us all cry…. and laugh.  How great to be someone so loved, like Grandma, and have your family be able to tell such wonderful stories of your life. 

Anthony and I took our kids home that night, sure that it would be on our anniversary (the 18th) that she would pass.  That would be hard.  It didn’t happen!

The 19th is my aunt’s birthday and we thought for sure it would be that day.  She wouldn’t be able to hold on any longer than that. 

The night of the 19th, we gathered again… with birthday cake!  We figured if she hadn’t passed, we would sing to her on her birthday… the 20th.  As the clock struck midnight, she was still with us.  Her breathing was even more labored than ever before.  It was a solemn time.  To realize that she had made it to her birthday after not eating or drinking anything for almost two whole weeks was baffling!  But everyone was somber. 

I had left Anthony and the kids at home.

Around 12:30 we sang.  It was a very spiritual, and quiet “Happy Birthday” song.  Same words, same tune, different tone.  It was magical!  Grandpa kissed her, told her how much he loved her and cried. 

Everyone was handed a piece of cake.  We ate.  And then I went home. 

Most everyone else stayed. 

After coming home and being in bed for no longer than maybe an hour {if that}, I got the phone call…

Grandma was gone. 

It hit me hard!  I knew it was coming but it still felt like someone had stabbed me in the chest to hear the words. 

I believe she wanted to celebrate her birthday both here on Earth and have another celebration on the other side with loved ones lost long before!  And I’m sure she had quite the reunion with so many people.  Her Ma and Pa, her Mother {who died when my grandma was only 3}, her dad, her sister, my Grandpa P, and many many more. 

Happy Birthday Grandma!  We all miss you so very much.  But we’re all doing alright.  We’re taking care of Grandpa for you.  He’s bought a few new cars since you’ve been gone, trying to ease the pain but he’ll be alright, too.  You take care!  I love you!


But now… on a lighter note! {We like lighter notes, right?}

A few weeks ago, my cousins and I had a Girl’s Night Out at one of their houses.  As I entered her home, I realized she had made what she always calls ‘Grandma’s Brownies’. 

I’ve had them a couple of times when she’s made them but I thought maybe Grandma had made them once and she got the recipe from her.  Never again did Grandma make them.  They’re good so I was excited! 

I was one of the first ones there.  As one of my other cousin’s entered, she looked at the brownies and gasped.  “Are those Grandma’s Brownies?”

Huh, that’s weird.  She knew about them too.  Hmmm….

A third cousin entered and said the same thing.  “Oh, I love Grandma’s Brownies!”

What the heck?  I don’t remember these famous brownies.  Where was I? 

When I informed them that I don’t remember Grandma making these brownies, they were all shocked.  They say that she ‘always’ had a pan of them on her counter. 

So the next day I inquired of my mother.  She also was surprised that I didn’t remember them.  “She always had them out.”

She did?  I remember no such brownies.  I remember pilafi, orange chiffon cake, cinnamon rolls, homemade bread, blt’s, delicious sandwiches, bread pudding, and many other delightful creations but I do not remember brownies. 

My guess?  She hid them from me, knowing that I would eat them all!  She knew me well enough to know that I was a sugar-holic.  Seriously! 

I even asked Anthony… even he remembers “a sheet pan of chocolate cake, not brownies”. 

Yes, they are cake-like but oh-so-delicious!  He refuses to call them brownies. 

Anyway, I’d like to dedicate the posting of this recipe to Grandma. 

We’ll call them the “Hide From Brooke Brownies”.


In a medium bowl, combine the following:

2 c. flour

2 c. sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

Set aside


Bring the following to a boil in a saucepan:

1 c. butter

1 c. water

1/2 c. cocoa


Pour the boiling ingredients into a large mixing bowl and add the flour mixture.  Mix until well combined. 


Add the following:

2 eggs

1/2 c. sour cream {buttermilk may be substituted}

Mix until well combined and pour into sheet pan {large cookie sheet} sprayed with non-stick spray.

Bake at 350* for 20 minutes.

Pull out of oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before starting the icing.


Bring the following to a boil for icing:

1/4 c. butter

1/4 c. cocoa

6 T. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 lb. powdered sugar

Pour over warm brownies as evenly as possible.  Spread gently so as not to ruin the top of the brownies.


Allow to cool completely before cutting.  {In the pic below, I got a little anxious and failed to let the brownies cool.  That’s why the icing is cracked.  If you allow it to cool completely, it will cut very smoothly without cracking.  OOPS!  Do as I say, not as I do!}









Toni said...

Very well said Brooke. I've been close to tears all day. I miss her so much. This put me over the edge it was so well said. Thanks for posting it. She is so proud of all her grandkids. She loved you all so much. I needed this time to reflect and remember her. I've tried to not think to much today. But I needed to. Thanks again, I love you.

Dana said...

Very nice tribute to a wonderful lady. We all miss her so much.

Grandma Bonnie said...

That is a beautiful post. It's hard but good to remember our loved ones.
New follower form the Wild Weekend hop. Hope you stop by for a visit.

Frugal in WV said...

Beautiful post! I love the brownie recipe, it looks delicious! New follower from the wild weekend hop, have a great day!

Amy @MoMomma said...

These look amazing! Please come and link up to my Mommy Monday

Grumpy Grateful Mom said...

I love the name of your brownies! Thanks for sharing about your grandma. A good friend of mine just lost her grandma yesterday and is having a hard time. I"m so glad my grandparents are now pain-free, but it doesn't make me miss them any less. :)

Kim McCallie said...

These brownies look delicious - I love frosted brownies. Thanks for sharing your recipe and your story on Sweet Indulgences Sunday.

Patricia said...

What a wonderful post that honors your grandma. I'm crying as I type this because it hits so close to my heart. I'm glad you have such good memories of her, even if you don't remember her brownies. (hehehe)

Ashton said...

What a sweet post. And it's wonderful that you were all able to be nearby at the end!

These brownies look incredible. I'd love for you to share these at my Sweet Treats Party this weekend! Hope to see you there :)

{Sweet Treats Thursday} Thu-Sun