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Laughter and sadness...

My grandmother died last week. She was 90 years old. She'd been preparing for this for a long time - she was ready to go when my grandfather died when I was 13, though she continued to have a vibrant life up until her body started failing her.  Hospice came in July.  Last Sunday she took a sharp turn for the worse. After an agonizing 3 days of increasingly diminished consciousness and increasingly labored breathing, she passed rather peacefully - with a smile on her face, I'm told.  My mom and dad were at her bedside for those last days, singing to her and holding her hand. I think it was therapeutic for my mom (who's dad dropped dead of a heart attack in that same house when she was 17 and who's mom died suddenly in March) to see a long life well lived end in that way. (As an aside, I find it very odd that 3 out of my 4 grandparents died in the same house...)

I spent the whole week debating about asking off to go down, or just waiting. I've been at many bedsides in those last hours and I know how difficult and painful it is to watch that - wondering if each breath is the last, hoping each breath is the last so that your loved one is finally at rest and feeling guilty for thinking that... In the end, selfish or not, I just really didn't want to see her that way. I'd rather keep my memories of her awake and aware... 

She and I had been very close when I was a kiddo.  I spent some of every summer with her, and after my grandfather died I stayed with her whenever she had surgery - a couple of knee replacements, a couple of cataracts, etc.  Those times spent taking care of her influenced my decision to go into medicine.  The last few years between college, med school, and residency I haven't been around much. I think she was hurt by the distance, but I think she came to understand. I found a note I'd written to her after my med school graduation tucked in her Bible.  In the end, I know she knew that I loved her, and that's what counts. 

She always had high expectations for her 5 kids, 11 grandkids, and 15 great-grandkids; but those expectations were always tempered with plenty of love. She was a wise woman, and had lived with my grandfather all over the world. She was also large and in charge - she had scripted her own funeral down to the last detail and left explicit instructions for how everything should be handled after her death. She even left $1000 in an envelope for a celebration dinner for the family after her funeral. 

It was bittersweet to see all the family together, all except for one cousin.  It'd been a very, very long time since I'd seen some of them. We talked and laughed and remembered together. It was nice. Since my dad's the baby, there's something of an age gap between my brother and I and our cousins.  There must be some kind of time dilation at work, 'cause it seems we've caught up!  My grandmother's biggest fear was that the family would fall apart without the matriarch to keep it together, and I think that's a legit fear. We're spread to the four corners. Only time will tell, I suppose. 

Even though it was expected, and I did fully expect her 90th birthday to be her last, it still seems like a shock. Perhaps it's the abrupt stop. You don't realize how you're holding your breath waiting for the other shoe to drop until it finally does...and then you don't know what to do with yourself. I've lost both my grandmothers this year.  That leaves quite a hole...

My brother came back up to Memphis with me for a couple of days this week before heading home to Chicago today. It was a good visit even though I had to work - he and I have always been very close, but I only get to see him once or twice a year.   My parents are still in Alabama working on settling my grandmother's affairs.  And tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I have been invited to my cousin's in AL where my folks will be, and to a friend's house here...I'm not sure I have the energy for the holiday. I just feel wrung out right now.  


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 22nd, 2012 07:30 am (UTC)
I'm sorry for your loss, hon. *hugs*
Dec. 3rd, 2012 02:40 am (UTC)
Thanks so much. *hugs*
Nov. 22nd, 2012 07:44 am (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear that. She sounds like she was an amazing lady.
Dec. 3rd, 2012 02:40 am (UTC)
She was, indeed. Thanks so much.
Nov. 22nd, 2012 02:04 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry for your loss. It did sound like your grandmother's life was well lived.
Dec. 3rd, 2012 02:41 am (UTC)
She did have a full life. Thanks so much for your kind words.
Nov. 22nd, 2012 04:56 pm (UTC)
So sorry to hear the news but it sounds like she had a good life and was strong until near the end...a true matriarch and, as such, I'm sure a dying breed!

D xx
Dec. 3rd, 2012 02:42 am (UTC)
Thanks so much, dear. She was a force to be reckoned with, for sure. :-)
Nov. 22nd, 2012 06:10 pm (UTC)
I am so sorry for your loss--expected or not, it's never easy. And don't second guess yourself--you have to just Ho with your gut, what you think best, and know that no two people will have the same reaction. I am glad you realized that your grandmother, with her experience, probably understood and realized more than you know. And she probably would not have wanted her beloved hrs schools to see her like that either; rather, she'd have wanted you to remember her as you do.
Dec. 3rd, 2012 02:42 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for your kind words. That really means a lot to me. *hugs*
Dec. 3rd, 2012 03:52 am (UTC)
Thanks. I just re-read my comment--I'm sorry, I try not to comment on my phone, and when I do, auto correct does some bizarre things. So my apologies for the gobbledygook. Anyway, I hope you are having a good weekend, and have a great week :-)
Nov. 22nd, 2012 10:15 pm (UTC)
I am so sorry for your loss. My condolences.
Dec. 3rd, 2012 02:43 am (UTC)
Thank you, dear.
Nov. 23rd, 2012 01:07 am (UTC)
I'm sorry for your loss.
Dec. 3rd, 2012 02:43 am (UTC)
Thank you. I truly appreciate it.
Nov. 23rd, 2012 11:16 pm (UTC)
*hugs you tight*
Dec. 3rd, 2012 02:44 am (UTC)
Thanks, dear. Needed that. *hugs*
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 3rd, 2012 02:44 am (UTC)
Thanks so much, darlin'. I really appreciate it. *hugs*
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )