On Sept 11, my last remaining grandparent passed away. It was sudden, or as sudden as it can be once you reach the age of 88. My grandmother had been ill for a week, but once she was checked into a local hospital, she seemed to be doing better. Scans revealed a mass in her intestines and a surgery was scheduled. She gave the surgeon what for just prior to going under. Seems he'd mentioned starting surgery at 4p and he didn't show up til after 5. Grandma told him that she didn't appreciate being kept waiting.
The surgery uncovered, along with the mass, a perforation in the small intestine and the doctor told us that he'd removed that section and clean the cavity, but that the nurses would watch for any signs of infection. Grandma was fine that night when my mother and I left the hospital. She'd even made me promise to make my mother go on the trip we'd planned to take the following day.
Fast forward to the following morning-we got a call at 7a, my grandmother had taken a turn for the worse and was not responsive. God in his loving mercy, gave us the time to go to the hospital and say our farewells. Grandma wasn't really there, but her body held on just long enough. As hard as it was on all of us, I am deeply thankful for the chance to say my good bye and to share one last prayer with her as my family gathered.
All that was difficult, but not nearly as wrenching as watching my mother's grief. She is now an orphan. Odd to think of that term applied to a woman in her 60's, but that is how she feels. Her ties to her childhood are gone. There is no mother she can turn to and pour out her thoughts and feelings. No one that loves her in the way only your mother can.
As I struggled to help my mother process all the information being thrown her way, fielding questions, and doing whatever I could to ease her burdens, I was struck with the idea that I'm one step closer to being in that same position.
I've moved into an inner circle. (My father tells me I've become my mother.) It's one we must all enter and it's one we all dread. I am becoming the caregiver to my own parents. Thankfully both are in good health. They are actively enjoying their retirement. Yet now there is this hovering weight. They will decline, either slowly or quickly. They will need me to be involved in their lives, not as a daughter who looks up to her parents and seeks their help and advice, but as one who can help them navigate the new waters they will face as the aging process impacts their daily lives. What this will entail is still just a speculation, but it will happen, and it is closer than I want it to be.
Death comes to each of us. We can put if off as long as possible, do what we can to prevent it, but it will come. What remains then is how we live each day. My grandmother had a full life. She and Grandpa fell in love while she was in high school. Her parents that he was too old for her, but allowed them to correspond. When he enlisted they became pen-pals while he was in Europe during WWII. They even had their own code so she would know where he was. It apparently was good enough to pass through the government censors. They were married 63 years before Grandpa passed and she spent her 69th with him in heaven. They raised 4 children together and when she was crippled with arthritis, Grandpa packed up the family and moved them to Arizona. Grandma visited my family as she could at the various military bases where we lived. She and Grandpa even came to England when we were over there. Oh the stories we still tell about that visit! Six years ago, following the death of Grandpa, she moved here to be with her daughter, my mother. My sister and I loved having her so close. Our children, her great-grandchildren, got to know her and hear she stories. She passed on her love of God to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. As a child, I was blessed to have her teach me how to make real lemonade with the lemons she grew and how to make a good pie crust just by feel. Oh I'm sure at one time there was a recipe, but by the time Grandma taught me to make a pie, she'd perfected the technique so that all she had to do was run her hand through the floor to know how much fat and water to add. She was full of life and spunk! I miss her and feel the loss of her in my life.
I know that who I am is a measure of who she was. Her parenting molded my mother who in turn shaped me. Her influence has been quiet and will be long lasting. The lessons I learned at her side are lessons I've passed on to my own children. I watched her through a child's eyes and loved her. In my adulthood, I learned to see my mother as a woman through her stories. As I age, her example will guide me as I too become a grandmother. (To my children-I won't be ready for at least another 10 years!)
Sheep M 9/29/09