I am very sad to say that my last remaining grandparents is not doing very well. My grandma on my mothers side has been a little frail and failing for months now, and recently it took a turn for the worse. She’s a lovely old woman who cares only about her family. Even in the hospital she says things like ‘I have nothing to complain about because I feel no pain’ and ‘the hospital staff here are wonderful’ and ‘all my family has come to see me, I’m so blessed’. Put bluntly, she’s dying beautifully. In her mind she’s lived a wonderful life, surrounded by wonderful people and loved just enough. She was one of five, who had five children and those children had children, and now even those children have had children. That side of our family is huge and super friendly. It is a great legacy to leave.
I’m reminded of my Nana, who passed away before Christmas. She had an ugly death. I know that sounds cold, but it’s the only way I can put it. She was a horrible person before her stroke, and then the stroke made it so she couldn’t speak and had a hard time moving and taking care of herself. And she took it out on the few members of the family who she hadn’t yet driven away. Visiting her was a chore. You had to work up to it, prepare yourself, and have an escape plan ready in case she was particularly nasty. When she finally passed away, it was with a certain amount of relief. I feel horrible even typing it, but it’s the truth. I miss her, and yes I loved her, but it’s a stress no longer part of life. My grandmother is a totally different story. As she’s aged, she’s made provisions for herself so that she would never have to be a burden on her family. When she began to get old, she signed herself up for a home she liked in the area, and when there was an opening, she moved in. She sold her apartment and made sure she had enough to pay for it herself. Her big family would have supported her, but she always felt it was her role to make sure they were taken care of because she was capable of supporting herself.
As she got older and things became harder, she allowed her children to rally around her, but made sure it was always comfortable for them. All she cared about was seeing everyone.
Dying beautifully must be hard. You’re tired, you’re sick, and yet you still find a way to make sure you’re not harming your family. We visit her in the hospital, and my mother goes more often then maybe she has too, but compared to what we all went through when my Nana passed, it’s almost easy. Sad, but day to day you don’t feel completely drained. My grandmother has aged gracefully, always understanding where she is in life and what could happen. My Nana refused to believe she was getting old, and failed to prepare for anything because ‘it could never happen to her’. Well it did happen to her, and her family suffered. If she had been nicer when she wasn’t sick, it might have been easier to bare, but she wasn’t, and it wasn’t.
There is another difference this time around. When my Nana and Granddad passed, both in the last year and a bit, my father had already been gone for a few years. This time my mother is alive, and I now have a parent who’s losing a parent. It’s a different experience. I’m more worried about my own mother than anyone else. She’s strong, and I know she’s sad, but I want to be there for her. I’m ready to do just about anything to make sure she knows I’m there for her. I wonder how different it would have been for my father if he’d been alive. He’d never had a good relationship with his parents. In fact, he used to pretend he wasn’t home when they came to visit. Would he have been sad? Would he have been relieved? Would he have gone to visit them as often as we visit my grandma?
Losing family is always hard, but one day if I go, I want to go the way my grandmother is. Gracefully. I don’t want my family to think of it as a chore, or to see them tired and drained from trying to deal with the things I could have done myself. My grandma even paid for her funeral plot and headstone years ago. I thought it was morbid at the time, but looking at it now, she’s done everything. When she passes, her family will just have to get together and celebrate her life. That’s what I want. I’m only 29, so there’s really way too much time for me to think about it now, but I will think about it because we never know what’s going to happen.
I’ll end this with saying I love my grandmother. She’s a wonderful person and I’m very sad to know she’ll be gone soon. But what a life she had, and what a wonderful family she’s leaving behind.