On my grandmothers

Today is the sixth anniversary of the death of my maternal grandmother. She would have turned 90 last spring. Sunday the 11th would have been her wedding anniversary. What's more, her mother (my great-grandma) died on Valentine's Day one year, and less than a year later my great-grandfather died the following February 12th. So this is a tough week for my mom.

As the pain of her death has passed, I fear it may not be long before my paternal grandmother leaves us too.

On a Thursday night a couple weeks ago (I don't have classes on Friday) I went home to Kentwood for a three-day weekend. That Friday afternoon I went to my grandmother's condo because she had fallen and needed someone to help her up. (She has one of those CareLink buttons that someone can push for help when they fall. CareLink called my Dad, but he was the only person at his place, so he couldn't go; instead he called me.)

While I was at Grandma's, a sad truth dawned on me: She can't be with us forever. At some point, my grandmother whom I love so much will pass from this earth - as have my other three grandparents, and as we all will.

This past weekend I went home again. On Sunday, Dad and I decided to stop by grandma's to say goodbye and to tell her that I'd be home in three weeks. Lying in her bed, she took my hand and, in a frail tone, said "I love you." I responded, "I love you too." I recalled my mother telling me those were the words she used to finish what turned out to be her last conversation with her 'Daddy' nore than two decades ago.

On our way back to Mount Pleasant, Dad told me that it will be more of a blessing for her as well as for us when Grandma goes. For her, she will be happy in Heaven, free from worldly pain and suffering. For us, a burden will be lifted from our shoulders - especially my dad's - for we will no longer have to care for her; God will care for her as only He can.

This is quite hard for me. As I said before, Grandma is my last surviving grandparent. My maternal grandfather died two years before I was born, not even seventy years old. The death of his widow six years ago at age 84 was my first experience with the loss of a family member (other than pets). Then my paternal grandfather unexpectedly left us in April 2004 a few weeks after his 81st birthday.

Soon after 'Poppa' died, Grandma's health began to deteriorate (likely due to the emotion of losing a husband of 58 years). She needed help, and the man who helped her so much for so many years was suddenly gone. So my dad has had to fill in the past three years to help her. We had basically no choice but to take her to a nursing home, where she stayed for eight months.

Last week Grandma turned 83, having been nursing-home-free for two years. Incidentally, she was born on Ronald Reagan's 13th birthday, and Congressman Vern Ehlers was born on her tenth birthday.

For all I know, Grandma could be like Pope John Paul II: Just when people thought Pope John Paul was about to pass away, he stuck around for a couple more years. Something similar happened with columnist Art Buchwald, who was 'supposed' to have died last year but held on until last month. Or maybe Grandma's time is imminent. As far as I know, hospice care hasn't entered the picture yet.

When the time comes... whenever that is... I will surely let you know. Grandma has told me not to feel sad when she goes, because she will be back with Poppa in Heaven. My family and I will still need your thoughts and prayers, of course. In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers go out to all of you who have dealt with loss recently.

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