My grandma died on Saturday. She passed. She left us. She moved on. However one wants to characterize it, she is gone. The woman who fed me pringles and coke as we watched the Love Boat. The woman who awed me with her confidence and devotion. The mother who raised my dad. The great-grandma who laughed with my kids as they jumped into her swimming pool. The friend who traveled all over the world. The faithful servant who took meticulous care of her employer’s accounts for 40 years. Gone.
I spent the last days with her. First at the hospital and then at hospice.
I held her hand at the hospital. All night. She let me know that I was a good grand-daughter and she loved me. I kissed her forehead. I shared my favorite memories with her. She smiled. We held hands in silence. And then she looked at the ceiling and whispered “thank you for everything … and now, goodnight.” She closed her eyes. Something out of a movie, I thought. She said her goodbye and will now go peacefully. It did not play out quite that way. She would fall asleep for a minute and then wake up seemingly irritated that she was still in the hospital room. She was ready to go.
The next day, she moved to hospice. My sis stayed with her the first two nights sleeping on the ground in her sleeping bag. My grandma surprised us and ate oatmeal and drank orange juice in the mornings. I stayed with her Friday night and she was clearly not doing as well as she had been doing in days’ past. I held her hand, nonetheless; she had no problem maintaining her grip around my palm as she slept. When my dad arrived in the morning, I was wiped out. Physically and emotionally. Jon and the kids came down Saturday late morning. Maria stood by her side and told her that she loved her. Mario stared at her and said goodbye. Jon sat in the corner thinking of past times with her. We left to take the kids to my aunt’s house. I got a call from my dad not long after our departure.
“She’s passed, Mary.”
He explained to me that she simply fell asleep and did not wake up. No pomp and circumstance. No fireworks. That is how she was. She did not want anyone to fuss over her. She wanted her independence. She wanted to be the provider for her family. She wanted to reach into her dishwasher and retrieve cookies for her great-grandkids. She wanted to grab a bag of Cheetos from her popcorn tin and give them to me for the ride home. She wanted to have everyone over on Christmas for ham and potatoes. She wanted to love fully and completely.
I surprised myself with my lack of outward emotion at her wake and funeral. I assume I felt like I had to be fairly composed for the kids and the guests. I, after all, am her oldest grand-daughter. I did shed some tears during the mass as the soloist sang “Be Not Afraid”, a song I remember hearing when attending mass with Grandma. Maria and Mario both took their kleenex and wiped under my eyes and my nose. Maria rubbed my back while Mario explained to me that “Grandma was really old” and “you knew she may die, mom. It’s ok. Everyone dies, mom.”
Jon wrapped his arm around me after Communion. My sis gave me a huge kiss during Peace. Jon’s mom hugged me tight before Mass. My dad patted my back and told me he loved me as we stared at Grandma’s casket. Meg made sure I was hanging in. Jack smiled at me as we listened to the priest. Meg’s sisters embraced me at the cemetery. My girlfriends smiled at me as I walked up the church aisle. Love floated everywhere those two days. Grandma would have liked that.