On Thursday, February 7, 2019, my grandmother, 91 years old, went to Heaven.
She’d been declining since September after a bad bout with pneumonia. Another round with a sinus infection, a stomach bug, and severe weakness, and her body just gave out.
She’d rallied the weekend before. Got a snazzy new haircut that took about ten years off her face and looked great. She was able to go to church that Sunday and even sang in front of the congregation—one of her favorite things to do.
Monday she was wiped out. Tuesday was worse.
Wednesday something was different.
The evening before she passed, I’d gone to spend the night with her. When the end is imminent, you just know. Somehow.
I cooked up her last meal request (though I wasn’t entirely sure it would be her last at the time). She couldn’t get it down. I offered to take her to the ER and she snapped back, “I can die in my own home better than I can die in a hospital.”
Well, okay then. Passing away in her own home on her own terms had been her wish for many years, a wish she reiterated weekly over the last few months.
And she promised me she wasn’t in any pain.
I helped her get changed for bed, said goodnight for the last time, and stayed with her as she breathed her last breath.
She was in her own bed in her little apartment that she adored. On her own terms.
Thursday morning, the skies over Indiana split open and drowned us. I don’t think Heaven was quite prepared for her grand entrance through the pearly gates.
After the thunder had rattled our utility room lights for the third time, I teased with my son that God was scolding, “Sit down, Lois. I can handle this.” No doubt she was stomping around in a brand new, feel-good, weak-no-more, worry-free existence. And a whopping two hours in, knowing Grandma, she was likely telling God how to run things.
Because Grandma was never short on opinions.
Politics? Want a rundown on everyone in Congress? Need up-to-the-minute status of the world? Just ask her. The Fox News anchors were her second family. (I kid you not, she knew their names, ages, and kids’ names. I can’t even remember how old I am.)
Religion? She’d likely read through the Bible more times than the Pope himself. Maybe all the Popes all put together.
Family? If everyone would just do it her way, we’d all get along better.
Food? Cook it her way. Country style. Liberal with the bacon grease (an aside: how are these old country cooks living into their 90’s eating their weight in bacon grease??). Don’t throw away the leftovers. Not even after they’ve started growing black beards—if you give them a good shave, they’ll be perfectly fine to eat. And to prevent family from tossing perfectly good food, hide them in old butter tubs or cottage cheese containers. (In Grandma’s fridge, you never knew if you were gonna open the margarine, like it said on the container, or be greeted by three-week-old salmon. She once saved my toddler’s grape juice in a sippy cup for the next visit. Bad weather struck and it was a few weeks later. She’d turned the juice into wine and was furious with me because I wouldn’t let him drink it.)
Others’ appearances or preferences? If it popped into her head, it slid out of her mouth. I once had to tell her what I told my kids when they were little: “When we’re in the car with the windows rolled up and the engine running, you can say anything you want to me. But please don’t say it in public!”
No, we were never short on opinions.
Neither was her family ever short on her outpouring of love. Even though she forced six-year-old me to eat scalloped potatoes to get raspberry pie for dessert, but turns out the pie was blackberry because she didn’t have her glasses on, and I despised blackberries. Even though she force-fed nine-year-old me chili when I had the stomach flu and, years later, tried to fry us all fish when my kids were puking. Even though she beat my shins with a broomstick the day the mouse tried to hide behind my legs down in the cellar. Even though she threw hickory nuts at my head. When I asked why, she said she didn’t know I was downhill from her and that those nuts had worm holes in them. Thanks, Grandma.
Over the years, she was one of my biggest supporters in any endeavor, whether something of utmost importance like motherhood or the mundane like trying a new craft. She would be the first in line to cheer and champion me on. I think I could’ve told her that I wanted to sell intergluteal clefts (Do you like that crossword puzzle word? She was a big fan of words…) to plumbers, and she’d be on board with the idea. Probably even buy one herself to show how much she cared.
My writing aspiration was no different. When we were cleaning out her papers, I came across printouts of some of my short stories that I’d given her to read. They were worn out. Some looked like they’d been dropped in a mud puddle. She’d read them and likely passed some of them around to others. “I want more stories,” she’d say. So I’d print off another one or some of my blog posts for her to read.
“I think you’re gonna be an author someday,” she’d said with tears in her eyes.
“I hope so,” I said.
“I know so.”
Thank you for hanging out for a bit. Check back on Mondays for a new blog and the first Friday of every month for a free fictional short, and be sure to visit my Amazon page.