My grandma passed away recently. She was 102. Yes, you read that correctly – she’d just celebrated her 102nd birthday at the end of July. And even at the end, although she’d shrunk down to 82 pounds, she never, ever looked that old.
We had the privilege of having her live with us for nearly the last year and a half of her life. Oh, it had its challenges, to be sure. In many ways it was like having a toddler in the house again.
Although she remained mostly mentally sharp right up until the end, she required more and more care as she gradually declined. And she sometimes threw a minor tantrum when she didn’t want to have a shower or get up to use the bathroom. I could always make her do those things, but she gave the aides a run for their money many a day.
Every day, several times a day during the last few weeks of her life she would ask me, “Am I beautiful?” and my response was always, “Yes, Nana, you certainly are!” She’s more beautiful now than she could ever have imagined as she basks in the presence of her Lord and Savior, whom she loved!
She had such a sense of humor, all her life, a quick wit, even at 102. More than once in the past few weeks she’d ask me, “Where’s my maid?” to which I replied, “Nana, you don’t have a maid!” and she’d chuckle at her own joke.
She was prone, in the last few months, to repeating herself. “This way? This way? This way?” all the way into the bathroom, with me walking behind her, holding her steady. I’d usually ask her, “What do you think?” and she’d reply, “Yes, this way.”
For a period of several months this year she developed a habit of moaning, sometimes quite loudly. And yet, when you’d look in on her, she had a slight smile on her face while watching her favorite TV shows. I tried everything to get her to stop, when it seemed apparent the moaning was not the result of pain, including posting signs right under the TV, all to no avail. Sometimes I would go in her room, after an especially loud series of moans, and tell her “Nana, you’re moaning!”
Indignantly she’d reply, “No I’m not! I can’t hear anything!” and my response was, “I know, because you don’t have your hearing aids in!!” And she’d laugh.
She would talk to herself, usually while eating. The last few months of her life I fed her her meals in the recliner in her room as it became too exhausting for her to make the relatively short trek to the kitchen. I often had to sit there with her while she ate to remind her to keep taking bites as she’d easily get sidetracked, often by reading (out loud) whatever writing she’d see on the TV at the time.
Finally, slightly exasperated, I told her, “Nana, don’t talk, just eat,” thinking I was solving the problem. She immediately started in, “Don’t talk, just eat, don’t talk, just eat, don’t talk, just eat. . .” Sigh. So much for that idea. . .
I had the enviable privilege of being the first grandchild for both my grandmas, and the only granddaughter for Nana. Thus, I was probably a tad bit spoiled (my brothers would beg to differ with that opinion and call it a LOT spoiled). I spent a lot of time with Nana and Papa, even going to church with them on a regular basis.
She was fond of telling a story of when I was a toddler and had somehow gotten a canister of cleanser (I’ve always wondered how I got it!) and was happily toddling around the house with it tucked under my arm. . .upside down, leaving a trail of cleanser in my wake. When she discovered it, she scolded me by saying, “Cheryl, if you don’t stop right now, Grandma’s going to get cross with you!” I don’t recall shaking in my boots over that threat!
She would remind me that when I was five, she saved my life, and she very likely did. My family was living with her and Papa at that point, in their basement and conditions were crowded, to put it mildly.
My youngest brother was sick (again) with a humidifier running next to his crib. These were the days of boiling water humidifiers, not cool mist ones. My next brother down, 2 ½ years younger than me, and I were being typical children, running and crawling in amongst all the stuff in an effort to entertain ourselves. It was the dead of winter in Minnesota, after all. I remember crawling under the chair the humidifier was sitting on.
I do not remember catching the cord with my foot, but I will always remember the shock of boiling water splashing all over my back and legs. Obviously both me and my mother must have screamed at the same time. The next thing I knew, my grandma had me in the bathtub wrapped in a cold wet sheet and I was bundled off to the hospital where I spent the next 2 months in isolation as burns over my back and legs healed. . .and where I contracted the chicken pox to add interest to the mix.
Nana was special, as nearly all grandmothers are. She loved to laugh, loved to be with family, loved the Lord, loved to serve, and loved people. She had a rough life as a child. Her mother passed away when Nana was 9 and she and her baby sister had to go live with a relative who abused her.
She married young to escape that and was only ever able to have one child, my dad, whom she doted on and told us all many stories about over the years. I think we all have those stories memorized. She had an amazing memory.
She became such an integral part of our lives in the past year and half, more so than at any other time in my life. I didn’t realize just how much until she left us for a far better place. It took me by surprise just how much it affected me to hear she’d peacefully left her earthly body. I miss her so much already.
I keep thinking I need to go in there and get her into bed. Not tonight. Tiger is keeping vigil all by himself while Nana is having the time of her life in her heavenly body – no more sorrow, no more tears!!
She got her one wish – that she not be alone when she passed, and my prayers were answered in that she passed peacefully, and at home. Just simply stopped breathing. The bonus is that she was wearing her favorite PJs, and holding Tiger.
We love you, Nana and we’ll see you someday very soon!