Months before my grandmother’s death I began writing her eulogy in my head. She was old and slowly deteriorating. Like all living things, she was withering.
She was a strong woman throughout most of my life.
The day of her death I typed that eulogy. Its contents imply that I had intended to share it as a blog post when I wrote it, though this was before I was using Medium on a regular basis and during a time that my non-niche blog was on hiatus. At the time, I decided not to share it — not at her funeral, nor on any web space. No one has seen this tribute. It never occurred to me that I would share it one day, but like many drafts, it lived as a note in Evernote.
This morning while I was in the shower contemplating today’s post — what could I write with limited time and no research? — it occurred to me to share that eulogy as a Mother’s Day tribute. It would be another easy post to publish because I already wrote the content.
Everyone “writes” in the shower, right?
As I lathered and rinsed, I thought up the introduction that I’d type here, but it turns out that all of those thoughts were there already — likely because I did spend so much time writing it in the first place. So, with minimal editing, here is the tribute:
Originally written January 30, 2018- the 5th paragraph is the biggest addition with little bits here and there:
My grandmother died this morning. It’s okay. She would have turned 98 in April.
I often say that when old people die it’s sad and not tragic (unless it’s death by tragedy), but the sad thing isn’t in her death. Her death is somewhat of a relief.
Do you know how celebrity obituaries are written long before celebrities die (or you do now)? This post has been rolling around in my head for months or longer.
I loved my grandmother. I have lots of great memories of her. Her and my grandfather, who died around 1996, were the linchpin of our family on my mother’s side. I spent so much time with them when I was growing up, and I cherish that.
Weekend night sleepovers — staying up late to watch The Loveboat and Fantasy Island. Trips to the amusement park. A visit to Niagara Falls with a ride on The Maid of the Mist. A play at the Stratford Festival that I barely remember. Lots of sabbaths and Jewish holidays. Quality time spent with my cousins at my grandparents’ homes (house, then condo). The swimming pool in the backyard of their house. Watermelon. The swimming pool outside of their condo building, which was never as cool as the one at their house. I don’t see my cousins nearly as often anymore, partly because my grandparents don’t bring us together and partly because everyone is living their adult lives with jobs and kids.
However, my grandmother was in this world for a long time. She was being kept alive by a pacemaker, in her third retirement home with a caregiver that had been looking after her for several years.
Years before that, her driver’s license was revoked.
For several years, when I spoke to her on the phone (which I hadn’t done in a couple of years at least), she’d ask me the same question over and over. At first, it was annoying, but eventually, I decided to answer as if it was the first time she’d asked, practicing patience and empathy.
She had dementia. She was weak. She had no teeth. She couldn’t eat. She’d lost a lot of weight and looked almost skeletal. In the last couple of years (or more) she forgot who was who. She forgot who was alive and who was dead. She’d ask about dead relatives as if they were alive. She’d forget where she was. It’s a typical “elderly person” story.
She had no quality of life. Although she was conscious, she’d been barely alive for a long time, and she wasn’t living.
For at least a year, every time I asked my mother how my grandmother was, she’d update me, and we’d wonder how much longer my grandmother would be with us. My grandmother was always a stubborn woman. She held on.
When our pets get old and sick we “put them down” and say that it’s the “humane” thing to do to end their suffering. We don’t do that with people. Keeping her alive… for what? I’m not sure that my grandmother even had the awareness to know that she was suffering.
As my mother said when she called me this morning: She was a soul in a body.
Her brain and body had mostly given up. She was mobile, but not much.
I told my mother recently that when my grandmother goes, her caregiver — who was practically family — should take a nice vacation.
My grandmother attended my nephew’s wedding last May, accompanied by her caregiver and it was lovely to see her. It was also heart-challenging.
Today feels like any other day for me. I’m glad that my grandmother is at peace. I hold onto the memories of when she lived, and I hope that if I live to be “old”, I don’t hold on past the point when I’m finished what I needed to do in this world. My grandmother finally let go. She was way past her expiration date.