passing away in November

November 15, 2008

I recently learned that my Grandma (my mom’s mom) is in rapid decline and not expected to live much beyond this weekend.  The first call came from my mom last Tuesday and she said that Grandma had all but stopped eating, was taking over 8 tbs of cough syrup a day to keep off coughing fits and was not expected to make it much beyond Thanksgiving.  My Grandma has Parkinson’s and has been in a slow (sometimes painful to watch) decline for several years now.  However it was just during this past year or so that she began to have noticeable break from reality.  Last Christmas she had another bad spell and some aunts and uncles were thinking that she wouldn’t make it past Easter, but Grandma has a way of defying expectations.  However earlier this week she suffered a stroke and is now barely responsive and in hospice, so it looks like it truly will be only a matter of days.

My Grandma is and always has been the grandparent I connected the most with.  Caring, funny, sweet, gracious and a determined host, my childhood memories are peppered with memories of playing authors with her, eating her pumpkin chocolate cookies with her, helping her in the garden.  In fact one time I remember she hosted a sleepover for my two cousins and I at her house and I have slept many a night under the comforters she made for me.  All of those memories are in many ways not that different then many grandparent/grandchild memories, but the thing was I was just one of Grandma’s 33 grandchildren.  Yet I never felt like just one of the crowd or in anyways less special than an only grandchild.

My mom has already left to join her ten siblings at my Grandma’s bed and on Sunday evening they plan on all gathering together and singing hymns to her.  They did that with my Grandpa when he was passing away over 8 years ago.  Sometime either this weekend or early next week I will get a call that says Grandma has finally passed away and then plans will begin on travel, funeral, family time, etc.

Last night at Taize, I kept finding myself crying.  Like my mom said this week, grief comes in waves and one doesn’t always know what inspires a burst of it.  I will miss my Grandma very much, but in many ways she has been leaving for several years.  It was actually during the trip to PA we made for my Pappy’s funeral (almost exactly 4 years ago), when I first began to see how old and ailing she had become.  But yet her spirit has remained very much her own.  During our family’s visit last Christmas, other warned us that she might not recognize us.  The Parkinson’s had finally begun to kick in and she would occasionally lose touch with reality and request or reference people and things from the past.  Yet when we walked in our room, her joy and recognition of us was immediately evident.  We chatted and took her in her wheelchair on a brief stroll around the grounds of the retirement home.  During the way she called me and each of my brothers to her and had little chats about our lives.  She asked about library school and whether I had started scrapbooking (my Grandma was an avid scrapbooker her entire life) and it was clear to me just as it had been when I was a child that Grandma cared about each and everyone of her 33 grandchildren.


  1. Abby, I hope you find peace in this time of grief. I love you.

  2. This a very sad time for you, but the idea of gathering around a person to sing hymns before she passes away is beautiful and moving – and sort of practical.

    Conversely, in our family we are awaiting a birth, now a few days late, and also increasingly emotional. I wonder how much time we spend in life waiting for phone calls that will tell us of the inevitable, and just feeling that there is so little we can do until it happens. My thoughts are with you.

  3. I’m so glad you have great memories of your grandmother. Both of mine are still living, but I never felt very close with either. I’ll keep praying for you. Love you!

  4. Abby, I am sorry to hear about your grandmother.
    At the same time, I think it’s beautiful all her children are gathered around her, singing – that’s the best way to go, I believe.
    And how great you have such wonderful memories of her!
    My thoughts are with you and your family.

  5. Abby,
    I am so sorry to hear about your Grandma. I know how much that sucks. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Give me a call if you need to.
    Love always,

  6. I love hearing the stories that my cousins recall–thank you for sharing yours. I missed the funerals of two of my other three grandparents, and though it couldn’t be helped, I regret not having had the opportunity to tap into that collective family memory.

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