Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Everyone dies

Count back three rows. See the woman on the left holding a baby? That baby is my grandmother. All those other people are relatives of some kind. Distant relatives, but still relatives. And most of them, probably all of them, are dead. Because everyone dies. (Click on the photo to see everyone.)

My grandmother died last year, in May. She was 90.

When I was a kid, a little kid, I lived with her and my grandfather for awhile. They had a dairy farm and some sheep and a few pigs. Chickens, dogs and cats. No horses because my grandfather didn’t like horses. I loved the barn. I loved the smell of the hay and the cows. I loved finding kittens everywhere.

My grandfather died in 1983. My grandmother lived pretty much alone on the farm up until a few months before she died. I say pretty much because my one uncle, her youngest son, lived with her for awhile and when he got married, him and his wife built a house on the property. And when they had a child, grandmother got to babysit.

She never learned to drive. She could grow and can almost anything. She was very smart. She was rarely ever sick. She married my grandfather at age 16 and never even considered getting married again. He was her one true love. From 1983 until 2007, she spent her days thinking about him, waiting for the day when she would see him again. Grandma believed in heaven and all that and I’d like to think that she and grandpa are back together again.

In 2004, grandma started to get old. She said to me once, “Don’t ever get old.” She started falling, couldn’t do stairs very well, had trouble reaching for things. She broke a few bones in some falls, but she came back. I wouldn’t say she bounced back, but she came back and stayed in her home until home alone wasn’t safe anymore.

In 2007 my uncle put my grandmother in an old folk’s home. It wasn’t a bad place, but it was sad. She didn’t like it there. She had no friends. I visited her a few times, but it killed me to see her there. She kept saying, “I just want to go back home.”

In December of that year, my aunt and uncle took her back home for Christmas. I didn’t go. I could have, but I didn’t. The old farm just wasn’t what it used to be. The house had grown old, like grandma. The barn was starting to fall down. My aunt liked horses and there were horses everywhere. Horses in the bottom of my grandfather’s barn. Where the cows used to be.

In February I paid one last visit to my Grandmother. Her once sharp mind was starting to go. She still hated the home and the people and the fact that she was old. When I went to leave I hugged her, told her I loved her and knew I would never see her again.

In April, pneumonia spread throughout the home. A visitor had brought it in. Many of the residents got sick including my grandmother. She was a tough old lady and hated hospitals, but she was very sick and knew she had to go.

She stayed in the hospital for three days. I’m glad it was only three days. My aunt and uncle and cousin were with her. She didn’t die alone. But she died. Everyone dies. She was old and tired and the pneumonia offered her a way out. It was time. I’d like to think my grandfather was there. That he helped her out of bed and up the stairs to heaven. That her legs were strong and her mind was sharp and that she didn’t feel old anymore.

I thought about my grandmother this morning. As I was making the bed and getting ready for work; memories of being a kid on the farm popped into my head. The smell of the farm, grandma in the kitchen baking cookies. Somehow there were always cookies. I thought about her and how tough life must have been. How I should have visited more often.

“Everyone is always so busy,” she used to say. Because everyone was. Too busy to visit, too busy to call.

90 years seems like a long time until someone dies.

This morning it finally hit me. My grandmother is gone.

I don’t believe in heaven or hell or any of that crazy stuff, but grandma did and if the afterlife is nothing more than what we believe, then that is where she is. Back home on the farm. The way it looked when I was a kid. And my grandfather is haying the fields. And grandma is young and strong and in the kitchen. Baking cookies for when the grandkids come to visit.

In the afterlife, I hope I visit grandma a lot more.


  1. I love those old pictures. That's a lovely story, such nice memories.
    My mom is 89 and is now suffering Alzheimers. I gave her a big hug when I last saw her on Jan. 15... probably the last time I'll see her. She's been ready to go for some time, but she's still hanging in there. I hope she manages to die like your grandma... quietly without pain. {hugs}

  2. And hopefully with someone. I think it's sad when people die alone.

  3. my dad is still taking care of her... as much as he's able, so no, she's not alone. But he's not all that top fit, either... he's 85.

    I still enjoy reading your words....