Gramma died yesterday. At 2:15 or 2:20 PM, depending on whose email I want to believe. It's a relief to all of the family, because she no longer recognized anyone and couldn't communicate. She, also, had requested some time ago that, should this situation arise, no feeding tube or "heroic efforts" be administered. So, she seems to have passed peacefully. She was 102 years old.
I think , no, I believe that this will help my family to come back together somewhat. Gramma was very popular with everyone, because she made no bones about unconditional love. She practiced it always. A pat on the hand, a hug for no reason other than a hug sounded like a good idea, a place on the couch to sit next to her, constant interest in what was happening in our lives, simple gifts to simply make us smile.
She came from the old school of matriarchs. Her childhood was one of poverty on a farm, scraping by to make ends meet. I've written about the quilt she gave me two years ago. It was made by her mother entirely from scraps of wornout clothing that the family owned. A Mid-Westerner to the core, she knew how to can preserves and preserve cans. She read her Bible diligently and always found something of interest in the passages she must certainly have memorized. She taught me the love of good raspberry jam. She was scrappy and cantankerous, two traits she passed on to her daughter and then to me.
She was a teacher. She was a homemaker. A mother. A wife. A friend. A disciplinarian. And she was a Lady, always and foremost. Manners were paramount, language proper. Dinner was dinner, supper was supper. A little snack in the afternoon was just biding time.
My strongest memory will remain those mornings when she and granddad visited during the summers and stayed in the guest room. I would run out and have breakfast with them, because she would smother raspberry jam on my toast and they would read from the Good News Bible while I looked at the stick figure pictures.
I will also always remember my summer visit to their house in Prairie Du Sac in Wisconsin. Their house was on the river and we would float on innertubes waiting for a boat to go by and create swells. There was a tree swing we played on, but you had to watch out for the concrete barrier where land met water. And there was a very unfriendly goose that would chase you and bite you if you came too close to it...which we did often (maybe more often that coincidence would warrant). I remember my granddad and I digging for grubs to bait hooks with and the painful feeling of being pinched by one. Nasty little buggers.
And I will remember my Gramma sleeping on the overstuffed chair at Beatty's Books in Seattle and the Beattys taking care to ensure that her nap would not be interrupted while my Mom went crazy wandering their store and looking through their entire huge collection of used books.
And her comment that day, "Your mother and her 'organized' outings...".
My Gramma was 102 years old. Her ashes will be buried next to Granddad's and they will be together again forever. And my Granddad is probably saying, "About darned time...what took you so long?".
Being a Lady, she may just reply, "Oh, shove over and bust out the jam".
April 23, 2006.