End of an Era.
My grandmother passed away last week at the age of 92. Old age and cancer finally got her down on the ground and in a stranglehold. Her passing marks the end of an era. There are no longer five generations of my lineage alive. It also closed the book on a mother-son relationship.
Look at the photo of my grandfather on the right. He was the original Marlboro Man. There is no posing here. We really did ride, wrangle, and rope. Looking at him pretty much explains my rough and tumble upbringing and way of living.
The only one left alive out of this photo is likely that damned horse on the right. Bud is probably still out there rebelling against anybody trying to ride him. Actually, I'm sure he died long ago but you never know with Devil Horses!
I posted this photo here last Summer. It's a technically bad photo taken with a cheap camera phone. Nonetheless, it speaks volumes to me.
I'm sure she was mostly thinking about Grandpa. On the other hand, she was already ravaged by cancer at this point and had lost her right leg to it. I'm sure she couldn't help but see and contemplate the side of the headstone with her name on it. A beginning date with an ending date yet to be engraved.
Most folks don't want to think about dying. I don't either, to be honest. Yet, I force myself to contemplate my mortality while I can be constructively moved by it. I want to enjoy the assurance now that I value holding my wife and kissing her goodbye or hello. I've made the effort to let good friends know how much I treasure their friendship. I regularly express affection and love to my children.
Grandma was able to be at home until the end. For the last couple of weeks she was confined to a hospital bed in her living room. Caretakers were there 24 hours a day. Hospice was wonderful about providing the needed medications and regular visits from medical staff. There really wasn't any more to do for her except keep her comfortable.
Towards the end she got a bit demanding and seemed unappreciative. It was a lesson to me in love, patience, and empathy. I'm a bit shamed to say that my first reaction ( though stifled ) was irritation. Then I would look at her and think about what she was going through. Love and empathy cover a multitude of transgressions.
I think many people are too quick to judge others. It's easier to brush somebody off or even take grave offense if we can somehow make them out to be deserving of what they are going through. On the other hand, it's hard to know if that shabby looking person approaching us is actually in dire straights or has harmful intentions. Do we show empathy and understanding while trying to help? Or do we take measures to protect ourselves? The world has gotten very complicated, hasn't it?
On Saturday Grandma was pretty normal for where she had gotten to. Saturday night she took a turn for the worse. She refused to eat and seemed a bit "out of it" for lack of a better description. During Sunday Grandma was in and out of consciousness. She was in a lot of pain and we were giving her morphine every half hour under the doctor's blessing. It was this day that holds my last memories of her.
Grandma would sleep for a while until the pain woke her up. She would toss and turn and cry out. I would stand by the bed and take her hand. When she felt me touch her Grandma would open her eyes and see me. The most bright and beautiful smile would cross her face. Then, still holding onto my hand she would go back to sleep.
That is such a powerful memory for me. I find myself, the grizzled road warrior, tearing up a bit writing this. Once upon a time she held the hand of a child to give him comfort and assurance that all would be okay. That child became a man. Now it is his hand offering her comfort and assurance that all will be okay as she faces whatever dark journey awaits her.
By Monday she wasn't waking up at all. Grandma passed away at 12:40 Tuesday morning. Her departure was eerily similar to Grandpa's. He was also unconscious leading up to the end. I heard him take several shuddering breaths and then there were no more. Grandma did the exact same thing. There's that moment when the conflicted feelings hit at once. So sad to see the end of someone dear to you. Relieved to know the tremendous pain and suffering are over for them.
Thank you for all the love you've given me and for all you've done to help me turn out the best I could be. Your body may no longer be with us but you will always live as long as we can treasure your memory.
Have fun with Grandpa at the ranch. Give him my love when you see him.