Friday, February 10, 2012

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.



Michael said...

I appreciate the candor of your posting and the courage it took to speak on something so personal. You're a better man for doing it and helping other guys understand that its okay to get emotional like this. Its about feeling and being alive.

Here is a post about my dad who died a few years ago and with the anniversary of his passing coming up, things are starting to feel out of place again. I miss him very much.

My condolences to you and your family. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

Stacy said...

I'm sorry to hear of your loss, Dan.

bobskoot said...


I am also saddened . . . sorry for your loss

Riding the Wet Coast

Trobairitz said...

I too am sorry for your loss. At least she is no longer in pain. Small condolence I know. It is hard to be happy that she lived such a long and full life when you have just lost her.

Take care.

Steve Williams said...

Sorry for your loss. Reading your post reminded me of the circle we are all part of.

Hope the good memories fill you.

bluekat said...

Sorry for you loss Dan, and all the best to you and your family. I think some of us here are tearing up while reading. You're in our thoughts.

Circle Blue said...

May her memory always be for a blessing.

karinajean said...

my love to you and your family, irondad. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

I lost my own Mum last year at age 94. She was in a retirement home for mentally impaired individuals.
And as i was in isolation due to Celulitus on the local hospital could not be with her in her last moments. Have good memories of her Dan, the two of us lived together from 1982 when my Dad passed away at age 62; I am now 65 so you have some idea of the time lines.
The physical body is n longerthere and that physical body with the large brown eyes I miss the most. Unlike the American way of death, my Dad was cremated, and then too my mother. The two urns are with each other in the local stone orchard. Ironically I had had my own stone placed on the west side of their stone some two weeks prior. Figured best work backwards at my age; all I need to do is have the date of my passing recorded.

The photograph of your now decease grandmother beside the family grave was rather poignant; moreso now.

Looking at the headstone she was your grandmother or your wife's grandmother, the surname somehow don't match...

You may well want to look up the following URL:

Lynch is an undertaker in Milford Michigan and his company was profiled on one of the PBS (US) documentaries a year or so ago. Maybe search their website; there was a series of same available on the PBS site.

His writings speak of his profession and his feelings about the passing of family, and members of his community.

You're feeling very sad; life was never meant to be easy; we humans know we shall die, often our pets only have an inkling a short time before. Perhaps this is just as well. May you walk in the footsteps of your grandparents and may you and your family have peace ever more.

It is "us" who are next in line so to speak, to pass into the great beyond.

Charlie6 said...

My condolences on the passing of your Grandmother was good that you were able to be with her at the end.


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

BeemerGirl said...

My condolences. It's only hard for us to say good bye because we are left her bereft of them, they are in a happier place.

Arizona Harley Dude said...

The end of life is never easy, but she, and now you, know you were loved.

Sorry for the families loss Iron Dad. Peace be with yoy.

Allen Madding said...

My friend,

My heart is broken and tears rolling down my face as I read this post. I watched my grandfather struggle through cancer for two years. I empathize with your pain and emotion. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.


Lucky said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Dan.

fasthair said...

Mr Iron Dad: My deepest sympathies Dan. I lost my Grandmother this past summer at 97. She was as much a mother to me as my own mother since she raised me after my mother died at a very young 33.

Now not only do we have a connection through motorcycles but now horses too. I grew up on the farm trading horses and showing them. My mothers head stone has a horse head engraved it in too.

God bless you Mom Iron Dad and peace be with you and your entire family Dan.


Arline said...

Your Grandma is in a better place now. celebrate her life.....appreciate the 92 years she was alive.
My belated condolences