My Grandmother died yesterday... My Mother's Mother, my Sweet Grandmother. (She used to call me at work and if someone else answered, or if they had to take a message, she would say to tell me it was my Sweet Grandmother calling.)
She died in her sleep, at home, so there are far worse ways to go. No hospitals, no nursing home, no pain and no suffering. She was 81.
She probably had a stroke or heart failure. She had had a few strokes and a subsequent personality change, so in reality we had lost her a few years back when a harsher, more cunning and petulant version of her made its appearance. The sweet part was harder to see after that. I suppose we have all been mourning her ever since, but now it's really true that she's gone from us in all forms.
We are all a little stunned in that we knew it would happen but we just didn't expect it to be so sudden and without warning -- even though there was a very good chance that it would happen that way. You just don't really know how it's going to hit you even if you sort of know what to expect.
My Mom called me at home Saturday morning to tell me. Delia was being extremely cute and social and so it was even more surreal to hear this bit of news at that moment. She called my brother too and he called me after he'd talked to her. She later told me that he had really fallen apart when she told him, which I didn't expect... When he talked to me he was pretty composed but he did say that he was shocked that it was so sudden and he did sound a bit grief-stricken, which for him is tantamount to a complete breakdown. He's not that free and easy with showing his emotions so when he does lose it it's pretty striking.
Mom and her husband drove out to see Bill (Grandpa, Grandma's husband of twenty years or more) and then stopped off to see us on their way to stop off to see my brother on their way home. She had to count all her ducklings, as Julianna put it... I was about to put the baby down for the night so I was glad that they arrived before that, because Delia smiled at her Grandma and was very charming and adorable which I think probably picked Mom's spirits up a little. She just lost her mother. I don't even want to think about what that must be like. I love my Mom so much, I will never really be ready to say goodbye to her.
I called over to Grandma's house to check in with Bill after I'd heard, and wound up talking to his son Leroy. The coroner had just come and taken Grandma away. Aunt Lea was also there to support Bill. I haven't yet spoken to Bill; Leroy is staying with him a couple of days and Mom and Lea will go with him to the memorial place tomorrow to make arrangements. Grandma had made some arrangements ahead of time, since she knew her days were numbered when she started having these strokes, so it's a matter of ironing out the details I suppose.
Mom and Lea have barely spoken in years, really only communicating recently regarding Grandma after the last stroke, and they haven't seen each other in two years. I myself have not laid eyes on Lea since fall of 1990... I left to study abroad then and by the time I got back, Mom and Lea had had a falling-out which lasted pretty much until two years ago. I was still pretty young and hadn't been in direct communication with Lea up to that point so I just stayed out of it. It's a shame...
I told Mom to call me tomorrow or stop by after she was done at the memorial place. She could probably use some baby time to remind her that life goes on.
Meanwhile I am still pretty grief-stricken myself and choked with regret that I did not get over to see her with the baby. She and Bill had come to see her when she was just a few weeks old, maybe two weeks or so, and I wanted her to see Delia now that she was so much more social and interactive. I had talked to her a couple of weeks ago and said that I would call her the next week and see about getting over there, and then didn't, and then she called a few days before she died and we had a little conversation. She sounded a little vague, a little papery and wispy somehow. I wonder. Mom said she noticed the same thing.
She was a hell of a woman, strong and kind and sweet, and even the personality change couldn't really rob her of all that. She liked nothing more than to be needed and you could always count on her. And she was funny, and liked to meet people, and even going mostly blind with macular degeneration didn't slow her down much.
Go with God, Grandma. See you there. Save me a seat. :)