As of about three hours ago, I now have no living Grandparents. Grandma Dorah slipped away quietly and peacefully at the nursing home. She was 97 years old. A heartier woman I have never met. Grandma Dorah was a full blood Dane (As was Grandma's husband, Arnie) and was born (if I remember correctly) in 1916. Earlier in my life I attempted to put Grandma's life in perspective. When this great woman was born America west of the Mississippi river was still, largely, untamed. She grew up on the plains. She lived through WWI, WWII, the jet age, the Korean war, the space age, the Vietnam War, the digital age, Both wars in Iraq... She grew up in a good family, married a good man, raised three children, eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. My Mom is, understandably, having a difficult time. Grandma has been deteriorating quite rapidly over the past few years. Having been a woman with a sharp mind, it was easy to tell when things started going south. Grandma was moved into an "assisted living" apartment and then into what, for lack of a more accurate description, a hospital room with her own things in it. It was clear for some time that the writing was on the wall. My Mother, as are most children, has been very distraught seeing her Mother wither away. The only comfort I could give my Mother was the truth. Mom's Dad, my Grandpa Arnie, was a Methodist minister for the majority of his life and some of him is within me. I can't quite recall exactly, but I don't remember Grandpa being the kind to be stereotypical by saying "I'm so sorry for your loss." I have always imagined him saying something that would be comforting and matter-of-fact at the same time. As a minister Grandpa, obviously, performed a great number of funeral services. He was good at his job. He wasn't phony about it either. The man was doing what he was meant to do, and he was good at it. So when Grandma told Mom that she was ready to die I consoled my Mother as best as I knew how. I told Mom that Grandma had led a long and fulfilling life and if she wanted to go, she had every right to do so. 97 years is an awfully long time to be alive. Grandma occasionally had enough clearance of mind to realize she was fading. As my family is much too aware, a long drawn out descent is much too painful for everyone involved. I think most people would agree that a quick death is preferable. My cousin Micky for example. He was taken from us much too soon, but it was quick and he didn't suffer. I miss my Grandma, but I'm also glad that she has finally been released from her pain and is now among the stars. I've accepted Grandma's death though I'm sure it will hit me later, but with the amount of loss our family has experienced I've a different view of it than I did twenty years ago. I'm sure most people go through the same things. Maybe it's the pain we deal with when a loved one dies that ages us more than time does. For me the deviation from what is supposed to happen has been the hardest to deal with. We expect natural progression of the oldest generations of our families to die first. So when things happen out of order, we're hit harder than necessary. I know it hurt Grandma Dorah very much when she had to see her sons-in-law (my Dad and Uncle Mike) and three grandchildren (my brother Mark and cousins Mickey and Orabelle) die before she did. I would guess the premature deaths of these people can be offset by knowing that they were loved by Grandma. Now she's among them. I have so many good memories of my dear Grandma, but maybe I'll tell those stories at another time. Grandma was often heard saying "Oh my stars" Now, she's among her stars.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
John Gillespie Magee Jr.