A lot of people will talk about their grandparents in a distant manner - like it's someone they barely know or who they are/were required to see on special occasions. Me? I seriously hit the grandparent lottery. My dad's parents lived about a mile away (as the crow flies) and we saw them almost daily growing up. And we genuinely adored them - they were fun, fun-loving, and dependable. Like a second set of parents.
My mom's parents lived a bit further away (like, 12 miles). Her dad died when I was 10 and since her mom, my Grandma Elliott, didn't drive we didn't see her as often as my dad's mom but that didn't mean she wasn't a huge part of my life, both as I was growing up and when I became a mom myself.
When we lost my dad's mom unexpectedly at the age of 62 (she died during the blizzard of '93), it was maybe the most difficult thing I had gone through. Losing someone that way - it shatters you. Eventually, you put the pieces back together but you are never, ever quite the same.
Watching someone suffer isn't exactly a picnic, either. We went through that with Greg's mom.
But the way my Grandma Elliott left this world - just last month? It was a beautiful thing - if death can ever be described as such. I hesitated to tell this story. One, because it's not really mine to tell and two, well, it might seem a little woo-woo. But her birthday is just a week away and I'm missing her SO much right now. If the story can bring peace to others who have lost a loved one, well, it's worth it.
A little background (I realize this post might get a little long-winded so if you want to get to the important part, feel free to skip ahead): My grandmother was 95 when she passed away and she lived - really LIVED - up until the very end. It's so hard to describe what she was like unless you knew her. Child-like in her excitement over the littlest things - a blooming crocus, a baby's smile, a hummingbird - she was very rarely in a dark mood (unless a Pittsburgh sports team was having a losing season!). She grew up without much and because of that she was SO appreciative of everything she had - and she made sure you knew that YOU should be appreciative, too!
She came from a HUGE family and she was very close to her siblings, most especially her sisters. She talked with them all the time on the phone, although they didn't see each other often. Her older sister, Helen, passed away several years ago and one of her younger sisters, Catherine (who she called Cat), died just last summer. She missed them SO much - it was one of the few times I can say I saw her truly sad (I don't really remember when my grandfather passed).
This is the story of how she died.
At around 3am, she woke up and became a bit agitated. She started yelling for my aunt.
"JoAnn! JoAnn! I can hear! EVERYTHING! I can hear! I don't even have my hearing aids in!"
My aunt got her settled back down and she relaxed a bit. About 20 minutes later she became agitated again. She sat up a bit and was looking towards the bottom of the bed.
"Cat! Cat! It's you, Cat! There you are!"
"Oh, look! Everyone's there! Everyone!"
"It's beautiful. It's SO beautiful! JoAnn! Can you see? It's so beautiful."
"Yeah! Yeah, I wanna come! JoAnn, can you come, too?"
And those were the last words she ever spoke. She was given a shot of morphine and breathed her last the following afternoon, surrounded by her children.
I can't even tell you the amount of peace this gives me. Do we all miss her? Yes. I've never doubted where she was going. But the story of the end, well, it suits. She would have absolutely been excited to get there.