I just returned from a quick trip to Oregon, where I was spending some time with this sweet lady, my paternal grandmother, aka Grandma Evie:
Grandma passed away this morning, quietly and in her sleep. I was there most of the day yesterday and she rested quietly and peacefully nearly the whole day. She was awake and responsive at one point, in which the home health aide asked if she was in any pain, and she clearly shook her head no.
Grandma was in every way the quintessential matriarch of my dad's side of the family. She was raised on a farm, married my grandpa at 18 and then raised three boys. Any mama of three boys has to be a tough cookie (especially if you know my dad and his brothers!) :) I'm sure they gave her a run for her money on their best days.
My grandma wanted to die at home, surrounded by her family, and that is exactly what happened. She was never without a loved one by her side from the moment she decided to stop chemotherapy and start palliative care. Grandpa, her husband of over 60 years was always there, plus a son, daughter-in-law or grandkid.
Seeing the love and dignity she was shown, witnessing the gentle care of my family as they bent over her bed, caressed her hair, kissed her cheek--the sum of these things was enough to fill my heart with such joy and gladness. To know that she was allowed to die at peace, with her loved ones, solidifies my own desires to go that way, if possible. It also showed me just how natural and normal it all is. I'd happily take care of any one of my family members just like that, should they choose this way.
I walked around her house and captured a couple photographs while visiting. She had this large tub of hummingbird syrup in the fridge. I will always remember her love for hummingbirds and the constant hum and movement outside their back window where the feeder hung from the roof. The fact that this is an old peanut butter jar, written on more than once in permanent marker, shows you just what a practical lady she was, not throwing the jar away but using it for months and months in other capacities.
Above is a list she wrote this week, groceries needed, as well as some notes at the bottom about a meal she'd prepared and placed in the freezer ahead of time. Always the caretaker, always thinking ahead, she practically refused help as long as she was up and around, making meals, freezing others, checking in on her next door neighbor, watching out for Grandpa and also his frail older sister, my Aunt Norma.
We will miss her affectionate hugs, all but demanded from her beloved great-grandchildren at each family gathering. We'll remember her delicious homemade pies that were a constant fixture at family dinners, even this past Christmas when she was worn out from chemo. We'll remember her at work in the garden, gloves dirty, legs tanned. We'll remember a house filled with roses, fresh veggies and fruit in the drawer, oreos in the cupboard. We'll remember her no-nonsense advice on matters of grooming (Don't touch those eyebrows! They're perfect!) and sibling relationships (Boys will be boys! Don't let it get to you!)
We will miss her love for golf, her passion for her family, and the love she provided all of us from the time we were born well into adulthood.
Love you Grandma Evie!