Grandma always made you feel she had been waiting to see just you all day and now the day was complete. ~Marcy DeMaree
My Grandma died this evening. She was 87 years old and lived a full life. I know that she loved her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren with all her heart and we loved her. She worked hard and loved life.
She was born in 1925 in Hawthorne, California, married my Grandpa in 1943 in South Gate, California, and together the two of them had three children (Uncle Raymond, my mom, and Uncle Ken). My Grandparents lived around the United States and traveled the world instilling the sense of traveling on their children.
My Grandma’s death is sad, not just because of her passing, but because she was the last of my grandparents to die. I’m out. 4 for 4. My dad’s parents died in 1982/1983 and I don’t have many memories of them. My Grandpa (Mom’s Dad) passed away in 2003 and between the two of them I have most of my memories. Actually, when I think of all the times with Grandma and Grandpa it’s difficult to think of one without the other.
I’m fortunate to have been able to see her in her final 2 weeks. When she was first diagnosed with cancer in September the doctors gave her 6-8 months to live. A week or so later that changed to 4-6 months. Then in the last week of September she was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer (I don’t know the name) and her health declined quickly. The cancer spread to her lungs, stomach, and other internal organs. She was having difficulty breathing as fluid filled her lungs.
Upon hearing the news of her declining health, I didn’t hesitate and bought two plane tickets on September 24 for Laura and myself and arrived in Los Angeles the morning of Thursday, September 27. We saw her three times for about 3.5 hours over the course of the next three days.
On our first visit she was alert and talked with the family present in the room. It was late evening and after about an hour it was time for us to go as she was showing signs of fatigue.
We came the next day in the early afternoon for about 2.5 hours. She was alert, kind of uncomfortable, and conversing with all of us. My Mom brought out photo albums that allowed my Grandma to reminisce about her life experiences. It was nice and focused the attention from her illness to just good times.
Our last visit was on Saturday afternoon around 1:30pm. We had just arrived to her place, along with my Mom, brother Mark, brother Mike and his family, when a minute later the fire crew came knocking at the door. My Uncle Raymond, who was staying with her and Tom (Grandma’s husband for the past 6 years), had called 911 due to the difficulty breathing my Grandma was having. I saw her for just a very few minutes. She looked peaceful, not complaining, and giving me a smile on occasion as I looked at her sitting in her wheelchair from the room next door. Before she was wheeled away in the gurney, I walked over to her to just hold her hand, smile, and tell her that we’re thinking of her. It was the last time I saw her.
Laura and my visit was short, too short, when I look back. But, I can’t change anything and I’m content. My very few hours with her will always be remembered.
My Grandma means a lot to me. Growing up, my family made the 6-hour drive to southern California many times a year or my grandparents drove up to see us. Since moving away from San Jose in 2001 I’ve still been able to see her at least every year. In between our visits, we’ve talked on the phone, posted photos to her Ceiva photo frame account, and Laura has been awesome in sending recent photos of great-grandchildren or drawings from the kids to my Grandma. I’d like to think we did our best to stay in touch.
A few of the memories from my childhood and adult life are….
- Who was there on the receiving end of my first solo airplane ride when I flew San Jose to Los Angeles as a kid? My grandparents who after picking me up at the airport took me to McDonald’s for a 6-piece Chicken McNuggets.
- Who mistakenly took my brother Mark and I to a drag and topless show in South Lake Tahoe in the early 90s? Oh yeah… grandparents for the win! This one just makes me smile at the innocence of it all.
- Who provided the great condo on Catalina Island so my cousins, aunts, uncles, family, and friends could congregate there every summer to create long-lasting memories? My grandparents did.
- Who had the cool RV for traveling the country? Yep, my grandparents.
- Who came out to my band’s first punk rock show in Orange County despite being at least twice the age of the next oldest person in the crowd? My grandparents!
- First sleeping bag? Grandparents…and I still have it.
- First toolbox? Grandparents….and I still use it.
- First visit to Medieval Times? Grandparents…and I look forward to taking my kids.
- Who pulls off the best “I farted, but don’t even know it” Grandma farts? Grandma!
- Who took me on my only cruise? They did. They also had the joy to watch me play a drum solo in the talent show.
- Who is synonymous with Christmas in California? My grandparents because they were part of just about every Christmas I had growing up.
These are just a few of the experiences that remain close to my heart or make me laugh. When I think of her there are no bad memories, just good ones. She was supportive of all my endeavors and curious as to each step of my life. That’s important to me because it always demonstrated unconditional support from her.
Thanks for everything Grandma. I love you!
Grandmas hold our tiny hands for just a little while but our hearts forever. ~Author Unknown