Friday, April 06, 2007

In Memoriam: Grandma

My grandmother passed away leaving her struggles behind on Thursday, March 29, 2007 while recovering from heart surgery in our hometown's nursing home. As a family we had been living with what became the year of medical intervention. My dad received a new liver and brand new life this past November and on the very day his transplant procedure took place his mother was hospitalized and remained under medical supervision until her death a few days ago. Do you remember the old Bible verse, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away?" As far as I was concerned, he had some explaining to do regarding the tenet of fundamental fairness. Although Grandma struggled to regain her strength and especially the ability to take full and normal breaths, by all accounts she was well on her way to mending and regaining at least an acceptable quality of life. I got the call about 12:25 am this past Friday morning from my mom and she told me a member of the nursing staff found that Grandma peacefully slipped away shortly before midnight.

Anger manifested itself as my principle response in the days leading up to her funeral. You cannot just "pass away" without permission and certainly not without saying goodbye to me in an acceptable fashion. There were at least five or six games of pinochle and rummy left to play and more laughs about the old days and the old memories before the sun finally slipped below the horizon. I wasn't 100% sure who to blame this tragedy on but by God someone must answer for the sadness inflicted upon the family. My wife, sister, and I packed up and headed back home and joined the rest of our family in preparation for the memorial service. With honor I accepted the opportunity to be a pallbearer at her service and also speak about some memories written down on notebook paper by her grandchildren and others in the family. My cousin Jacob and I took to the podium and read the fond memories in front of the many mourners gathered at the church. About halfway through our presentation it finally hit me.

Grandma never really had an easy time of it. She and her siblings were born and survived on little or less within a landscape of desperate nothingness in what was loosely coined the Sand Creek community. Her father seemed at best to be a roustabout Irishman with a penchant for bootlegging illegal shine. He passed away very early in her life as did an older brother who died while building the Fort Peck Dam during the Great Depression. Even after marrying Grandpa and raising five kids on that dusty hill's sheep ranch in Dawson County, life remained arduous. Snowstorms, sickness, packing water in pales, outhouses on minus 30 degree mornings, milking cows, feeding sheep, wringing laundry, rattlesnakes, drought and five kids does not make a good vacation brochure.

But that is the point. Her children and their children and their children in turn were her life. The strength she possessed and the resolve to carry on even in the worst of times made her life as valuable or more valuable than any oil tycoon, President, or Nobel Prize winner. She is a part of all of us and that twinkle in her eye is the same twinkle I see in my sister's new baby. Life in this world seems no picnic but her constitution and affinity for laughter and family is the core strength passed down for the future generations in our bloodline. The struggles and heartaches come and go but we'll all be together for Christmas this year. Grandma's wisdom came from conquering adversity. Her life was good because she loved and received love in return. She never had money or material possessions but none of that mattered to her in the least. She had her priorities straight and the life lessons learned from analyzing her worldly outlook and the fond memories serves as the basis for living. Laugh in the face of turmoil and pull those close to you even closer. Argue about what is right if you must but leave with a hug and a smile. The coffee will be on when you come back.

I confidently say there is really nothing to be mad about anymore. In her last hours and minutes of peaceful sleep I see a smile pursing her lips as she dreams about the memories of her life and legacy. She watches her twins crawling around in that old farmhouse. Dad and Judy ride Scout and Comanche bareback across the vast expanse of prairie. A young LeRoy chases that old dog down past the weathered granary towards the sheep wagon parked in the tall prairie grasses. I'll miss her greatly but more than anything I need to thank her for the gifts and life lessons imparted on me. I need to learn to pass the gift on as graciously as she did for me.
Until we meet again Grandma......


Aloha said...

you cleaned out my sinuses with that one. I feel like I got to meet you grandma, even though I never really did. Mary

Cheri said...

Loved the tribute! Even though I am one of the "non blood" relatives, she always treated me like one of her own grandkids. The hardest part for me will be goin home and not knowing where the family is congragated. It was alwys her house. I know my Dad will miss her too, although he'll never admit it! She was a life long friend, and always the first one to call him on his birthday (4/11). I'm sure this year was very quiet. Take care, and if you're ever in the big "G" give me a yell.

Anonymous said...


I so enjoyed your tribute to Aunt Margie. She was a fine lady, a loving mother and grandmother. She quietly directed and redirected as needed and always was kind and caring. Thank you for the memories.

Mary Jo Hardy