My grandmother passed away earlier this week. Three weeks ago, she felt fine. She was out, doing what she did best – shopping. Two weeks ago, she became very ill and went to the hospital, where she learned she had stage IV lymphoma throughout her body. We figured we had six months with her. Six days later, she was placed into hospice. She passed away exactly a week later, this past Monday.
After reeling from the news of her cancer, I went into “get things done” mode, juggling a demanding workload at the office and 2.5-hour drives to visit her. This week, it caught up with me. Combined with family drama (her husband can’t figure out how to get along with our family – or really anyone for that matter), the past month has been mentally taxing, to say the least.
I feel lost, disconnected from my life. Not like myself at all. In an attempt to feel like me again, I’m heading to the gym tonight to run and clear my head. I also want to share this about my grandmother. I guess it’s my form of a eulogy:
My grandmother, my Mima, The Mima, as she insisted she be called, was a complex woman. She loved to have fun, to laugh and to spend time with her family. Photos of her eight grandchildren and one great grandchild filled every free surface of her living room. She loved being around people and was a volunteer at her local senior center. Country music played throughout her home and in her car. She was sassy. She swore like a sailor, roller skated around her neighborhood and wore some of the loudest outfits I’ve ever seen. When I went to visit her one summer, she told the sales clerks I was her daughter. I think one time, she even claimed I was her sister.
So it may be surprising to know that she went through much of her life unhappy. She struggled with anxiety and depression and avoided tough decisions and confrontation. She could hold a grudge like no one else. She could be critical and judgmental. She needed someone to take care of her – always – even if it meant marrying someone she didn’t love the second time around. She filled the void with alcohol early in her life, then shopping. Drama followed her everywhere, even after her passing.
All these strengths and flaws made her an amazing person – someone who lit up the room when she entered and demanded attention. I see so much of her – both the good and bad – in myself. Even the little things.
As she slipped into her coma last week, with her finger resting in the ridge of her chin, my mother and aunt both commented, “I do the same thing when I’m thinking.”
I laughed out of recognition. I do that, too.
That’s when I realized that the best way to honor her is to continue embracing those good characteristics of hers that are now mine so that she can live on. The rest doesn’t matter. I hope others who knew her will do the same.