Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In Memory

As some or most of you are probably aware, my grandma passed away the Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving. She had small cell lung cancer. She was diagnosed sometime in June or July, and by the time it was found it had spread to her liver and her brain. She also had a tumor in her throat that eventually caused paralysis of her vocal chords. They gave her 6 - 8 months to live. She only lasted 4 or 5, in part because the doctor she had refused to provide her any sort of hope whatsoever. Now I realize doctors have a job to do, and they are supposed to be honest and inform their patients. But it seems to me that a lot of doctors have crossed over the line to the point they have lost their compassion. She had an appointment with her doctor less than a week before she died. Instead of telling her something as simple and noncommittal as "you're holding your own", he told her that things were just getting worse. It was at that point that she literally gave up. She was so upset that those with her had to carry her from the doctor's office. My understanding is that she didn't get out of bed again.

To me this is a huge travesty. I understand that in all reality there was no hope for her. Her cancer was terminal from the day they diagnosed it. This I get. But haven't these doctors seen enough to know that a little bit of hope, founded or not, can go a very long way in helping the ill? Had her doctor simply given her some small shred of hope, she may have survived to enjoy life a bit longer, and feel like she was going out with a fight. Instead he took that from her, with just one sentence. And to have the woman I knew just give up like that, and lose her will to fight, is a tragedy all in itself.

But, there's no longer anything that can be done about this. She is gone, and I hope someday I will get to meet her again. Her services were held the day after Thanksgiving, giving a very appropriate meaning to Black Friday. She chose to be cremated, her ashes spread in her rose garden, as that is the place she most loved to be. This was difficult for me, as the cremation did not really give me the chance for closure. I have simply had to accept that the last time I saw her, just before Halloween, was my final goodbye to her. Her funeral was a Catholic funeral, preceded by a Rosary. I have to say I was quite disappointed in the funeral. Now I've been to Catholic funerals before, and, let's just say it, they have a tendency to be quite impersonal. I understand, it's part of the religion and the choice of the family. It is what it is. However, this funeral was the least personal of any Catholic funeral I've ever been to. They said little about Grandma herself. The one personal mention of her was the mention of her love of her garden. That's it. The funeral did nothing to help me with the closure I was looking for, because it simply felt to me as if I was attending a church service. Nothing more. So, because I don't feel like her final farewell really did anything to tell those in attendance about my grandma, I'd like to share a few things about her here.

Grandma was not actually my real grandma at all. She was my Dad's stepmother. But, that never stopped me from loving her as if she were mine by blood. She was as much my grandma as she could be, and I loved her as such. Grandma was an amazing woman. Truly amazing. She was so strong, one of the strongest people I've ever known. She was strong in mind, in heart, in will. One of my favorite things about her was something that was also the least favorite thing of others. She had a tendency to tell it like it is. She never hid her feelings from you, and was always upfront and honest. She never talked behind your back, but instead would say what she had to say right to your face. To me this was an endearing quality, since I don't like games and admire people who have the courage to say what they think. Unfortunately, this was something a lot of people didn't like, and the cause for some people to simply not like her.

Grandma was an awesome gardener and an even better cook. It pains me to know that I will never have the opportunity to eat her cabbage rolls, cheese or apple strudel, pateetsa or homemade pickles again. Even if she did give these recipes to someone else before she died, it will never be quite the same. It's difficult to duplicate a recipe when you're being told "oh, now you just add some dill until it looks about right".

Grandma was a faithful Democrat (though we don't fault her for that :-) ) and a faithful Catholic. She worked for the Superintendent of Schools until she retired, and after that went back to school to earn her degree. Unfortunately that was something she wasn't able to finish before her death. Though I have no doubt that given the time, she would have achieved her goal. She shared my taste for tea pots and cross stitch, and her shining moments were when she was discussing a subject she was wholly passionate about. As it turned out, this was something she saw in me as well. My favorite memory of her, though there are many happy memories, is the look of pride upon her face when I stood up at a school board meeting and strongly argued against the forcing of high school students to pay for parking passes. A small thing, to be sure, but the look on her face told me she was as proud of me as if I had taken on the fight to end all fights, and won. She was a wonderful person, taken from us entirely too soon. She will be missed.

Rest now Grandma, and know that you are loved and will be sorely missed. We could never replace you, and you will be remembered.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello. So nice to meet you through your blog.

I like the way you said good-bye here. Says much about your grandma and about you. I bet some of her will live on in you.