Yesterday was Easter Sunday, always a sad day for me. It’s a day of remembering of the EASTER PASSING of my darling beloved Gramma Pearl, and while most of the Christian world is celebrating Christ’s glorious resurrection….I am fondly thinking about Gramma and the joy that she brought to my life.
It was an Easter Sunday when I was 12 that I came forward to accept Jesus into my heart at the little white church that our family had always attended. I don’t recall ever NOT spending Sunday mornings and evenings at that church with our family and my Grandparents. My Gramma Pearl lived next door to us in our tiny farming town of 40+ homes, and the church was in the next town where my favorite Aunty lived. It was always so much fun to spend Sunday services with my cousins! Anyway, I had always believed in Christ because of the beautiful stories that were a part of my life, as taught to my brothers and I by our Mama and our Gramma. But I’d not yet been baptized, so for several weeks before Easter, my Gramma had been preparing and encouraging me to take that big step! She was so gentle and precious. When the time came for the ‘altar call‘ at church and I was nervous because several pair of eyes were upon me….my wonderful Gramma simply held out her loving hand and actually went with me! That has always left quite a lasting impression on me and is even making me misty-eyed as I write this!
Gramma enjoyed a very happy and fun-filled 3rd marriage. After Nick retired and their big old 2-story house and acreage got to be too much for them to handle, they moved into the nearest larger town, the county seat. They were across from an elementary school, a block from a ball field and a pizza place, and a short distance to anywhere they needed to go. My Mama and stepdad lived there too so Gramma got to see her oldest daughter almost daily and her other daughter a couple of times each week too. Life was good for her. As I journeyed, we wrote very often and I sent lotsa photos. Following my divorce, I moved back to that Hoosier small town and for 4 years, my children adored life with Great-Grandparents and 2 sets of Grandparents constantly being nearby for them at most any event. Since my kids are/were ‘Air Force brats‘ and had moved around A LOT, the 4 years spent there in my hometown gave them a sense of being grounded, of being FROM SOMEPLACE. They really really got to know their grandparents and great-grandparents. This was priceless!
After Nick died, in a few years my Gramma’s health declined to the point that her daughters weren’t able to take care of her. They tried, they really did, but they were unable to lift her so they had to place her into the local nursing home. This is a nice nursing home and my Mama visited her every day. Plus my cousin was a nurse there so Gramma had her own granddaughter to look after her care, and her private bedroom was directly across from the nurse’s station so she and my cousin could make ‘funny faces‘ at each other. This nursing home also has an aviary! Gramma knows all about birds, being the ultimate lover of nature, so this was something that she would converse about with anybody that’d listen! So it really didn’t take too long before my Gramma became the ‘QUEEN BEE‘ around that place! She was well-liked by all: staff, residents, other visitors.
Towards the end, we made a special visit in winter because my Mama told me that Gramma needed to see me and that she wouldn’t be lasting too much longer. I hate cold weather but still, I could not deny my dear Gramma, so we drove overnight to have what we expected to be our last visits with Gramma Pearl. This would indeed be the last visit for my 3 children to have with their Great-Gramma. She was in good spirits when we spent time with her and took our last photos together. After a brief stay with Mama, we left.
When Mama asked me again to come, just a couple of weeks later, I refused her request. I’d said my goodbyes to my dearly cherished grandmother and had been crying several times daily since I’d left her. I did not want to watch her die. I did not want my children to either, nor did I honestly believe that Gramma would want her grandchildren to remember that. So we were gonna wait to return for her funeral. At this point, Mama said that Gramma hadn’t been responsive or opening her eyes at all so probably wouldn’t know if’n I were there or not. Mama and my Aunty were taking turns being by her bedside and chattering, but they did not know whether or not she was aware of them being there. Every other day Mama would call and ask if I were ready to come home yet and I’d say that I would come home for the funeral.
Evidently, I don’t quite remember how it went, but somehow Gramma had asked for me. So shortly before Easter my Mama called and practically begged me to come home because she thought that her mother NEEDED to pass on to heaven but she WANTED me there one last time. There was a different sound in my Mama’s voice that I’d not heard before, or since. Even though I didn’t want to see my Gramma like this, or didn’t even know if we would make it ‘in time‘, the kids and I hurriedly packed and headed to Indiana.
I dropped the kids off at Mama’s house Easter night just as she came home. She was going to bathe and eat before going back to the nursing home but since I was there, she’d be able to take a little more time plus she needed to call my brothers to come soon from Indianapolis and Chicago (she lives between). It was late at night, well past visiting hours, when I walked into the nursing home….but nobody stopped me. Instead, the 2 nurses at the front must’ve known exactly who I was because one of them said, “You’re the one that she’s been waiting for.” And then they both started crying! (I’ll always remember this) I hurried to Gramma’s room and was startled at her appearance! I expected to be, but I am very glad that her eyes were closed. I hugged my Aunty, who was holding her hand and caressing her arm. I kissed Gramma’s cheek and forehead, unclenched her fist so that I could wrap her hand around mine, and told her that I was there. Gramma squeezed my hand and my Aunty smiled, then told me that Gramma won’t open her eyes, and that she hasn’t done so for several days. Well, the women in our family are stubborn and defiant. That includes ME and my only daughter, Mama, Aunty and all 3 of her girls, and it surely started with this beautiful, incredible lady laying beside me because the last thing that she did was to defy what her baby girl had just said that she wouldn’t do! She opened her eyes, barely, but enough to see that it was me standing there beside her smiling at her. She looked at me and I told her that I loved her and that it was all right. She knew what I meant. With a daughter and a granddaughter holding tightly onto her hands, she closed her eyes for the last time that Easter Sunday. My Gramma’s EASTER PASSING has always had a heavy impact upon my heart; not only upon my heart, but also upon my sense of guilt. Did I cause my treasured grandmother extra weeks of discomfort, pain, or unpleasantness just because of my stubborn unwillingness to come home and be present for her death? I did not know that she’d been waiting for me. I will always carry that with me. It bothers me still. But she has a new and glorious body now and I know that she would never ever place any of the blame onto me, even tho I may do so myself. That’s because she always loved me truly and thoroughly, the way I hope to love my grandchildren someday if I have any!
I accept that I am somewhat old-fashioned at times but I truly do not understand why youth these days have such a DEATH FASCINATION. What makes them flock to movies about zombies and underworldly creatures? Why do they long to be scared and then try so hard to make themselves look like they’re half-dead by using makeup and mutilating their bodies and slashing their clothing? Sure, I like a good vampire movie sometimes, but it doesn’t make me leave the movie theater wanting to seek a victim and sink my canine teeth into them to have a drink!
A young cousin died last week, leaving behind her 7-month-old son motherless for her husband to raise. She was playing with her precious child, her only child, and had a sudden heart attack. A couple of hours later her brother came to her house and found her there, and the screaming baby. This baby boy of hers was her ‘miracle baby‘….the child that the family had prayed for a very long time. She’d had many miscarriages until two years ago she gave birth to a little boy that died on the same day that he was born. So when this baby was born healthy, the family rejoiced! My cousin stayed home with her baby boy and I am so very glad that she posted almost-daily photos of him and often of the the two or three of them on Facebook. As it turns out, she packed a lotta loving into 7 short months and the little boy will have plenty of photos.
I was physically unable to travel to Indiana for the funeral. During the middle of the wake, I got a text from a cousin telling me that the body of our cousin looked terrible and that the makeup job was very bad. In her opinion (she’s a medical professional), the body should not been shown in an open casket because it’d been too long since her death. She also mentioned that this particular funeral home hasn’t done good makeup for the past several years. This concerns me because both of our mothers (sisters) have their funerals planned and prepaid at this same place and I doubt if there’s anything that I will be able to do about it when the time comes. I knew that Mama would’ve also gone to this particular wake so I talked to her that evening. She was nearly in tears as she told me how badly our cousin looked laying there in her coffin, and that even though the room was full of about 100 relatives, nobody was lined up to view the body. That’s so sad. Last night I was chatting on Facebook with another cousin, who told me that she stayed for quite awhile but had to leave when kids started taking ‘selfies‘ of themselves with the body. That is MAXIMUM DISRESPECT. My cousin even told me that she was glad that I wasn’t there to see that! I tell you what….if I were, I would’ve grabbed thosed kids and gotten their cellphones and erased those pictures! I don’t understand why their parents would allow that. Or why the funeral home director would allow that. I just told my youngest son about it and he agreed that it’s horrible but that evidently it’s a ‘FAD‘ now to post a photo of oneself on the Internet with a coffin. To me, this is beyond belief!
The photo I’ve posted above is a ‘prop photo op‘ from Universal Studios‘ Halloween Horror Nights. I did not like the thought of one of my kids in a casket, even for fun, so I tried to lighten the mood by putting hearts over her face!
I don’t know how long this DEATH FASCINATION craze will last but I hope I live long enough to see it fade away. Nonetheless, I AM handicapped and don’t know if I’ll die young or live a long time; so I’ve left specific instructions to my children to have my body cremated. Of course, this has been my desire for the past 3 decades and all of my family has known this so it’s well thought out. The only person that would’ve contested it was Daddy but he’s already in heaven. Mama is ok with it and so are the kids and the four of them are currently considered my ‘next-of-kin‘; they all understand my reasonings. My final wishes oughta be respected because they are just that: MY FINAL WISHES! I won’t be asking anything more. Just don’t show my dead body please! I’m a happy and friendly person. I don’t know if I will continue to be so as my illness progresses but I wish to be remembered that way!