Grandma Rose

“I wish there was no such thing as dying for people,” Wildling said to me one day. I was concerned to hear that, because I was afraid it meant that she had been listening to some very adult conversations that Will and I had been having regarding his beloved Grandma Rose. I asked Wildling why she was talking about death, and she informed me that her friend Helena’s grandmother had just died. I don’t wish the loss of a grandparent on anyone, but I was relieved because it meant that we were talking abstractly about someone that Wildling herself did not know.

Unfortunately, Grandma Rose passed away the day before Mother’s Day. Part of what hurts about her death is that mentally, she was still there. It was an infection that did her in, one that her body just couldn’t fight anymore. She had become physically weak, but until the pain medication took over, her mind was still present. It wasn’t like my grandmother, who suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s and had any recognizable feature of herself erased by those diseases, nor like my aunt who passed away last summer with her Alzheimer’s keeping her from even knowing she was sick. No, Grandma Rose knew. Will’s aunt told me that when she and her husband arrived at Rose’s bedside, Rose tried to stand up. She recognized that if her sons were coming to town, they were coming to say good-bye, and she knew that if she couldn’t get up, she never would again. And she couldn’t get up.

I think she had known about the end for a long time. Back in September we had a conversation where she, with tears in her eyes, told me “I really wish I could see these girls grow up. I wish I could see what they become.” She was talking about Mellow and Wildling, and watching them with such wistfulness. I didn’t know what to say to that. I knew she wouldn’t make it to their high school graduations, but I hoped she’d at least see them start kindergarten. All I could tell her was that I promised I would take good care of them, and that they would grow up to be amazing.

I didn’t get to see her at the end. Will did, he went to the hospital and visited with her, but I had a cold and a napping baby, so I stayed home. When Rose was released from the hospital into hospice care at Will’s parents, we planned to see her. We were going to bring a meal over for the family, Will’s parents and uncles and aunt, and we were going to say our goodbyes. Will didn’t want to, he said that there was no need to see her, as she wouldn’t even know or understand at that point, but I wanted to do it anyway. I wanted to hold her hand one last time and tell her I loved her and promise that I would always take care of her grandson and great-granddaughters. But I didn’t get the chance to do any of that, because she died that morning, a few hours before we were to head over there.

There wasn’t a memorial service, and it breaks my heart. Grandma Rose was a kind sweet woman, and she was loved. She had paid in advance for her funeral arrangements, and I’m sure that when she did it, she pictured her family coming together, sharing stories and mourning. She must have felt pleasure that she was able to arrange it, so that all we would have to do is show up. But the funeral home has changed hands since then, so the way Will’s mom and uncles decided to interpret the will means that, since the original named funeral home doesn’t exist anymore, they didn’t have to do a memorial. To me, that interpretation is callous and wrong. The new funeral home owners would honor the services that were paid for, but the siblings were just looking for an excuse not to do anything.

Grandma Rose was cremated, and she wanted her ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean, somewhere near San Diego. Her children didn’t intend to honor that either, and discussed just scattering them in a nearby State Park. So next month, when Will and the kids and I head to San Diego for our annual vacation, we will be taking the remains with us. Will will read a poem, because that’s what role he was supposed to fill at the memorial service, and I will read the bible verse that she requested Will’s cousin to read, and we will scatter the ashes in the ocean just as she asked. It’s the least we can do to honor the memory of a very kind woman whom we loved very much.

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