I spent the weekend with my family, sorting through my grandparents’ odds and ends. They actually passed away in Spring 2007…it has been 2 years. At the time, they lived in Palm Springs, CA and we had already spent months with them, caring and supporting them in the last few months of life. It was amazing to see the time and effort my mom and aunt spent with them, giving shots, cleaning them, talking with them.
I remember the day my step-grandpa passed away. He was staying at home and all of us girls were there (my mom, aunt, sisters). He had been having a pretty hard time breathing, and sometimes went whole minutes before gasping for air. It was morning and I went to take a shower. I was almost done when someone ran in and told me that grandpa had died. We spent the morning crying…I’m not really sure who took his body away or when. It was all kind of a blur. My mom must have taken care of those arrangements.
Later on that day, we visited my grandmother in the hospital. She had just been diagnosed with leukemia and had started chemo. We were all dreading the question, “How is Ira doing?” I didn’t know how to answer, and so my mom did.
We had three more weeks with Grandma Cole. In the last few days I stood by her bedside, alone. I didn’t really know what to say. My thoughts went to the people who try to say last words to comatose loved ones, and then to the people who criticize them for trying to get those last words in. What do you say to someone who won’t ever be able to respond? Do they hear you?
We tried going through all of their stuff after they passed away. We managed to do some of the important things, like my grandmother’s jewelry, but in the end it was too overwhelming. We had some friend come and help us stash everything in boxes, left in a storage yard, not forgotten, just put on hold for a while.
It was strange going through everything. So much has happened since everything was packed away. And yet, everything from that Spring came back to me as we studied each item and tried to decide whether to keep it or sell it. We unwraped a box of china that had been stored much longer than everything else…it was still wrapped in paper from 1960. It made me wonder if my grandfather and I share some of the same thoughts and reflections, separated by 50 years. It also made me think about the future…my kids going through my treasures when my life is over.
One thing that I keep going back to is my mother’s strength. Her ability to keep going back for more boxes until the job was done, just like in life…she takes care of the important things, even if they are difficult. Caring for dying parents. Taking care of the body of a loved one. Saying what needs to be said. Opening the door to years of stored memories. My mom is one tough cookie. I hope that I can provide that for my kids. I love you mom, thanks for being you.