Tuesday, August 17, 2010

You Say Goodbye

My Grandma Dorothy Martin died on Sunday morning. She was 91, vivacious, feisty, and giggling almost to the end. The last year was a rougher one for her, which seems to be the universe’s way of alleviating the grief of those left behind. No more suffering.

It'll take a long time to get used to the idea that I’ll never get to see her laugh again. For the last 30 years of my life, she’s always been … there. So much love and support, such a wonderful sense of humor. I’m glad I have a dash of hoarding in me because I’ve saved many of the cards she’s sent me over the years.

(Which makes me think of Grandma saving bushels of plastic bags, which exploded hilariously from her unused dishwasher when you’d open it.)

We arrived at her residence home Sunday prepared to say our final good-byes. She’d been with hospice volunteers for days, fading fast. Still, I wasn’t prepared for how tiny and withered she seemed in her gown, for the rattling in her breath. Once a blooming flower, red and lush and fragrant, dancing in the slightest sunny breeze, now a fragile autumn leaf.

I sat next to her and stroked her hair. “Hi Grandma.” It was all I could croak out. Her eyelids fluttered. Somewhat restless, she seemed to be trying to speak, but maybe it was just her body preparing to go (or trying to hold on?).

I came to say good-bye, and I said hello. Is that what the Beatles were getting at? I like to think that in her final hour, oxygen and morphine sanding the rough edges from the pain, maybe she interpreted my words as coming from a loved one who died before her, welcoming her to the afterlife. Perhaps her beloved daughter Lynda.

She died while I was watching my darling 3 year-old nephew in the day room. He didn’t seem to understand what was happening in the other room, but he was understandably averse to spending his free time with a bunch of mopey grown-ups. We built a Lincoln Log house and tossed giant sponge dice around. I felt guilty for gently shushing him, for not visiting Grandma more often, for not thinking of anything comforting or interesting to say to the other ancient residents hunched over their well-balanced, bland meals next to us.

Grandma died surrounded by family and loved ones, my Dad holding his Mom’s hand as her pulse slowed and finally flickered out.

There are worse ways to go, I comfort myself and rationalize. A long, fruitful life, we can’t live forever, surrounded by loved ones in those waning minutes

Still, I'll miss the heck out of her.

I don't know what she's laughing at here, but I love this picture. The towel is draped behind her because minutes earlier, she'd spilled that classy juice glass of boxed white zinfandel all down her pants. Seconds later, her glass refilled, she was good as new.


  1. Penny9:25 PM

    I'm so sorry about your grandma. This was a very touching entry to your blog, as sad as it is to have to write it. She sounds like she was an amazing woman....quite possibly what you will be like in more than a few years. Hold tight to the memories.

  2. Jess, I'm so sorry to hear this, just went through it myself. I hope you can bring some of your grandma to us through your wonderful characters. Can't wait to see some old pics of the two of you together. How is your dad holding up? xoxox

  3. Sadie8:55 AM

    This entry was a smile through tears for me. I am a little saddened that it takes Grandma's passing to bring us together to reminisce. (we will have to work on that...) I am, however, looking forward to the silly stories of Gram that we can share today :).

  4. So sorry to hear about your grandmother, Jess. She sounds like a blast.

  5. It sounds like she was a super lady - I'm sorry for your loss.

  6. Gram sounds like she was a class act and I have a sense there is more than a bit of her in you. I can think of few things I would rather have people say about me when I go then I laughed a lot and I made them laugh.

    You take care

  7. Jess... you have me crying... I'm so sorry.

    I'm happy you knew her like you did... I'm happy for both of you. I have no doubt, that you were a light for each other... and somehow, still are.

    Just know that I'm thinking of you... sending you love the biggest hug around.

  8. OH, and knowing the history of that photo?

    Priceless. Thank you for sharing that. :)

  9. Jess, what a lovely tribute to your grandma! What a great pic, too. When my grandmother passed years ago, she had been sick for awhile as well. It was hard to let go, and I still miss her. But I have such fond memories. When my family is together, we bring up the funny stuff (like your grandma's dishwasher exploding with plastic bags!), and we laugh a lot. Memories are a good, good thing. Hope you are doing okay. It's never easy to lose someone you love.

  10. So sorry for your loss.

  11. Enjoy of a story of Eastern peoples
    i am happy of see your web

    I’m a children’s writer from iran

    “math city” story

    a part of story:

    Warning: Warning:

    To all honorable numbers of the city:

    Be aware that a minus called “lying line” is turning around the city.
    Stay away from him. You will change to zero if he sees you, and as you
    know, to become zero is as equal your death. This minus is armed with
    some cold and hot weapons, sharp knife and full armed gun.

    continue story in my web:


  12. You have my sympathies - so sorry.

    Also, ahmad? You DRTFA, did you?

  13. I'm not a children's writer from Iran.

    Very sorry about your grandma. 91 is a great big, lovely number. Same age my grampa was when he passed.