In Loving Memory
6/2011) A month ago, I realized that while getting there could potentially be messy, death itself is a peaceful process. My grandmother, called Memaw by her granddaughters, had been slipping away over the
past few months.
On Wednesday, April 14, my mother decided to go down to Memaw’s house early the next day, leaving our house at three a.m., as it was becoming obvious that Memaw was not going to be around for much longer.
At 2:15 Thursday morning, Mom received a phone call from one of her sisters, asking her when she was planning on leaving. Mom said she was going out the door in 45 minutes. Her sister asked if Mom could
leave in 15 minutes.
At 2:25 on Thursday, Mom used the listen-or-you-will-die voice to me to make sure I would be up and conscious enough to make a decision. She asked if I wanted to go with her to visit Memaw or if I wanted
to stay behind.
At 2:27 I was out and waiting in the car with a backpack, a cell phone and a charger. At 2:30 we were leaving Brookfield to make a fast, tense and desperate four-hour drive. Being 2:30 in the morning, I
do not remember the entire ride down. I know at 3:50 we were stopped because of a highway-closing accident, and we were scared that we would not be able to pass.
A sheriff working on the scene of the accident gave us an alternate route when my Mom pulled up and explained she needed to get to Chance, Md. as fast as possible.
At 5:30 we stopped in Cambridge for a caffeinated drink and gas. The stop took less than 10 minutes. After that stop, we had an hour of driving left.
The last leg of the journey to Memaw’s involves driving through the wetlands, a drive that normally takes 40 minutes; Mom made it 20.
We pulled up to Memaw’s house at 6:30 a.m. Exhausted (more so on mom’s part), but glad we had made it down with no phone calls (at that point no news meant good news), we entered the house.
Memaw was on a hospital-like bed and hooked up to an oxygen tank with different medications on a table next to the bed.
My Aunt Midge, the one who had called earlier, was asleep in a chair by Memaw’s side, ready to be awoken at any second.
Aunt Joyce was asleep in one of the bedrooms. Aunt Sue-Kay was up and moving, looking frazzled and careworn, but glad we had made it. At that point in time I disappeared into the bathroom to take 10
minutes to compose myself. When I came back out, Sue-Kay and Mom were waking Aunt Midge up, and we got the story behind the 2:15 phone call.
Aunt Midge had been woken up at two in the morning by Memaw’s mumbling. Memaw was waving to people only she could see. Her feet were treading, walking on a road only she could see.
We believe that she was seeing old friends, her husband, her faithful dogs, Chessie and Blackie.
Midge said she was pleading (arguing) with Memaw’s guardian angel saying, "We know you want her, but you can’t have her. Not yet. Mary isn’t down here yet, and she needs to see Mom."
At seven, we woke up Memaw and managed to give her some pain medication. To keep it down, Memaw had to eat or drink something. All five of us, Midge, Sue-Kay, Joyce, Mom and I worked at different
intervals to get her to eat something. The whole ordeal took over an hour for a few ounces of a health drink. Memaw spoke for the last time that day, announcing, "I’m done." Fifteen minutes later, just her physical shell was
left of her.
It was 8:23 in the morning on April 15.
Four days later was Memaw’s funeral. It was the second time I had seen all the other grandchildren and sisters and uncles in the same place.
Besides immediate family, we had our great aunt and a few second cousins attend; people Memaw had made friends with; her neighbors; and people from the American Legion she was part of.
The sisters, my aunts and mother had decided they wanted the grandchildren to speak at the funeral. We had small speeches prepared about funny things Memaw had caused, or how we remember her.
I made a few semi-funny jokes about things Memaw probably would have laughed at ("we did everything together, except for driving. She never did let me drive her car…"), then talked about how summers I
would go and stay with her for two weeks.
That was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, but I know Memaw would not have wanted to live the way she was in her last days. She lived for a long time and was ready to go on to the next life.
Memaw and I were close. I know I never would have believed Mom if she had told me that Memaw’s death was peaceful. It was something I needed to, and did, see for myself.
Gertrude Edith Ulrich
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