The last couple years have hit me pretty hard with deaths in my family. I had never really thought about death. It seemed like everyone in my family lived a long life. My great-great grandmother died at 93, when I was five years old. My great grandmother passed at 72 when I was ten. Her death was hard, as that was where I spent a lot of time as a child. My mom worked and went to school, so it was often me and her after school and during the summer. She called me her “Angel”, a name my great grandfather had given me. But I was still young, so it seemed like I bounced back from her death some what quickly.
In 2007, when my maternal Grandmother Viola went into the hospital, I didn’t think it was nothing but routine. She has some problems breathing, and thought it may be pneumonia. Less than a week later she has passed. Turns out she had lung disease for quite a while and didn’t tell anyone. She never really shared any of her health problems with anyone in the family. Her death was very hard, as she became one the closest persons to me.
My paternal grandmother (Grandma Linda) attended the funeral. I expressed to her some of the difficulties we had with her death. How she didn’t leave a will, anything that expressed her wishes or even a life insurance policy. So the burden of the funeral fell on the family. Shortly after Grandma Linda told all of her kids where her paperwork was kept and what her wishes were.
Then in February of 2009 my paternal great grandmother, Louise, passed at age 90. It was tough on us, but in a way we were prepared. She had gotten lung cancer, but told us that she had lived a long peaceful life and signed a DNR in case something happened. That she was ready to leave us and be with her husband that had died in 1959.
Around the time grandma Louise was deteriorating, Grandma Linda got thyroid cancer. But she remained positive. She went through chemo and we thought it was going to be okay. After Grandma Louise’s funeral, we found out that Grandma Linda’s cancer had spread to her esophagus. But she still remained positive.
She went to two different doctors and tried to treat it aggressively. Taking hard tolls on her body and emotions. She even had surgery to try to remove some of the cancerous cells. A couple months ago she went for a PET scan to see how the cancer was doing. The radiologist told her that she would not live to see her next birthday.
In order to keep morale up in the family, she never told us. We thought she was going to be fine, once she had another round of chemo. When she went to see her doctor to get her treatment plan, he looked at the scans and said, “you don’t need chemo”. She got worried thinking that nothing would now stop the cancer and she may go quicker than expected.
“Your cancer seems to be in remission,” the doctor told her. “The radiologist had read the scans wrong.”
When Grandma Linda got this good news, she finally told us what she had been going through for the last few months. But said that she had always remained positive that in life or in death, that we would love and cherish every moment that we had had with her. She didn’t tell us, because she didn’t want to see the sadness on our faces. She wanted to live each day like it wasn’t her last. That life would still go on. And thankfully for now, it will.