Friday, August 27, 2010

forever young

do you really want to live forever?

My grandmother--Grandmother Shirley, the coal miner's wife, the stubborn Midwestern spitfire, the fixer of mashed potatoes and conquerer of crossword puzzles, a woman who loves Wild Turkey and Lifetime movies and her family, the woman who raised her only child to be my incredible father--is coming to the end of her life.

That tough old bird was diagnosed with lung cancer and given six months to live. That was five years ago. The cancer hasn't put too much of a crimp on her style, but she does hate the oxygen she's had to wear for the last few months. She just stopped mowing her own acre+ yard recently.

After her first round of chemo in years yesterday, she passed out in the passenger seat on the way home. Her blood CO2 levels are far beyond what would be fatal for most people. They revived her quickly and now she's awake and alert, joking with us over the phone. But her CO2 levels aren't budging. She says she's ready to go and the time is near. The doctors don't disagree. She says she isn't afraid to die, just afraid to suffer.

Daddy's on his way up right now. Mama and I are taking things minute-to-minute, trying to decide what on earth to do, given that I am supposed to leave for Boston in less than 48 hours. When it rains, it 500-year floods.

at my cousin Matthew's wedding in 2008. from left, my cousin Jeannie, Grandmother Shirley, my mother. my father is above.

I'm not a pray-er but I am a believer in positive vibes. Send your warm thoughts up to Northern Missouri right now to my Daddy and my Grandmother Shirley and our whole family as we celebrate the hell out of a life lived well.

Discussion Question:
If death is a part of life, why is it so hard to let the people we love go?


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your grandma. I will be sending good vibes a-plenty out to Missouri. How courageous a woman she sounds!

    I think it's hard to let loved ones go because death is the "final beyond"...none of us REALLY knows if we'll "go" anywhere, and if so, where we'll go. It's scary not to be able to know where a loved one is ever again, or how they will fare. But also, obviously, there's the not knowing how our own lives will be different once they're not in them anymore. Even if someone is ready to go, it's hard for us to accept their passing peacefully because their absence still leaves us with a piece missing after we're left behind.

    Finally, I think death is so disarming because it's so undignified, in a's really one of the only things in life we have absolutely no control over. It's the ultimate humbler, which is so frightening. If we ourselves are not ready for that experience, it's hard to identify with someone who is.

    Just some of my own thoughts :)
    Again, I will be keeping your family in my thoughts. May your grandma's final months/weeks/days be happy and peaceful.

  2. Because death is the part of life you can't go visit at Christmas and then be home for New Year's. My vibes are totally with you guys. lots o love.

  3. My grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away from it two years ago. I was at school when he was put in the hospital and it was just horrible to go back home and see him. He couldn't talk, he couldn't get up, he couldn't do anything by himself. But he still recognized me the last time I saw him. He grabbed my hand and wouldn't let go and tried to grunt something to me but I couldn't understand him. He passed away the morning of the day I was planning to go back home to visit him and my mom told me it was best because he had completely lost himself in the end.

    I am so glad that your family does not have to go through the same kind of experience that mine did, but also sad that you have to let her go. My thoughts will definitely be going out to you and your family.

  4. hey KJDeP - My sister died of lung cancer. She was 27 years old and had 4 babies - I was 10 years old.

    It is not a good ending sweetie but I AM a pray-er so I will be praying for your Grandmother Shirley that she may not know suffering (as she is asking from the universe and her God) but that she will know a peace that surpasses all understanding.

    Death as part of life: when people die they leave a hole. Right after they leave us, we fall in the hole - a LOT. As time goes by, we are able to walk around the edge of the hole and just look in. On holidays, birthdays and anniversaries we might fall back down into the hole but it gets easier as time goes on.

    The hole never goes away - it just gets easier to walk around it.

    I think we would all rather have our loved ones versus the holes but such is life.

    PS - I will also send warm thoughts and positive vibes cuz I likes me some Wild Turkey too.

    Peace out KJDeP,

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your stories with me. It means the world that y'all reached out to me. I'll never forget it.

  6. Wow, I'm sorry to hear that. My grandmother was a Midwestern spitfire too, but she died very suddenly. So I'm not sure if it's easier or harder to let go with more time...thoughts with you, wherever you are!