I am still here. And you are not.
That about sums up the situation. Yes, I left work in the middle of the day to drive eleven hours and fall into the arms of our family at three o’clock in the morning.
I didn’t even know you that well. So what is this gnawing in my guts?
Your ninetieth birthday party would have been a blast. You almost made it, too.
You were a widow for 22 years. You lived with your daughter. One day, a neighbor called to say she saw you wandering around on the highway. Then you broke your hip and had surgery.
You lived in a nursing home for six months, but you hated it. You were supposed to recover from your surgery and practice walking again. But you told us that they had put you in a washing machine and turned it on. You kept asking to come home. You finally made your point when you insisted that if you were not taken home forthwith, you would walk out of that place and live on the street.
The nursing home people said that if you went home, you could never come back. You were brought home anyway.
You were back at home for three or four months before you started asking once again if you could go home. You would wake up in the night screaming, stumble around, fall, try to use the microwave.
At the end, in a different nursing home, they say you did not eat or drink anything for five days. Was this a definite refusal, and if so, how did the staff respond? I have no idea what was done and even less what should have been done.
It has been several years since I’ve been able to understand more than a few words you would speak to me. You often spoke of God, and also of hardships endured by your family growing up, first in Oklahoma and then in California.
Your great-grandchildren called you Grandma because their grandmother was always Nana. You doted on them and they loved you for it. Many of them were there in church on Sunday.
Not a person who stood up to recollect and reminisce had a dry eye. There was the story about how you gamely canned a bumper crop of green beans, only to have your husband give them away. Your only gripe was that the recipients of your largesse never returned the jars. Then there was the story about how, in your eighties, we teased you about appearing on a TV dating show. Later, we found that you had prepared a list of questions to ask your potential suitors.
We spoke of how you loved apple fritters, which you inexplicably called “chocolate clumps,” and how you had to have a supply of flossers handy, but only the white ones from the dollar store.
Steven, your great-grandson with the golden voice, came to the podium to sing Jamey Johnson’s “Lead Me Home.” He broke down before he made it through the first verse. Donna handed me a tissue.
There was food in the social hall and then we dispersed back to our homes and our families and our lives.
But for all who knew you, there will always be a hole, a missing piece of the crazy jigsaw that is life, an empty spot that only your spirit can fill.
In memoriam, Lorene Haas 1923-2013