My grandmother died. She had been very old for a very long time, and we were anticipating her departure for some while. It's remarkable how much it does feel like a departure. I feel as though she's left some kind of room I rarely take the time to notice I'm inside. She died the 26th of September, 2008, at 86 years old.
As she came closer and closer to the end, my grandmother lost many of her faculties. She was extremely aware and retained coherence right up to the end, but as her body failed from the extremities inward - arthritis hobbled her to varying degrees for almost as long as I can remember - it was beautiful and terrible to see what was left. Through her life this woman gave of herself, for her country, her husband, her family and all those close to her. To her church, before she decided that she simply did not "believe in the divinity of Christ." (I can remember when she stopped going to church. What an unbelievably classy thing to be able to do, so relatively late in life, to simply reach a new conclusion about something you had held so centrally in your life.) She was proud and giving and loving and it was a very long time before she gave herself over to my mother's care more or less full-time. It was even longer before they could both feel that my Grammy letting go of life - or, as they express it, this life - was a decision that she was making for herself, and not as one last act of generosity towards her child. Grammy - Elizabeth Iva - stopped eating and drinking when she wanted to. It is, of course, the way we all tacitly want to go. Right? As her brain slowly lost cohesion the last things left, after everything else went away, were love and giving. Even when she could not distinguish which of the figures before her were real and which imagined, she wanted to feed them pie.