Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Grandmother's Funeral

Grandmother and Granddad celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary on August 7, 2008.

Granddad looks at Grandmother one last time
After the rosary service at the funeral home

Her grandsons are the pallbearers

Pallbearers carrying the casket

Scott, Russell, Andrew, Darren, Brian, Mark, and James stand behind Grandmother

Grandmother's children in the front row at the interment

Uncle Gerald sanding behind Granddad

Grandmother's brothers, Edward and Leo

Grandmother was the oldest of six siblings: Grandmother (Louise), Bert, Edward, Marie, Leo, and Pat. Bert passed away a few years ago. Also, there was another girl who died at age two when Grandmother was about eight years old.

Grandmother's sister Marie with her two daughters

Grandmother's brother Leo with his wife and two sons
(alongside my cousins Ashley and Anda)

The cousins (plus Ameris's three kids)

The cousins and spouses

Mom with Scott and Brian

Dad and some cousins at the funeral

Dad's brother Gary (with wife Joy) and sister Karen (with husband Harvey)
also attended Grandmother's funeral

My cousin Anna and I always hung out together as kids

Anna and Audra by their brother's headstone
(Jacob died at age 14 and was buried next to Grandmother's plot)

Cousins at Grandmother and Granddad's house

Russell and Leo

We were on the same plane from Dallas to Amarillo with my cousin Russell and his youngest son, Leo. They had four flights to get there from Alaska!

Anna tickling her nephew Tobin's feet

Ameris's daughter, Zoe

Swayzee with Grandma Rita

Audra watching Tobin sleep

Leo ready for a nap, too

Brooke and Darren

A flower in Grandmother's garden

Until she fell, Grandmother spent a couple hours every day in her gardens, tending to her flowers and vegetables in the backyard and her roses by the driveway. Grandmother was certainly never afraid to work.

She and Granddad kept very busy for such an elderly couple. They went to the Hereford Senior Center every day for lunch and social activities. Grandmother was active at church, participating in groups such as Bible Study and Eucharistic Adoration. In addition to cooking a hot breakfast and full dinner for Granddad, she took meals to friends in need. They often drove to nearby towns to visit friends, such as their old neighbors at Arney (the community where their farm was). Grandmother canned her own vegetables, baked bread (and everything else) from scratch, and made homemade preserves with the fruit from her apricot tree. But most of all, she took care of her family and taught us all how to love.

Memorial donations may be made to the Hereford Senior Citizens Center (426 Ranger Dr., Hereford, TX 79045) or to St. Anthony's School Endowment Fund (114 Sunset, Hereford, TX 79045).

Michael and Melissa

One of our friends from Atlanta recently lost their son, Joseph, to cancer. He was close to Gabi's age, and I cannot imagine life without Gabi girl; at least you expect to continue living after your grandparents are gone. I don't think Grandmother feared death; after a full life, she welcomed and embraced it. At least once I heard her comment on how wonderful it would be to go home to Jesus and be reunited with her parents and other lost loved ones. What faith!

At any rate, our Atlanta friend has a blog that chronicalled their faith-filled journey through young Joseph's cancer struggle. Here are a couple posts that really touched me:
     * Brave and Strong -- "Every child, every person is of grave importance to God. Being a mother is a worthy job, not because it's 'rewarding' or 'fun,' but because you are molding little hearts and minds and teaching them about God and the world he has made. And, it is not a job for the weak."
     * Held -- a touching account of his final moments ("I love you, Joseph. You are doing so great. I am so proud of you. Just relax and go to Jesus. Mommy is here with you.")
     * Also, Joseph's Memorial: "We should all take the greatest joy in our day to day living and just being surrounded by the people we love." and then a song his father wrote for him
     * First Vacation without Joseph -- When asked to guess who will be at the beach with them, little sister Holly's face lights up and she says, "Joe?"

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Way I Remember Her

These are some of my memories of Grandmother over the past five years (since we've had a digital camera).

Our Wedding
June 14, 2003

Chapel at the WWII POW camp outside Hereford, TX
December 30, 2003

During the war, Granddad hired some of these prisoners to work on his farm. The prisoners here also painted a beautiful church in Umbarger, TX. Some years ago, a man traveled to Hereford looking for the church that he had helped paint while a POW. He ran into Grandmother and Granddad, and they drove him to Umbarger to see the church as well as to this chapel amid wheat fields and cattle pastures, the remains of the camp where he had been imprisoned.

5-month-old Gabi with her Great-Grandmother
August 9, 2005

Four generations
August 10, 2005

Great-Grandmother and baby Gabriella
August 11, 2005

Grandmother making fun of cousin Andrew for wearing jeans with holes
(Cousin James is holding 20-month-old Gabi)
November 14, 2006

Three sisters: Louise, Marie, and Patsy
November 15, 2006

Four generations at the Hereford Senior Center
November 17, 2006

Granddad and Grandmother

Grandmother at my brother Stephen's wedding
August 11, 2007

Grandmother, Granddad, and their daughters
(Jane and Lou Ann in back; Rita front-and-center)

Grandmother with cousin Leah
August 12, 2007

Grandmother celebrated her 90th birthday on February 21, 2008. Her siblings and children (as well as some other people) attended a wonderful birthday weekend with her. (I missed it because we celebrated Gabi's 3rd birthday the same weekend.) The family again gathered for Granddad's 95th birthday just last month. (I missed that as well; it was put together too last-minute to buy plane tickets.) We are all thankful for the love she shared and the memories she gave us.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

90 Years and then Called Home

I realize there are a ridiculous number of pictures on this post, but I don't have the energy at the moment to pare it down any more. Last Wednesday, my grandmother fell in the street and hit her head on the curb. She was found hours later in a pool of blood and care-flighted from Hereford to the trauma unit in Lubbock to undergo brain surgery. (I asked Gabi to give me a hug and said, "Mommy is sad because her grandmother fell and hit her head." Gabi responded by asking, "Did it happen inside or outside? Tell me." Interesting the way a three-year-old thinks... I had Gabi sit next to me and explained that when we are worried about someone we love, one good thing we can do is to pray and ask God to help. Gabi then requested to ask God for help, so we prayed together.)

Annabelle in the DFW airport during out layover

Grampa was on our same flight from DFW to Lubbock

Annabelle and I flew to Lubbock Friday morning to visit, returning two days ago (Tuesday afternoon). The family was tied to a week-long emotional swing before God finally called Grandmother home. Although mostly unresponsive, she had been breathing well "on her own"* (with the ventilator set on CPAP). Last night, she had great difficulty breathing. Also, we found out this morning that she had contracted pneumonia. The family decided to take her off the respirator, and she died about an hour later.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen

*Grandmother was intubated all week. By "breathing on her own," I mean she was breathing more than the ventilator was requiring of her ("breathing over the vent").

Annabelle meeting her Great-Granddad

Annabelle, Gramma Jane, and Great-Granddad

Children are not allowed in the ICU, so Annabelle was unable to meet her Great-Grandmother. The last time I saw my maternal grandparents was at Uncle Stephen's wedding, two weeks before Annabelle was born. I am glad that she was able to meet her Great-Granddad, though.

Annabelle with her great-grand-pappy

Only three visitors at a time were allowed in the Surgical ICU (although the nurses did not bother us if we had a couple more), so we played tag-team going in to see Grandmother. Annabelle entertained everyone in the waiting room and was a nice distraction. We all enjoyed watching Bella perfect her walking skills. Many people commented that she was really walking so much better by the time we left compared to when we arrived.

Annabelle taking off walking

Annabelle interested in Leah's pumpkin pin

Alicia, Stephen, Anda, Patrick, Leah, Ashley
Brian, Annabelle, and Melissa

Aunt Alicia and Uncle Stephen

Audra with her youngest child, Tobin,
and Anda with Annabelle

The next generation:
Annabelle (12 months), Tobin (7 months), and Jonathan (17 months)

My cousin Trevor (who now goes by Colin)
with his wife, Vikki, and son, Jonathan

This pair of pictures amuses me.
Like father, like son.

Occasionally, I would return to the waiting room after visiting Grandmother, and Annabelle would be missing. One time Dad and I found her sleeping with Aunt Lou Ann in the chapel next door.

Aunt Lou Ann and Annabelle sleeping in the chapel

Annabelle slept well on Lou Ann's lap

Mom brought a quilt that her grandmother had started (and she and her mom recently finished together), and she suggested we put Annabelle on the quilt on the floor. That definitely did not work. After that attempt, we arranged for me to return to mom's Aunt Pat's house every morning and afternoon for Annabelle's naps.

Bella playing with Aunt Pat's stuffed puppy

Annabelle laughing at the owl in Aunt Pat's front yard

Checking out the owl in the garden

Bella with Aunt Pat in her back yard

Uncle Harold holding Annabelle

Granddad does not normally show emotion, but watching his wife in a coma certainly helped him express his feelings. He told us it would be hard for him to live without her. He wanted to hold her hand. He said to me, "I want to kiss her, but she's so far away and I can hardly bend over that far." I helped him raise her arm so he could kiss her hand. Another time, Granddad told us that Grandmother liked a hand massage -- he had given her one the day before, which she seemed to enjoy -- so he gave her another. He stood at her bedside as long as he could. Even when his prosthetic leg buckled and he needed help regaining balance, he insisted on standing a bit longer. And when he couldn't stand any more, he sat in his wheelchair and fell asleep holding her hand. So many little things which are a big deal from that strong, inexpressive man.

Granddad wiping a tear from his eye

Granddad holding Grandmother's hand

Scott's girlfriend, Amy, turned 26 on Saturday. It was so kind of her to spend her birthday in a hospital visiting our grandmother. We tried our best (given the circumstances) to celebrate with her. Scott selected an Italian restaurant for dinner, and Mom bought an ice cream cake for us to share in the hospital lobby.

Amy's birthday cake

Happy 26th Birthday, Amy!

It took all three of these people to cut and serve this melting cake

Well, really, it's basically my siblings plus our cousin Anda

Here, Gramma Jane! Don't you want some of my tortilla?

Granddad visiting Grandmother

Holding hands

The day that I left, Mom and her sisters washed Grandmother's hair. Her head bandage was removed and most of the swelling had gone down. She looked much better, although also much older. Later I will post some pictures of her the way I remember her.