We lost a good one today.
My husband’s grandmother passed away this morning. We lost her at 5:13 a.m. She slipped away peacefully with loved ones by her bedside. They kept vigil over her through the night.
She was moved to a hospice house last week after she stopped eating and drinking. She was unresponsive. Her family visited every day.
On Friday night, her breathing began to decline. We were told she may be gone by morning, or it could be another week or even three weeks. Everyone was called. Some came, some were not able, but on Friday night we had a full on sleep over. Four of us in a pull out sofa bed, 2 in reclining chairs, four in parson’s chairs, and her 90 year old husband in a parson’s chair with his hand in hers, and his head resting on a pillow by her side.
The next day we were told her health was not declining as rapidly as we had thought and that we should preserve our strength, get some rest. The groups still gathered throughout the day, coming and going through the weekend. We took turns stroking her arm, or holding her hand as she rested. A smaller group stayed on night watch.
Grandma held on until Monday morning at 5:13 a.m.
We were not all there, but she had four dedicated family members standing watch over her. She went peacefully, just not drawing her next breath.
She was our matriarch.
She had eight of them. Eight children, one who passed before her. Seven remaining who loved her dearly and will have to bare the grief of her loss.
She was from the greatest generation to have ever lived. Born in 1926. Married in 1946. Married for 70 years to the love of her life.
They tried to keep them apart, but it was clearly meant to be. She was raised an orphan after her mother passed away when she was a lovely young woman of just 15 years old. He, after all, was a Mexican, growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in the Boxcar Community. Did you catch that? His family lived in a train cart on the side of the railroad tracks, set up like an apartment complex for their workforce. To keep their feet warm at night, his mama would heat bricks over the fireplace and wrap them in blankets, set them at the foot of the bed. Any left over scrap of fabric that couldn’t be reused as hand-me-downs were twisted and then shoved into the 1/4″ gaps of the wooden planks open to the outdoors.
The Catholic nuns cared for her daily needs and gave her an education, and a faith that was strong and unwavering.
She was a Saint.
As close to a Saint that you will ever meet on Earth. She refused to curse, did not care for drinking or smoking. And yet, she continued to love those around her who did drink and smoke and curse – she loved them fiercely. She insisted on treating people with kindness and respect. She was unwavering in her love. She knew what she expected of you, and you could bare to give her no less than that.
When the homeless man came to the door to ask if they had any bottles to turn in for a small cash sum, she responded “Wait here.” She then hurried into the house to make him a sandwich and donate their recyclables to him, even though, they could have used the spare change themselves…what with eight mouths to feed and her husband working two full time jobs.
When family was in need, she took them in, raising more than just her 8, at a count of near about twenty last we checked. Not to mention her grandchildren when their parents needed help.
When her sweetheart left for the Navy, the Nuns intercepted the letters and discarded them. He found her when he returned home.
They married shorty after that on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
Their kids lived a happy childhood, the kind where love was plenty and best friends were siblings and neighborhood kids playing until the street lights came on. They had freedom and independence to play all day as long as they looked out for one another and lived by the Golden Rule.
Their grand-kids grew to cherish them. Holidays and weekend filled with food and games and fun and laughter. Get togethers were the norm, not the exception. If someone needed something, you stepped in and helped them out.
Any day to stop by was an occasion to play Upwords, Rummikub, Farkle, Uno, you name it. The games cabinet was full to overflowing with good times, an invitation to pull up a chair to the Walnut dining room table with claw feet and chat over a friendly competition.
Their door was always open. Any given Sunday you could stop by for a visit. The house may have been full or empty, but either way, you would likely stay long past your expected departure time. Many times we stopped by after Sunday brunch, only to leave the house after dark and a supper of popped popcorn and good time stories. Their house was the kind of home where their great grand-kids would notice that we were crossing the bridge, and holler out “Hey, Can we go to Great Grandma & Grandpa’s house today?”
The success that they had in the loving family department outshines even their climb up from an orphan and a box car kid. They may have started life out that way, but they lived through the Great Depression, a World War, and ended up in a large four square home an a hilltop with a wrap around porch.
That porch is perfect for Porch Sitting. Drive by on a Saturday and you can honk and wave as we all spend the day laughing and telling stories, catching up with each other.
All your children will come and gather around you. You will wear them as jewelry, with pride.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, If you were born a Rodriguez, you are among the most blessed people on Earth. If you weren’t that lucky, I hope you got to marry one.