November 24, 1994
Grandma Wallace left us 17 years ago today.
There have been years when the day has gone by and I haven’t remembered until a couple of days later. This year I I’ve seen this day coming for weeks. I miss her more than ever. It’s probably because I’m working on her books and she feels very very close.
It’s a painful feeling, but it’s a sweet pain. She was ready to go. Her death was graceful, peaceful and I will remember those last days for the rest of my life.
November 1994 was a very unusual month in the life of our extended family. My aunts and uncles and cousins hadn’ t all gotten together for a long time. And then we had two weddings to go to — my cousin Lisa Brown’s, my other cousin Tracy Blackwell.
Lisa got married two weeks before Grandma died down in the ancestral homeland. So I went down to Essex County for the wedding. Before going to the church, I went to see Grandma, who was too ill to go. I knew it would be the last time I would ever see her. There was a feeling of heaviness and sadness and many tears as Barry and I got closer to Country Village Retirement Home where she’d been living for a few years.
I decided before I went in to see her that I wasn’t going to even refer to the obvious. After all, I didn’t want to upset her, I told myself. I sat down on her bed and held her hand. We talked about politics — we both loved to do that. We talked about the weather. Not for very long. About three minutes. And then ..
The tears just started flowing. Mine, not hers. I felt like I was five years old again, and I’d fallen and scraped my knew, or being homesick or some other kid thing. And just like when I was tiny little girl, she talked me through it. She told me she was ready to go, that she had a long and good life. And that I’d remember the good times and that it was all going to be okay.
The next weekend was Tracy’s wedding down hear Hamilton. I’d heard that Grandma was mostly sleeping a lot and that the next time we would be together would be very soon. I sat at the table at the reception with Aunt Marion and Aunt Cath. At one point, Aunt Marion said very matter of factly — “Well, I’ll be the first one to see her again, most likely”. And I said to Aunt Marion “You have no doubts there is something after this, do you?” and she said “Not at all”. I wanted to believe with all my heart that I too would see her again. I’m not sure about that … but Aunt Marion’s certainty was a comfort that afternoon.
Grandma lived for a few more days. My aunts told us that she lapsed in and out of consciousness, mostly sleeping those last few days. When I saw her two weeks previously, she was weak and tired but she was sharp. She had a great mind that stayed alert and crystal clear up until the very end.
Remarkably, all of her five girls were there when she died. My mom had to come home from up near North Bay. She picked up Aunt Shirley on the way. Aunt Marion had arrived from down near Brantford. Aunt Cath and Aunt Dorothy lived down there so had been with her all along.
She died two hours after all my aunts got there. My cousins Diana and Bill lit off fireworks in the backyard of the family farm to send her on her way
The funeral was peaceful and beautiful. And a piper played her into the cemetery. When talking to a couple of my cousins, they remarked that they felt like Grandma helped them work through her death. I feel the same way. One thing which is forever branded upon my mind is watching my cousin Diana with her elbows propped on edge of the casket, just standing there talking to Grandma.
There was sadness, but it was a comfortable sadness. Grandma always seemed to be friends with death. When talking about the writing she was doing, she had a way of talking about people long gone just like she’d just had coffee with them.
And I think I’ll be able to remember her that way too .. just like I’d seen her last week.