My Great-Grandma's Passing

Cheryl Spoerry-Gaita

My great grandmother passed away August 18th. She went into the hospital the night of August 15th. I had a feeling of dread when my mom called me that morning at 9am to tell me. I spent August 17th at the hospital with her. I was there for 5 hours. She was in critical ICU and I just cried and held her hand and talked to her. I just knew she wasn't making it out of the hospital. She was alert and talking and very happy to have me and my aunt and my grandma (her daughter) there. She was joking with us that she had a date the next day. When my grandma asked her with who she said "Mr. Nobody". My aunt and I looked at each other and we knew what that meant. My great-grandpa died a few months before I was born (I'm 28 now) and she had a date on the 18th to meet him again after all these years. I didn't want to leave her side. I was so afraid I would never see her again. My grandma (was old school Italian) always tried to feed you when you went to visit her. She always made her own cookies and would try to get you to take some home. Before I left, she was a little incoherent from her medication but knew we were there, but thought that we were in her kitchen. She said "take some cookies home, they're over there." I told her okay and kissed her goodbye.

I went to work the next day and told my aunt to call me if her condition changed. I got a call at 11am from my aunt saying her condition got worse and to go to the hospital. I got there very quickly. She wasn't in a coma but she was having trouble breathing and we couldn't understand her when she spoke. I held her hand and noticed that her fingernails were getting dark and I knew it was a matter of time. You must understand that even though she was 94, I was her favorite and never expected her to go so soon, it was too sudden, not enough notice. She had two pacemakers (a new and old one) and it was a running joke in our family that she was the Energizer Bunny and was going to outlive all of us. I swabbed her mouth with water because she couldn't drink. Her body was finally giving out. The doctors wanted to change a tube in her neck and asked me to leave for a few minutes. I held her hand and told her I would be right back. Her eyes got real wide and looking back, it almost seemed like she didn't want me to leave....or maybe she was trying to tell me something. I left the room and 15 minutes later she passed away. I wanted to be there holding her hand when she died. I didn't want her to die around strangers. I went to see her body as soon as they let us in. She looked so peaceful. I stroked her hair and told her I loved her and kissed her goodbye.

I wound up taking a tranquilizer for her wake so I could deal with everything. I haven't been to her grave since the funeral. It is still too painful. Right now I am very emotional. Her birthday is on Christmas Day. I will be going to a mass for her this Saturday. The irony of her passing when she did is we were supposed to have an early birthday/family reunion party for her two weeks after she died. She would've been so happy. Right now the holiday is just making part of me very sad. I feel guilt because I didn't spend as much time as I should've with her. I guess I took it for granted that she would always be around. I wish I knew what she was trying to communicate to me right before she died. It just haunts me. She used to joke/tell with me that she wanted to die soon, she was getting tired and I used to tell her that she needed to hold out two more years-I wanted her to see me get married (hopefully by then). She said "okay." That was in May. I met a neighbor/friend of my great-grandma's last time I was over there. My grandma was very independent. She still made all her own food, lived alone, and her mind was very sharp. At the brunch after the funeral, that same friend pulled me aside and told me that I was my grandma's favorite and she loved me so much. I said I knew and that I loved her too. I just wish I could have her around one more hug her, and smell her, and tell her how much I love and miss her...

Thanks for listening. I don't feel comfortable talking to people around me. They just wouldn't understand. I get too upset talking about it.

Cheryl Spoerry-Gaita

You can send email to Cheryl at: [email protected]
mail welcome

anniversary date 08-18-97
date of post 12-03-97

[return to home page] [column] [book excerpts] [honor page] [discussions page]

Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW