It’s the end of an era. At least for me. I recently said goodbye to my last living grandparent. Goodbyes are never easy, especially those that come when someone dies. And when I headed out to the hospital to see her, I told my husband on the way that I knew I was going to see her for the last time. There’s no good way to do that.
I’m nearing fifty, and you don’t get here without losing your share of people you care about. My first major loss was a daughter—she was there one moment and gone the next. You tell yourself over and over that if you’d just had time to prepare, if you’d only known you’d never see them again, maybe it would be easier.
The older you get, the more you realize that’s a fallacy. Since that first horrible experience with mortality, I’ve nursed my share of loved ones through mortal illnesses that lasted months, even years. It’s not any easier. Watching someone suffer, lose their dignity, and deal with the inevitable reality of their coming death is every bit as bad as the gut punch of losing someone who you thought would be with you for the rest of your life.
Which is why I hope you’ll understand why the way she passed was a blessing, in a way. Grandma was 93. She lived alone in her home of nearly seventy years, without the aid of a healthcare worker, until three days before she died. She went into the hospital on a Friday and died peacefully in her sleep early Tuesday morning. We all gathered at her house the next day, and on a calendar in her kitchen, I could see where she had been crossing off each day until two days before she went to the hospital. She was doing fine until she wasn’t, and when it finally came time for her to go home, it happened mercifully fast.
Grandma was born in 1925 in McKenzie, Tennessee. The land she lived on, and the house she was born in, had been in her family since the early 1800s, when a Revolutionary War officer gave his son and his son’s new bride land to build a home. That home had a lot of history, but my grandma’s life in it wasn’t an easy one. Her mother died when she was eight. I wrote about that in another of my blogs–they were farmers, and grandma’s older sister preferred the kitchen to the fields. When their mother died, my great aunt took over cooking duties and refused to teach her younger sisters how to cook, for fear of having to take her turn in the fields.
That meant grandma was not the best cook in the world. Mom wasn’t either, and so neither was I. Mom and I both worked at it, though, and we were able to recover from generations of bad meals by putting in some effort. Grandma never really had time for that. She went from the cotton fields to the munitions factory, where she worked during World War II. While she was there, she met a young soldier at a USO dance. He married her and took her home to Mississippi after the war. And there she stayed until she died. Since her mother had died when she was so young, Grandma didn’t expect to live to see three more generations. But she did. By the time she died, she had three children, seven grandchildren and nineteen great-grandchildren. In fact, she lived to see her oldest great-grandchild (my daughter) marry and graduate from medical school.
What a life, huh? In her honor, today’s recipe comes from her. She might not have had that many skills in the kitchen, but I got two recipes from her that I love. I posted one last year. This family favorite is the other. I’ll never be able to make it without thinking of her.
We’ll miss you grandma.
Pistachio salad1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple in juice, undrained 1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) Pistachio Flavor Instant Pudding 1 cup miniature marshmallows 1/2 cup chopped pecans 1-1/2 cups thawed Cool Whip
In a medium mixing bowl, add everything except Cool Whip and marshmallows and stir until well blended. Add Cool whip and stir again, then add marshmallows and blend. Chill for an hour and serve.