It’s a pretty awesome thing to know a great-grandparent. As the youngest (by a long shot) of four children, I only “knew” one mine for about a year before she passed away at the age of 97. Of course I don’t really remember her, but as a kid I treasured the few pictures of us together, and I just thought it was cool that she at least knew I existed, that I was newest member of the family tree she created.
Her daughter was my grandmother Helen, or Mimi as we called her. She surpassed her mother’s longevity, celebrated her 99th birthday this January, then passed away two month into her 100th year of life, on March 7, 2014. She suffered from pneumonia last month and never fully recovered. Per her wishes, she continued supportive care but had no invasive procedures. In the days surrounding her death, I was told that she was made quite comfortable. Although she had had similar spells in recent past and bounced back, she had otherwise led an incredibly healthy 90+ years; her life was saturated with activity, art, music, education, literature, and love.
Mimi lived in Florida, hundreds of miles from family, and none of us were able to get down there in time. She was surrounded by friends and the community in which she lived for the last decade. She couldn’t speak, but many of us got to talk to her as we listened to her heavy breath sounds over the telephone in her last days. I spoke with her about two hours before she died: told her I loved her, chatted about school (she had graduated from Penn!), and revealed the name we are thinking of for her newest great-granddaughter. That evening, John and I toasted her over a good scotch, her drink of choice.
My sister, after seeing Mimi in January for her 99th, remarked that she didn’t think it would be her last time seeing her. My impression of her during our visit in November was different, not necessarily because she looked particularly more sick or frail. I just had this nagging feeling that Mimi would be fine until she wasn’t (which could be any time), and then she would go quickly. I’m thankful that she did.
And I’m especially thankful that Aurelia and Helen got a chance to know each other, albeit for too brief a time.