©Robert M. (Bob) Leahy Approximate Word Count: 900

2110 E. Crosby Road

Carrollton, TX 75006

(972) 416 - 6098

Living Will

 

I remember when Momma died, Gram said, "It should have been me." And from that point on, she seemed to give up on life.

Mommaís death was an accident. So, in some ways, I might agree with Gram that Mommaís time had not yet come. But, if I accept that idea, how can I assume it would be better to have another person involved in the accident instead of Momma? It was the type of rationalization than Gram used as she slouched down in the rocker in her bedroom with a sigh, stared out and did nothing in particular. She ate little. She waited.

"Come on, Gram," I coaxed, "itís a beautiful day to walk in the gardens." She turned away. "Couldnít you help me with my hair?" Nothing. "You have to eat something," I raged. Nothing. "You canít just give up."

Aunt Fran fared no better. She offered Gram a trip to England and Ireland to see castles. "Whatís the point?" Gram asked. Fran suggested a trip to the West Coast to see her own brother. "He wonít want to see us," Gram said.

Even Father OíMally, who came by once a week to talk to her, to give her communion and, finally, to give her the blessing for the sick, was unable to convince her that she had reason to live. I know, because I couldnít help myself. When Father OíMally was with Gram, I listened at the door. "Youíre not supposed to tell God what to do," he told her. It did no good.

Everyone told Gram her dying wouldnít bring Momma back. She refused to listen.

 

Gram went from one hundred twenty pounds of sewing and cooking and canasta activity to eighty-eight pounds of helpless flesh in two months. Aunt Fran and I had to put her in the hospital then because her kidneys were failing. The doctors said she wasnít drinking enough fluids.

Shortly thereafter, she slipped into a coma. I remember sitting by her one day as she lay in the bed barely breathing, looking at her hands, hands which had never seemed so still to me. When I was young, Gram was forever rolling out dough or cutting patterns for my dresses and coats or dealing cards. Now, blue veins stood out against the thin, translucent white of her skin. Her hands were stretched down on either side of her body. I imagine bringing the hands together, thinking, I donít know what, that maybe a spark or something might get them going again. If Gram could just use her hands for something, everything would be all right again.

But in that moment when I pictured her hands together, I saw them clasping a rosary to her chest as she lay in her coffin. I shuddered. I had to look away. From that moment on, I never thought of Gram alive.

The days stretched into weeks and the weeks stretched into months as Gram held on in whatever state she was. I stopped by the hospital every day, but my visits were never more than a few minutes. I didnít want to see Gram the way she was. She wasnít really there.

And Fran told me she felt the same way. She stopped by long enough to confirm that there was no change.

By the end of that last month, the third month of Gramís coma, we took turns stopping by. It seemed like less of a death watch that way.

At the funeral, Cousin Phil and Uncle Charlie talked about how Gram had loved life. But they were not in town during her last half-year, so they didnít know the Gram I saw. And all I could wonder about was how someone who so loved life could give up so easily. I couldnít picture the Gram Phil and Charlie talked about. And I hated myself for not being able to see her in their descriptions.

Several people said I didnít look all that sad at the funeral. I suppose all my tears were drained away long before Gram died. Aunt Fran said I should ignore what others say. But I noticed her eyes were pooling water.

 

I often come to Mommaís grave to think. And even though Gramís only a little wayís beyond, I never go there. I donít miss the Gram I remember. Iím ashamed to say so. But I miss Momma. Things would have been different if the were no accident. But what if Fran or Charlie died? Could Momma have made a difference in Gram? These are questions I direct to the skies above Mommaís grave almost every time I come to see her. Iíve wrestled with them for the ten years since Gram died. And I still donít have any answers.

I wonder how I might react if anything were to happen to my own sweet child, now five, who I see standing behind the steering wheel in my car.

She asked me, "Why do we come here, Mommy?" as we pulled into the cemetery today.

I told her I needed time to think. And I kissed her.

I live for her.

Would I be able to live without her?

I hope I could find a reason to go on. I hope I donít just give up on life as Gram did.

And I hope that someday I will be able to forgive Gram for losing the will to live.

 

the end



Revised text placed on
The Leprechaun News WebPages
4 March 1999

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