Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Life Well Lived

Myrtle Maleske. 97 years, 7 months, and 16 days old. A woman who I claim part of my name from. A woman who loved God and loved people. A woman who was stubborn and spunky. A woman who I loved.

My Grandma.

Born in 1917, grew up in Illinois, married the boy from around the corner, had 2 kids-one of which was my mom. Growing up I only saw my grandma occasionally. But it was at her house in Chicago that I mastered the stairs as a toddler much to my parents delight (who feared I wouldn't do well on stairs since at the time we lived in Arizona and didn't encounter many stairs there).

Several years ago she moved in with my parents in Maryland. Even though I had already moved out of the house and to another state, it was really at this time I started getting to know her. Started appreciating her yelling at me to wash my own dishes (even though she would do them before I even had the chance to). Observing that she was content to spend a good part of the day doing devotions and delving into the Word. Learning that when she still lived in Illinois she met a guy named Senator Barack Obama. Amazed that she would still occasionally go to the senior center to "workout". And truly believing she would live to see 100 years old.

This last year or two I could see her fading a bit. Her memory wasn't good. She wasn't going to the senior center so physically was more wobbly. And complained about her stomach hurting all the time. I started questioning whether she would make it to 100. But every time I saw her I made sure to give her a hug and a kiss and tell her that I loved her. And she would do the same right back to me.

In the middle of April my dad took her to the hospital because there was blood in her stool. They found a mass in her large intestine and decided to undergo surgery. Turns out the mass was colon cancer. Timeline unknown.

I'm remarkably lucky that my job has me traveling to Maryland on a fairly regular basis. So I got to see her in the hospital a couple times at the end of April. As much as it hurt to see her in pain and not fully aware of what was happening, I got to see her. Before heading back home last month I went to spend some time with her. It was just her and I, and it was a coherent day for her. The staff had gotten her out of bed and into a chair which was an improvement. I fed her some food which was also encouraging for me. We really just sat there watching a baseball game. Our pastor stopped by and my grandma commented how she was happy I was there. How I was good company. Eventually I knew I had to leave although I started tearing up any time I thought about going because I thought this could be the last time I ever see my grandma. Fighting back the tears I said I had to go but that I loved her. She said she loved me to, gave me a hug and a kiss, thanked me for spending time with her and as I turned for one last look on my way out, smiled at me and waved. I managed to hold it together for the most part on my way to my car but upon getting there full out ugly cried for at least 10 minutes in the parking lot.

My dad sent daily updates about how she was doing. While I'm happy I was updated, it was sad tracking her decline mentally as well as physically as she basically stopped eating or drinking anything. Work took me to Maryland again last week. She was in a rehab type home by now where ideally if she got better, she could stay in an assisted living type of setting. Both times I visited I knew she wouldn't last long. The first time she was completely confused and didn't have a full grasp of her surroundings. The second time she slept the whole time not rousing for anything.

May 10th the call came. She passed away sometime between 8-10am on Mother's Day. 97 years, 7 months, and 16 days old. 

In between my April visit and my May visit I really tried to come to terms with the fact I would be losing her soon. Almost hoped for it as I saw she wasn't really living anymore. Merely surviving. And knowing how strong she was in her faith, I knew where her spirit was going upon dying. I knew she would be in a better place. I knew she lived a life worth living. She was born during WW1, experienced the Great Depression, WW2, civil rights, the birth of the internet, and so so so much more! The changes she saw in the world during her lifetime are remarkable. More importantly, the people who knew her loved her.

I still cried after I got the news (cried several times to be honest). Still found myself missing her already. Found myself painting my fingernails (something I don't ever do) a light purple because it was her favorite color and I wanted to think of her often. I wish I asked her more questions. I wish I knew more details about her life growing up. But there's one thing I know. She loved me, and she knew I loved her too.

Myrtle Maleske b.9/24/1917 d.5/10/2015

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