Saying Good-Bye

8:09 AMHeather

I totally had another plan for this post, but my heart is heavy with the task of saying good-bye.  To my husband's sweet Mamaw.  We learned yesterday that she will be evaluated today to enter hospice.  

Mamaw is ninety-five years young and went into the hospital nearly two weeks ago with pneumonia.  To say that Mamaw is a fighter would be an understatement.  She has broken two hips, survived years of severe asthma, and has had numerous heart concerns, as well as, we believe multiple mini-strokesShe's had these "spells" for years where she faints and her heart rate is all crazy.  She's hit her head a few times with those, laid on the floor for an entire night once, and broken her arm once from such a spell.

Her response to all the poking and prodding over the years to try to determine and treat the cause?

"They won't find anything.  They never do.  I just do that.  Us Coopers just have those spells."
Cooper is her maiden name.  Yes, that is where our son got his name.  And his Mamaw likes to say that he has the "Cooper determination."  I completely agree.

I've sat in the ER with Mamaw too many times to count, including one episode when we are sure she had a stroke and another that lead to her being intubated.  When the tube came out and the doctor came to check on her, she asked him if he was the one who put the tube in.  When he replied yes, she told him to get out.

She's a spunky one.  Mamaw was raised near Krum, Texas on a farm with her six siblings.  She rode a horse to school, played ball with her brothers with the ball her mom made by wrapping rags around each other, and she graduated from Ponder High School.  Because Krum wasn't big enough to have a school of their own.  Mamaw was born May 11, 1917.  She's seen more changes and world events than anyone I know.  And the stories she can tell about them all.  Her husband served in World War II in the European campaign.  When he returned from war, she wanted desperately to have a house filled with kids.  But, God had other plans.  So, she and Papaw decided to adopt.  They were on the list when Mamaw found out she was pregnant.  Mamaw called the agency to tell them, and the lady said, "Oh, Mrs. Anthony.  We have a set of twins--a boy and a girl--and I was going to call you for them."  Delighted, Mamaw said GREAT!  But the lady said, "Oh, no m'am.  I'm sorry.  Now that you're pregnant, we can't let you have them."  

I've heard that story a few dozen times.  Spoken wistfully each time, of the children she imagined she might have had.  But, she was blessed with my mother-in-law and Mamaw was the most amazing mom ever.  No child in history has been loved as fiercely as my mother-in-law.  Mamaw helped to parent nieces and nephews over the years, and cared for dying parents and in-laws.  All in her cute little 800 square foot house in Pleasant Grove.  She grew her own vegetables and boy, could she cook back in the day.  It was her mission to ensure that anyone who stepped foot in her door never knew a second of hunger.  Homemade fried okra (picked fresh from her garden), mashed potatoes, egg sandwiches for breakfast, and chocolate chip cookies that became famous in our college circle because Chris brought some back to Baylor every time he had gone to see her. 

Mamaw was our dog sitter when we were newlyweds and always a sweet encouragement.  She still tells me at times, "Lordy, there ain't nothing you can't do, girl.  You are so creative."  

Chris spent a good deal of time with her when he was growing up, and they've always been close.  I knew that I was in when Mamaw was okay with me marrying her baby boy.  And she's never let me forget that he is HER baby boy.  Which I'm totally okay with. 

My mind is all a-whirl with memories, as you can tell.  Too many to write down.  But, I need to try, lest I forget them.  We've thought so many times that "this was it" for Mamaw--to the point that it's hard to believe now that hospice is really coming.  But, she is ready.  

Nearly ten years ago, when she broke her hip, the doctor initially refused to do the repair surgery because her heart didn't pass the physical.  She told him in no uncertain terms, "Listen.  I've lived a long good life.  If God sees fit to take me home, I'm fine with that.  But, I can't lay here in this bed any longer.  I got things to do.  So, you go on and fix me up."

This being said exactly twelve hours after the break.  Yep. Too darn long for her to lay around when things needed to be done.  Like walking the halls daily for exercise.  Playing Skip Bo or dominoes.  Rocking my babies and reading countless books to them.  Telling stories about her childhood and quilting back when she could.  

Yes, Mamaw is a do-er.  Not a complainer.  Not one to sit around.  Not one to moan and groan.  One to do whatever task is given, without grumbling.  I know exactly where my husband got his servant's heart.  He saw it in his Mamaw.  You just do what has to get done.  And you love without holding back.  And you spend time with those you love.  Nothing is more important or pressing than that.  You keep your mind sharp and your body fit.  No excuses.  Asthma or not.  You are a good steward of whatever the good Lord gave you.  Mamaw is that rough and tumble Texan with grit and strength and determination.  I've learned much from her.  

I think the lessons will continue long after she's gone.  She's lived the kind of life full of legacy.  Full of inspiration.  She's of the generation that survived the Great Depression and the second World War.  She lost her husband twenty-two years ago.  And she's pressed on.  She only left her beloved home in Pleasant Grove when the roof repair man found bullet casings in her attic.  She knew it was time to go and said so and that was that.  She sold the house, moved into an indepedent living facility, and never looked back.  She's fought all sorts of ailments and issues and laughed in the face of them.  She was the model patient in rehab after her hip replacement, as the staff often found her doing her exercises while lying in the bed.  When she supposed to be resting.  And, oh--as she'd say, "They just had a fit over me."  The only thing I've ever seen get her down is the Alzheimer's that she was diagnosed with a few years ago.  She hated the confusion and the lack of memory.  She knew something was wrong and just plain got mad about it at times.  She's worked hard to keep her mind sharp, with frequent reading and crossword puzzles.

As strange as it sounds, once the disease progressed and she was too confused to realize what was happening, we were relieved.  She's made her way, as best she can.  Ever fiesty.  Ever full of spunk.  Still telling stories.  Still loving on anyone and everyone that enters her presence.  Come on in and sit a spell.  But not as long as you used to--because she gets tired quickly these days.

And oh how tired she is.  She's showing us, through little things, that she's done.  She's lived life as full on as she could.  And now, she is ready to say good-bye.  Determined.  Stubborn.  Full of moxy, as some might say.  So, when this brave, courageous, strong woman believes it's time to go, I think it best that we all prepare for the end to come.  She's always known what she wants. And she is not deterred.  

So, I gather my sweet children and my amazing husband and we contemplate and ponder how best to say good-bye.  I told my kids this morning that this is the time to be selfish.  To think about what they want and how they need to say good-bye and we'll do whatever we can to make that happen. 

Chris leaves today to see her.  To soak in as much time as he is able.  I go tomorrow.  Our children are considering whether they need to see her one more time for their good-byes.  And it is so bittersweet.  She has indeed, lived a long, full life.  She has no regrets, it seems.  My children will always remember the hours that she rocked them as babies, as we have all sorts of photographic and video evidence.  "Oh, give me that baby!" she'd say.  We often accused her of being a baby hog.  And as they grew, she'd rock them and read.  Book after book.  It brought them such joy--the children and Mamaw.  And, this tired mom of three was pretty happy myself.  I'm so pleased that my kids will remember her.  What a treasure--to know and be loved by a great-grandmother as they have been.  To be kin to the woman that everyone calls Mamaw when they meet her.  Because she belongs to all of us and doesn't know a stranger.  

I pray that my memory keeps these things close.  So that I can tell the Mamaw stories to my children's children, as I wrap them tightly in the quilts she made, and I rock them for hours, reading books and singing songs.  Loving them as she would.  Because that's the legacy she leaves.  Love. 

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