Chapter 2 of Soul Survivor



      When seniors  say they gotta go they don’t necessarily mean what they did in Kindergarten when they said they hadda go.  They might be telling you they’re going and they’re not coming back.   More likely, they will slip out silently and without notice.  But they will go.  Every body’s gotta go.

     When the body goes is a closely guarded secret, rumored to be known to God alone; but I suspect God slips the information to at least a few souls who are very close to him.  It could be whispered in the wind that blows over shady porches where the elderly rock, or shared in the night in a private conversation with a poor soul who lies in a coma because he is too petrified to let go.

   In the case of my husband’s grandmother, she knew.  Grandma was 97, living in her own home in Wisconsin, when she called up all her children.  “Come home,” she said.  “I’m going now.”

     Within hours the remaining seven of her nine children were there with her, all of them in their seventies, along with other relatives.  The only one who couldn’t make it was her brother Ben from Oregon, who had fallen off the house that week, while repairing the roof, and had broken his knee.  He was 102.

     Grandma cooked a big meal and enjoyed having everyone there around her table once more.  Then she lay down on the sofa for her afternoon nap, and of course she didn’t wake up because she had told them “I am going now,” and she went.

     My own grandmother wanted to go, but couldn’t find a way out.  She entered a care center when she was 93 because she had fallen and broken her arm while cleaning her big two-story house.  She was in good health, however, and sharp of mind.

      “Why would I want to stay on?” she asked  as we sat together in the sunroom on one of my visits.   There were  few people in her new environment who could carry on a good conversation, and  none of her friends were still alive to come by.  Her husband was gone, her brothers and sisters were gone, as well as two of her three children.  She could no longer see well enough to read or to sew, and frankly she was bored.  But patiently she waited, spending her afternoons sitting on a sofa in that sunny common room, and it was here that she nodded off and left us at 95 when her name was called.

     Her father had met his death in quite the opposite way.  It came rushing toward him when he was in his early forties and caught up with him in the middle of town while he was driving his horse and buggy down the street.  It struck him in the heart and ended his journey.

     A few years ago, when my mother was  90,  she asked me to take her to a casino for the day.  I expressed some concerns, because she’d been having some heart problems and I didn’t want to take her too far from home or into an unhealthy environment or over-stimulating activity.  In my mind’s eye I pictured her sitting at a slot machine in a room full of ringing bells and smoke clouds,  and experiencing either complete exhaustion or the shock and commotion of a big win.

     She looked at me for a long time, reading my thoughts, and then said, “Can you think of a better way to go?” 

      We went to the casino.  

                      – Doris Markland




6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Donna Thomas
    Feb 15, 2014 @ 23:01:20

    Peaceful , comforting writing of an often neglected topic…


  2. lesterland
    Feb 15, 2014 @ 23:03:36

    I’m 71 and know that people know when it is time. My mother did.

    Perhaps like a couple of your relatives, my mother in law knew and told us. She’d been a widow for 20 years, maintained her own home, drove, and so forth. At 84, over a decade ago, she had a couple of presumed-TIAs and was in the hospital for a week or so. They told her she couldn’t stay, but was unable to care for herself any more. We found a wonderful facility for her, a place we would have been happy with had we needed it, all bright and new. As they were putting her in the transport vehicle on a Friday evening she said, through gritted teeth: “I will not live in any God Damn Nursing Home”. We met her there, helped her get settled, and stayed with her until bed time, getting her tucked in.

    We then left for a weekend visit to my mother, a couple hours away. Early Monday morning we got a phone call. She had passed away on Sunday evening. She meant what she said. Or she knew. Or both.


  3. Bill Smith
    Feb 16, 2014 @ 02:58:43

    very nice .story.. Keep them coming,, My grandfather was 101 when he had to go..


  4. Kathy
    Feb 16, 2014 @ 05:41:43

    So beautiful.


  5. Donna Thomas
    Feb 16, 2014 @ 12:24:11

    Such a beautiful, sensitive account. I must put these to hard copy!


  6. Barbara Kladstrup
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 15:27:42

    What a wonderful day!! First your chapter 2 of Soul Survivor and then the conclusion. You were always meant to be a writer, Pete, and I’m thrilled to see you have the time now (or take the time) to do it, not just for your enjoyment but for all of ours. Loved the incredible story of Gene’s grandmother’s last days, especially the 102 year-old brother who fell off the roof! Only you could make them all come to life and let their stories light the way for us. The story of your trip to the casino with your mother made me think of my Mum, who died at the age of 97. She confided in me that when her doctor would ask if she was taking her medicine, she’d tell him “Yes,” but to me, she’d say with a secret little smile, “but I only take half of it.”


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