I woke up this morning to the sad news that Eva’s Great Grandmother, Dorothy Kinder, known lovingly to us as “Great Gran” passed away in her 106th year early this morning. This was not entirely a surprise, nor was it a tragedy, but I shed a tear for the wonderful woman I was so happy to have known in the last years of her life.
There were two stand out qualities of Great Gran that I admired and both had everything to do with her longevity: her optimism and her spirit. When we skyped Chris’s mom and dad this past weekend, they let us know that the end was near. Great Gran was asleep most of the time, and barely eating a spoonful; she had occasional moments of lucidity and was still managing to slap the nurse. “That’s the Great Gran I know and love!” I thought.
The last several months have been hard on her three children. As her great age began to take its toll, her spirit never dwindled but she became too great a liability for the home she was living in. When the staff were not looking she would run away like a rebel teenager bucking authority. Once she was discovered in the local pub and had to be taken home- which made all of her relatives around the globe giggle, but it was as funny as it was sad. During another thwarted escape attempt, she tried to hitch a ride on a street corner but luckily the car she flagged down was the owner of the old people’s home who promptly returned her to the premises. Eventually as her mind declined a victim of dementia, but her spirit remained she needed more care and was moved to another home, and was forced to give up her room with a view, which for an artist and a woman of the world was one of her last pleasures.
The family tried to make her comfortable but she became more and more paranoid and at one point asked Shelagh to light a candle for her, get a piece of the alter and something Jesus had touched. When we were away in New Hampshire, we got a phone call from Chris’s sister to let us know that Great Gran had had a stroke, but that she had only temporarily lost feeling on one side, but that she was all right. We marveled she survived. The following day the phone rang again and we all braced for the news we received today. But Uncle Ross informed us that actually they had done a CAT Scan and that Great Gran had not had a stroke, just a seizure, and she recovered just fine. As the nurse said a week or so ago, “Dorothy always surprises us.” Great Gran I think we thought would live forever.
Today her life ended and she is, we imagine finally at peace. Her legacy in our family, affirmed. I can see her qualities of spirit and optimism in both Chris and Eva, and here is ever hoping some of that rubs off on me. Like Bette Davis said, “Old Age is Not for Sissies.” Great Gran was brave, brash, funny and beautiful. Although Eva won’t grow up to remember her two visits, I will remind her of the Grand Old Dame and make sure she lives a life, which Great Gran would be proud of and I am sure she will as I do not think apples fall far from the tree. At home we have one of her paintings, and a needlepoint she completed in 2013 at the age of 104, small works of her hand which Eva will have to “remember” her by, which is what she said when she gave us the painting, giving us both time to get used to the idea that she would not in fact live forever. Something else will live forever though, the interview I filmed with her in the courtyard of the pub down the road from her home a few years ago, when we quizzed her on her life, and when Eva is old enough I will let her watch the interview and eventually she will appreciate it, when she is old enough to be interested in her family and our collective past.
Cheers to a life well lived, to Great Gran, Dorothy Pilling Gregory Kinder 1909 – 2014
To read more of Great Gran’s life read my post from her 105th birthday in January this year at the link below.
Xx Derelict Mom
Dear Luci, That was a beautiful piece you wrote and I found it so touching and shall keep it always. I had not cried until then but it was very cathartic. Thankyou. We got a lot sorted today and the funeral is to be on Friday the 10th October. I will talk to Kit and you later. Just now I am about to have a glass of wine and wind down. Love Shelagh