In Memoriam: My Safta (Grandmother) (Revised)

When some keep it private, I am posting my memoriam to my grandmother because I wanted to share with the world how much my grandmother meant to me.

As young as I can remember I loved visiting my grandmother.

She was a 2nd mother to me. So caring and motherly.

Always made sure I was taken care of.

When I was sick she would nurse me back to health.

When I was in trouble she was there for support.

When I was young and on my own struggling she would slip me $20 bills keeping it secret from my grandfather who was conservative with money, even though I never asked.

When I got myself into trouble, she got me out.

She’s been through a lot in her life. Much worse than I. She knew how it was to be in dire straights, she survived the Holocaust.

I always had great respect and affection for her.

My grandparents were my family when my parents moved to the US in 1999, their home was a place to escape to when I was lonely or needed support. I’d call them weekly to see how they were doing.

And my grandmother, she always without hesitation welcomed me with open arms. Always hospitable and made me comfortable.

She loved me no matter what.

I always felt accepted and never neglected.

There was always a place in her heart for me.

My grandfather was immobile for years, my grandmother took care of him, cleaned him, changed him and cared for him.  And she always cleaned and kept her home immaculate. That was her nature. And she never left his side. That’s how caring and selfless she was.

My grandmother was a strong woman, had a couple mild heart attacks but never complained.

In 2004, while being wheeled in from surgery lying on the hospital bed she saw me in the waiting room and said, “Joey, I am okay don’t worry”. She never ever wanted people to feel sorry for her.

Whenever she was in the hospital I was always there by her side. Just like how she was there for me. She told me she met god and he told her not her time yet.

She had mild Alzheimer’s before my uncle died, when he died in 2008 her mental condition got worse. Two years later in 2010 my grandfather died, her Alzheimer’s had become much worse. She sat in front of the TV and would stare. She would just say a few things, I always asked her how she was, she always say she’s good. She lost most of her memory and only remembered a few people, but always remembered who I was.

A week ago my grandmother wasn’t feeling well, but never said anything, she looked ill so my mother took her to the hospital.  Tests showed she had a tumor blocking her stomach. And days later had an operation to remove it. It was a very risky long 4 hour surgery, fortunately the doctors told us the cancer did not spread, we were all so relieved and looked forward to her coming back home, and like always she was a fighter, but this time she lost the fight.

She didn’t know what was going on, kept saying that she’s okay and not sick and wanted to go home, she asked me if she can come to my home. It was so difficult to watch her in pain.

The day after the surgery, I was at the hospital visiting like every day prior, my grandmother was in more pain and kept asking why were the tubes so tight in her stomach, I kept saying to her it’s because she had surgery, she didn’t understand why.  She’d pause then asked again. She also kept asking if my mother lived in the hospital I had to say yes to calm her down. She always wanted my mother at her side. When my mother too a break from watching her, my grandmother found the strength to get herself out of the bed and rip the tubes out, managed to get herself up and into the hallway looking for my mom. The nurses at first did not watch her.

That was the last time I saw her alive.

On the way home I planned to stop by the hospital to visit her but I didn’t because I thought she was going to be home soon. I didn’t expect her to get much worse so fast.

For some reason I didn’t stop by the hospital that day.

The same day, I got a phone call from mother who’s been at my grandmother’s side night and day and said my grandmother had an infection, she had complications from the surgery which the doctors warned us about.

Things got much worse.

My grandmother had mucous in her system. She then had problems breathing and they put her on a respiratory machine. The doctors had to drain the mucus in her lungs by putting a tube down her throat but my grandmother didn’t want it, she was dealing with enough pain. My mother told the nurses to get the doctor, 5 mins later which felt like hours she told the doctors she’ll hold her up and they try to put the tube in, they tried and tried. My mother kept trying to bring her back, the doctors tried to look for a pulse on my grandmother but they couldn’t find it, my mom kept holding her, calling her name, my grandmother’s head leaned on my mom’s chest as she was holding her, crying saying we could do this. It was too late.The doctors said “I’m sorry but she’s gone”. They saw how determined my mother wanted to help and save my grandmother that they had tears.

Shortly after my mother called me and told me my grandmother died. I rushed to the hospital..

As I approached the room, everything seemed like slow motion, and there she was life selfless to lifeless in the bed, I couldn’t contain myself, tears just poured. I knew her time was going to come soon, but not so quick. I wanted to see her before she left us.

As I left the hospital, tears mixed with rain, as if it washed away my sorrow, taking away the pain. So many memories I cherished raced though my mind.

There are only good memories of my grandmother. As I look at pictures of her and reminiscence of the past, more tears. She meant so much to me.

The day of the funeral, they had rain in the forecast but the dark clouds burst into a perfect sunny sky. Like the warmth she graced. And then a bird flew up above and took flight.

A verse that matches to that sight came to mind and with meaning (as gay as it sounds);

Fly, fly, fly high against the sky, so high almost touch the sky. Thank you, thank you, thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings.

She would sit at the same spot when she lived at my parents home, no longer there, it hurts.

It’s difficult to say good-bye, we all wish we can hold on to the people we love and never let them go.

But there is a time where we have to say good-bye and know that they’re in a better place.

R.I.P Safta. Love You. You’ll forever be in my heart.

1926-2014

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