Friday, May 18, 2012

Ella Mae

Ella Mae Blount 1912-2012
My grandma passed away yesterday. She was 99-and-a-half years old and died peacefully while asleep in her own bed. She was healthy and happy and clear of mind and spirit when she died.

After my mom called and told me Grandma had died, I unpaused the TV show I was watching and continued. I thought it might distract me from the news I'd just gotten. But it didn't. (Big surprise.) So I turned it off and I just...sat. My grandma and I weren't close, but neither were we distant. We simply lived across the country from each other and didn't communicate often. But I loved her dearly and I like to think that I was a decent grandson, especially during the last few years of her life.

As I sat on my couch, what I thought about was her life and her death. She was nearly a century old. A century! She was born just 9 years after Orville and Wilbur learned to fly. She witnessed the birth of commercial aviation and saw Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. She was around when a telephone still weighed about 4 pounds, only came in one color and didn't have a prayer of fitting into a handbag or a pocket. She had a typewriter and sent letters and didn't have a computer and never sent an email. She heard movies go from silent to sound and saw them go from black and white to color. She listened to radio and then watched television. She sang to herself and then got a phonograph and then a cassette player and then a CD player. (No iPod for Grandma, though.)

My grandma lived through World Wars I and II. She lived through Korea and Vietnam. She survived every disease known to modern man either because she never caught it or simply kicked its ass. She wasn't killed by a mugger or a drunk driver or a heart attack or a stroke. She was born in a time when it was nearly unlivable to be black in America and she saw the modern civil rights movement make life a bit better.

She raised 2 sons who then raised children of their own, who then raised children of their own. She was all of 5'-2", had a thick silver braid down to her butt, and I can't pull up a mental image of her face without a smile on it. She said her trick to keeping a clean house was to put things down where they belong. And she said that every disagreement isn't worth arguing about.

When I think about death, the idea of dying doesn't bother me that much. I think what frightens me is how I'll die. Will it be painful? Will I be alone? Will it take long? Will it be after a protracted illness while I'm lying in a hospital bed attached to machines and surrounded by strangers?

My grandmother died peacefully and painlessly while asleep in her own bed. That's how I could go. So for today, I'm not quite as frightened as I was.

Thanks, Grandma.