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Bille Meyer

Yesterday evening my grandmother passed away. She was 99. She had a bad fall down her stairs and she just didn't have enough life left to get over the physical trauma. She had excellent care, she was not in pain and she didn't linger. She arrived at the hospital not understanding what the fuss was about, wanting to get home to watch the baseball game. When you're 99 you don't get to walk away from a fall down the stairs. She wouldn't have accepted that as a truism but swelling and bruising quickly set in and settled the argument of mortality.

The picture above is from about three weeks ago. She'd just finished a huge sloppy joe sandwich,  perhaps the cruelest sandwich to give to a centenarian. But she dispatched it with ease and here she's winding up to punish the desert case. She and I each ate a mini cheesecake. 

I can't help but think some part of her was thinking "that was a stupid way to cut my life short", but a far greater part of her knew her life wasn't short by any measure. So much of it was a blessing. That fall was part of the accepted risk of living as she always had.

For years she credited those stairs with prolonging her life. Every day, up and down them she kept moving. She outlived her husband by almost a quarter century all the while climbing those stairs. I suppose it's no surprise those stairs would be what ended that life. The things that make us strong come with risks and to not accept them means your life becomes mere existence.

None of us will live lives as remarkable as hers. She held great-grandchildren in her arms and was a plane flight from holding great great grandchildren in her arms. She lived through the Great Depression, World War II,  the Korean War, Viet Nam, the 60s, landing on the moon, the birth of the Internet, both Iraq wars, 9/11, and through all the social upheaval, change both good and bad, the magic and loss that is life, she grew more luminous. At 85 she was talking about the end of her life as if it was imminent. At 95 she was so stunned to still be alive, with her mind intact and still independent, she began to pick up the pace and do things. She traveled; she went to Gary and Kathryn's wedding that was held at around 8000 feet up in the Rockies. She made Christmas visits to family in Colorado and New Mexico. She went to Oregon for my sister's wedding. Every time I saw her, she had a light that defies description.

Most of us will leave this world before we're ready. Grandma treated all of the little and big events in the last 20 years as gifts and she radiated gratitude to have been present for them. 

It was a lovely Fall in NY. I was glad I got to see it and see her. The autumn leaves fell. She fell with them. I miss the beauty of the leaves. I miss my Grandmother, but I know beauty must have a beginning and an end. It is as it should be.


Leslie Lassi said…
Erik and I saw Grandma almost a month to the day before her fall. She was vibrant and joyous - full of life. In fact, she traversed those stairs with speed that I was envious of. My 47-year-old knees could not keep up. Ironic, huh? She will most definitely be missed, respected, and memorialized for all of us.

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