We had another health crisis in the family recently. The man who was husband, father, and Grandpa had a heart attack. Phone calls buzzed between parents, siblings, and children about serious things—truly matters of life and death. But it is amazing how often we laughed and recalled other times when coping skills and faith were tested—like on Grandma H’s Funeral Day.
She had died swiftly, almost without pain and with one of the greatest exit lines ever. She admitted to being 85 but was actually 88-- or so, as records of her birth burned with the courthouse years before. Grandma, while never really sick, “enjoyed” ill health—not with moans or groans, but with expressive sighs for every occasion. On the day she died, she had baked her famous chocolate potato torte. Her last action before going to the hospital was turning off the oven. Less than an hour later, in the small county hospital, she took her husband’s hand in the same way she had for over 50 years, looked him straight in the eye and said quietly but accusingly, “See Jud, I told you I had heart trouble,” and sighed her last sigh.
Her six grandchildren ranged in age from 6 to 23. The older ones, states apart and in different school, jobs, and universities pooled thoughts, resources and rides, and flew up to Wisconsin to pay their last respects. We parents had driven up as soon as we heard she was on the way to the hospital. Family had not been all together for many months, so after the religious, sisterly, and graveside services and procession of over 50 miles, we went to a restaurant for dinner. It was late, the weather was foul, the food was good and coffee cups were kept filled—so we talked, chatted and reminisced.
Someone mentioned a song and our sons, so used to singing together, blended voices. Diners at other tables added theirs. There was clapping, laughter and more songs. The waitress asked, “What’s the happy occasion?” Someone answered “Grandma’s funeral.” The waitress was puzzled but unflappable. She raised the coffee pot high and said, “Here’s to Grandma, the coffee’s on us!”
Transcribed by G. M. Horning
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