Death. To some it is scary. To others, just another part of life. My view on the sometimes too taboo subject changed in late June, when I had the honor of being with my Grandmother as she passed. Although most deaths are not as peaceful as my dear grandmother's, I know that there is peace found after the passing and there is a life outside of this mortality.
Let me explain by first describing my beautiful grandma. Grandma Chapman has got to be one of the most stubborn in my family. She was always determined to support herself and do everything the way she wanted it done. She took pride in her independence and her ability to be successful. My grandma was born with the type of energy one needs to run a marathon every day or raise and support 11 children as a single working mother (which she successfully did). My grandma would go and go and go even until her early 70's. She loved to work and she was good at it. Sadly, several years ago, she had a stroke and began dealing with a 1-minute brain. I know it frustrated her because she used to say to me, "I'm nuts, aren't I?" Like part of her knew what was going on but she had no control over it. This process was sometimes extremely hard to watch because her mental sharpness was one of the things my grandma took pride in. Along with the mental problems came the mobility problems. She couldn't do things by herself which caused her a lot of frustration. Even with all of these ailments, my sweet grandma refused to die. There were several times where we had thought she wasn't going to recover from a fall, infection, or a serious surgery, but her stubborn perseverance kept her alive. Personally, I think she didn't want to leave all of her family behind, and she still had so much energy left to give.
Well, with the deeply saddening passing of my grandmother's daughter and grandson, I watched as her resilience to death began to change. Once, in her near-coma state, she said out loud, "Who is the lady in white over there?" She pointed to the corner. My mom being in the room at the time said she had felt the presence of her sister and knew she was there watching over my grandma. It wouldn't be long after that when my grandma passed. It was like she realized she had family waiting for her and she made the decision to go. A few hours before her passing, I quietly sat with her and held her hand. At that point, I was in utter denial of her health status. She hadn't talked or communicated for several hours, so I thought I could see if I could talk with her. I said, "Grandma, I love you." I received no reply. Then hesitantly, I said, "Grandma, will you say hello to Dad for me?" Almost immediately she squeezed my hand with strength. Then that was the last sign of communication I had had with her, and it leaves with me today the thought that she would deliver the message because she would see him.
I write all of this because my grandma has taught me the lesson of letting go of fear. She has also taught me to stay true to the gospel because it's what brings happiness. I remember one time eating dinner with her. She had a one-minute memory so having a normal conversation like we used to have was no longer available. Still, curious of my grandmother's utter conviction to her beliefs, I asked, "Grandma, how do you know the church is true." She replied,"Well that's easy. You just follow the principles and you are happy." For her, it was kind of like a no-brainer, and I have the feeling that was the case for most of her life.
I have been left to ponder my sweet grand-mother's example as well as the lesson she had taught me before she passed. I deeply miss my grandmother. I miss the memories of learning from her and listening to her stories; however, I know that there is not an end to them. There will be more memories to be made. When I am dying, I hope and pray my children and grand-children will be able to shout, "Say hello to Grandma Chapman and Grandpa Major for me." And I hope they will know that I will deliver the message because I too carry my sweet grandmother's legacy of faith and the truth of the afterlife.