Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Tribute to My Grandma

This past weekend was a tough one. About two weeks ago, I found out that my Grandma was going on Hospice. From what I gathered from family members, it didn't sound like she was doing too terribly, but my dad did tell my sister that he doubted she'd make it to the New Year. Not being there, I didn't know how good or bad things really were, but I know enough to know that Hospice doesn't accept anyone into their program unless they believe the person has less than six months to live. My work with the elderly made me witness to many people going on Hospice and passing away shortly after.

Last week, I got a call from my sister who reported that Grandma hadn't eaten or drank anything in four or five days. Grandma was just laying in her bed with her eyes closed all the time. I sat on pins and needles all weekend.

Grandma developed the "death rattle" on Saturday morning. They told my dad she wouldn't make it even another hour at 7:30am that morning. But she held on. On Saturday night/Sunday morning, my dad and I texted back and forth. I think he was kind of glad that I'm awake at odd hours that night/morning.

That morning, my dad called and told me my Grandma had passed away around 9am.

Even though Grandma had lost her spirit long ago, it breaks my heart that she's gone.

My Grandma had a hard exterior. She was "a little rough around the edges." But she was a real sweetheart when you got past that exterior.

One of my earliest memories of her was when my sister developed pneumonia. I woke up because my sister was gasping for air. It was a horrible thing to see. I was scared and worried - I was maybe six or seven years old at the time. My mom and dad called Grandma (who lived a mile down the road), and she came right over to watch me while they rushed my sister to the hospital. I couldn't sleep because I was so worried about my sister. My Grandma let me climb in her lap, and she told me my sister would be okay. She rocked me in the rocking chair for a long time. My sister was transferred to a bigger hospital nearly an hour away where she had to stay for three or four days, but she pulled through just fine - just like Grandma said she would.

My parents divorced when I was seven years old. My sister and I spent weekends at our dad's house and our weekdays at our mom's. My mother insisted on a very structured household. When we went to visit Grandma with our dad on the weekend, my sister and I got the chance to be carefree, play, laugh, be kids! Grandma often told us to "simmer down," but I can't remember her ever flying off the handle - something we had to worry about with our mother.

My dad had to work a half day on Saturdays at that point, so we often spent the night with Grandma and spent Saturday morning with her. My sister and I often watched the movie, "Sister Act," while there - it was the only VHS my Grandma owned, and we loved the movie. Grandma would make us chocolate milk or let us share a soda. She always moved one of her chairs over right by the television so I could see the TV, and she never complained about me being in the way of the screen.

My sister and I always laughed at our Grandma's funny old sayings like, "simmer down," and, "don't put your feet on the davenport!" When my Grandma got irritated with us being so boisterous, she'd tell us, "I'm sure glad I don't have any kids!" That made us laugh even harder.

This organ is similar to the one my Grandma had.
It wasn't often, but once in a while, Grandma would play the organ for my sister and me. She was great at it! She liked to play, "Jesus Loves Me." She would play the organ and sing, and my sister and I would dance around the room or spin in her comfortable chairs. I now have a little stuffed lamb that plays, "Jesus Loves Me," when you wind it up. It reminds me of my Grandma.

For decades, my Grandma made my dad breakfast and dinner nearly every day. It's not that my dad couldn't make his own meals. It was more that it gave my Grandma a purpose, and it allowed her to have some company every day. On Sunday mornings, she'd make my sister, my dad, and me waffles. She had an old waffle iron that made flat, round waffles - they weren't big and fluffy like the waffles most irons make today. It was my favorite part of staying with our dad on the weekend! My Grandma would take any leftover waffles and put them out in my dad's yard for the kitties and dogs. I used to joke that Lita ate waffles when she was young.

My Grandma loved to help people, even if she didn't always show it on the outide. She would help anybody who needed it. The summer before I moved to Colorado, she'd pick me up, feed me lunch, let me watch my soap opera (even though I knew it wasn't her favorite thing to watch), and take me to work.

It was that summer that she and I became very close.

She'd always want to know why I couldn't just stay there in Indiana - why did I have to move to Colorado for graduate school. She would never say it, but now I realize that she didn't want me to go. The only time I ever saw my Grandma cry was when I gave her a hug before I left for Colorado and told her I loved her. My Grandma wasn't raised to verbalize her affection, so she rarely said she loved me, but she did that day. She showed her love for people through her actions - doing things for people, making meals, making pies, helping others with farm work, etc.

Blue Heeler.
My Grandma was a dog person. When I was still pretty young, she had three dogs - Whitey, Belle, and Blue. Well, my dad and her kind of shared custody of Blue. (a blue Blue Heeler). My sister, my Grandma, and I would often take a walk down the road, with Blue running ahead of us, having a grand time. She taught my sister and me the old "kick the can" game.

She didn't really believe in having dogs in the house, but she put down lots of rugs in her garage to help keep them warm when it got cold out. On really cold days/nights, she'd let Blue into the house to sleep.

My Grandma LOVED to mow grass. You could often find her riding around on her mower when the weather got warm. Not only did she mow her own grass, she'd ride the mile down the road to my dad's house, and mow his, too.

My Grandma crocheted gorgeous afghans. I have a beautiful one she gave me one Christmas. I'd love to have it out, but I don't want the kitties to scratch it with their claws.

After I moved to Colorado, I tried to stay in touch with my Grandma as much as I could. Her hearing wasn't the best, so chatting on the phone was a bit challenging for her. I used to write her long letters, and she'd write me back. I told her secrets that few others knew. When she found out I was in an abusive relationship, she told me to, "Get rid of that damn boyfriend!" She was a no-nonsense kind of woman.

For years, she was the only person in my family who knew that I am losing my sight. I eventually told my sister, but to this day, nobody else in the family knows. I knew that my Grandma could be trusted.

Shortly after our stepmom died, Grandma fell. She broke her hip. She never fully recovered. She could no longer live independently, and it killed her spirit. My grandma spent several years in a nursing home where she could no longer cook meals or serve others. She was incredibly unhappy and depressed. It frustrated me that some of our family members didn't understand how much this change affected her. My Grandma said numerous times that she just wanted to go home - to Heaven. It was really sad to hear.

Pink rose.
My Grandma had six children. She wore a ring with each of their birthstones in it. One of her children passed away in 1998. Each of her five remaining children visited her regularly at the nursing home. My dad visited her nearly every day. He and one of my aunts used to go straight to the nursing home after work to visit with her. An uncle of mine went more days than not, and my remaining two aunts went as they could. I was so happy that all of her kids made the effort to visit so often. When I worked in a nursing home, it was heartbreaking to see all the residents who rarely, if ever, got any visitors.

My Grandma was 95 years old and still in pretty good health! Her body just decided it had had enough. From everything I've heard, it sounds like she went as peacefully as someone possibly can. She was surrounded by her children around the clock at the end.

Now, she's home - home with her husband (my grandpa), who passed away in 1985, her son (my uncle), who passed away in 1998, and Blue, Belle, and Whitey. I know that all of her friends passed away before she did, so I know they are also there, welcoming her with open arms.

I'd like to think that I'm a little like her - stubborn, with a hard exterior, but someone who will do anything for the people (and animals) I care about. If someone told me I'm like my Grandma, I'd consider it quite the compliment. She's a good role model.

I'll miss her so very much. Even if we haven't been able to write letters back and forth for a while like we used to, just knowing that she was there was comforting to me. I asked about her every time I talked to my dad or one of my aunts. And I hear she asked about me often, too.

I've felt truly loved by very few people in my life, and she was one of them. Losing her, losing her love is very painful.

I know I'll see her again someday. I know she's a beautiful angel, and I pray she's watching over me, and maybe even feels proud of me.

My Grandma with one of my aunts.
My Grandma and one of my aunts. 

Aileen Koester

January 5, 1924 - October 27, 2019


  1. Such a beautiful story, what a wonderful woman. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  2. That was such a wonderful tribute to your Grandma, we fell as though we knew her. Love and hugs from all of us here.

  3. Heaven just got another angel.
    Hugs and purrs to you, as your mourn the strong woman who helped raise you.

  4. She sounds like a wonderful, amazing woman. And it does sound like you are just like her. May she sail easy.

  5. I'm so sorry about your grandma. You had a special connection with her, and she was a very special person too. You are so lucky to have had her influence growing up.

  6. I am so sorry for your loss. This was a beautiful tribute to her. It sounds like she wan an amazing woman. XO

  7. Oh Sierra what a lovely & touching tribute to your Grandmother! You captured her spirit & personality so well....I feel like I knew her! And I can say you ARE a lot like your Grandmother! You have her fighting spirit & resolve & kind heart. AS we say in Judaism "May Aileen's memory be for a Blessing."
    Sending you comforting {{{hugs}}} an good wishes & purrs of Love, Sherri-Ellen & BellaDharma

  8. That was a beautiful tri and memory. ♥️ Thank you for sharing it with us.

  9. I am glad you all those precious memories of your grandma. What a special lady she was.So sorry she is in Heaven now, and no longer with you. You have my sincere sympathy at this difficult time.
    ((( ♥ )))

  10. Wow. Tears are flowing down my face. That was truly beautiful. And so many parts of your story resonated with the situation with my Mom (for the last 10 years or so she couldn't read or talk on the phone) - and it was very painful when I moved to DC. I was only there for a year, but by the time I got back, she wasn't talking or interacting anymore. Most of all, your story reminds me of my favorite aunt and grandfather. They both died within a year of each other when I was 8 or 9. To that point, they were the only people I thought loved me - in many ways, they were the parents I so desperately needed. As I got older, my grandma and I got very close. She sounds a lot like yours - tough on the exterior (not necessarily easy to relate to kids) - but her faith in God and love were beautiful. I think I'm a lot like her too. Or I hope so! She was 95 when she died - and I was in residential treatment for anorexia at the time. I hate that I wasn't there to say good-bye and tell her in person how much she meant to me. How it was HER that picked up the pieces of my broken heart at losing my aunt and grandfather - and taught me to be strong. I keep talking because I want so much to offer words to ease your pain - but there aren't any. I truly relate to your story in many ways - and I admire you for sharing it.