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Grandma’s last breath

By Clayton

On Thursday morning, November 10th, 2011 around 6.00 AM, my grandmother left the world of the living and entered the other side. She had lived 73 wonderful years, but eventually it was time to go; just like each and every one of us will have to go one day. This blog is all about the day she died until the day of her funeral.

I can still remember everything clearly. And I have a feeling these memories will stay with me for years to come. Just like all the other tragedies in my life haunt my mind from time to time.

It all started on Sunday morning, November 6th. I was still awake at 5.30 AM, sitting behind my laptop and trying to recover as much data as I possibly could, when I heard the phone ring. My heart jumped, because no one ever calls at this hour, so I immediately had the feeling that something was wrong. I could hear my dad talking on the phone and rush after a few minutes out of the house. I asked my mom what was going on and she said that my grandmother had called, because she was feeling ill.

A few hours later my dad came home and said that he had taken my grandmother to the hospital, but they send her home, because it wasn’t anything serious to keep her. She had pain in her lower stomach and said she had been constipated for almost a week now. They gave her a few medications and she was allowed to leave. Later that day and next day she said the medications seem to be working and she was feeling a bit better.

However, on Tuesday afternoon she rang my dad up again that she was in pain and would like to go to the hospital. My dad brought her and this time the doctors decided to make her stay at the hospital to keep an eye on her. One Wednesday afternoon my dad and brother went to visit her. I honestly didn’t ask how things were, because I just assumed everything was fine. Neither of them said anything noteworthy, because my grandma didn’t show any signs of serious illness.

The next morning, as we were all getting ready for work, the phone rang again. Since it was 6.00 AM my heart jumped and something told me: “This is bad! She will most likely not make it!”
But naturally I shook the thought out of my head.
It was the hospital calling my dad and asking if he could come to the hospital, because his mother’s condition was bad. He then rang up his oldest sister and they both rushed to the hospital to see what was going on. I made my way to work, but I somehow just knew that she was not going to making.

As I was driving I could feel my eyes my eyes getting warm and my cheeks getting wet. I wept until I arrived at the office, without even knowing what was going on exactly. I was trying to shake off all bad thoughts and feelings, but I couldn’t. I just knew that something wasn’t right.

As usual I signed in at work and took a look at my Blackberry to see if I had received any messages, while driving. I saw none. However I saw the status update of my cousin’s girlfriend who I have on my blackberry messenger, which said that she wished me and my cousins a lot of strength with our loss.
I thought she was probably overreacting and it probably was nothing and just a minor scare.

That was until I received a text message from my little brother a few minutes later saying: “Vanaf vandaag is oma Fillie er niet meer” (translation: “From this day forward grandma Fillie isn’t with us anymore”.

(Note: Fillie was her nickname. Her full name was: Felicia, but barely anyone ever called her that).

I replied by sending my condolences and turned my music on and tried to work. Which was a bit difficult, because the tears were flooding out of my eyes. I’m not exactly sure if I was weeping just for the fact that my grandmother wasn’t alive anymore. The thing is, I don’t cry easily, but once I have a reason to, I usually cry for all the other times I wasn’t able to cry, but wanted to. It usually builds up and I just need a trigger to release it. With the news of my grandma’s passing I had found my trigger.

I received a bunch of condolences messages from friends, which was very nice, but I tried to pretend like nothing was wrong and did my best to just work.

After a few hours my dad rang me up and asked me why I was the only one not at the morgue, while all my other cousins were. I was unaware of that fact and was a bit angry of the way he rang me up, but decided to not go into that fact at the moment.
I went downstairs to talk to my HR-manager and ask her permission to leave the office early after I explained what had happened. As I was telling the story, I could feel my eyes shaking again and my throat was closing up. I left as soon as she said it was okay, because I was about to burst into real tears.

Within 20 minutes I arrived at the morgue where everyone was sitting outside, besides my dad, his older brother, my aunt and 2 cousins of mine; they were all inside the room where my grandmother’s body was laid to say our goodbyes. I entered the room and my body was shaking. I walked closer to her body and I didn’t know what to do nor say and I felt quite awkward just standing there. I also didn’t want to stare too long, because I didn’t want to be haunted by that sight for the rest of my life.

But there she was… Just lying there…. Her whole body, besides her head was wrapped in sheets. It was as if she was simply sleeping… (her eternal sleep). After a while we just sat there. All quiet.
Eventually my dad said it would be best if we just went home now, because it’s not like we could do anything or that anything would happen.

I went on home. Continued my work, from my house and later went to school.
After that followed the 6 days until her funeral

Day 1: First group of family members arriving from Holland.

My dad’s younger sister, and my grandma’s youngest daughter, was the first to arrive in Suriname from Holland the next day. My dad picked her up and was barely at home from this day, until the funeral. He was constantly driving around getting all the arrangements ready.

Day 2: Second group of family members arriving in an hour and funeral preparations.

On the second day after my grandma’s death, Saturday, the second group of family members arrived from the Netherlands: my dad’s younger brother, and 3 cousins of mine.
I heard that my uncle totally lost it as he arrived at my grandma’s house, which I totally understandable, because suddenly it was all REAL. Took them almost 3 hours to give him the courage to step out of the car and enter the house.

Meanwhile the rest of the was deciding what to wear to the funeral. (Who said we can’t mourn in style?)
I had bought my clothing and new shoes the day before and my mom and my aunt where deciding what the women would wear to the funeral.

Day 3: this Sunday has been unusually quiet.

Nothing special happened on Sunday. It was all just very quiet at home. I tried to catch up on my work and some schoolwork. We were all in silent mourning.

Day 4: visiting the family at grandma’s house

Since the news of my grandma’s death I hadn’t been to her house. I guess that I was somehow also scared to face reality. Although I had seen her lying there in the morgue, the idea of visiting her “empty” house was a bit frightening to me. However I knew I eventually would have to.
As I drove closer to grandma’s house, I could feel my heart beating faster and faster. I somehow managed to enter the house and be amongst family, whom all seemed calm. But I admit: the house felt very empty :-/

Day 5: Grandma’s memorial service

On Tuesday evening, the night before the funeral, a memorial service was held at my grandma’s house as is tradition. It was very well visited, even more than I had expected. I had to park in the next street and walk all the way to the house.

There were songs sung and there were prayers said. At midnight all the lights were switched off and the whole family had to stand in a circle and pray. This is the part where I couldn’t withhold it any longer and just let all my tears pour out. This was one of the few moments I wasn’t afraid of anyone seeing me crying.

Day 6: The Funeral – time to say goodbye

The day of the funeral started very early. At 11.00 AM we were all supposed to meet up at the morgue to say our final goodbye. This was family only. We entered the room and we all had to touch her and say whatever we wanted to say. I took me a lot of strength to withhold my tears, but a few still managed to slip out. This was quite an eerie moment. Feeling her cold face and seeing so many sad faces. Not to mention the tears.

After that we went home and got ourselves ready for church, where everyone who wanted to say goodbye could gather. My mom, brother and I drove straight to the church, where my grandma was part of the choir, while my dad and his siblings drove to the morgue to pick up the body with the hearse.

The service in the church started at 3.30 PM and went on for about an hour or so. Maybe longer. I can’t really remember. It was all very emotional, with sad faces and cries again of course. Someone even fainted as we were close to seeing my grandmother for the very last time as they closed the coffin for good.

Journey to the cemetery

After the coffin was closed we all drove behind the hearse, first to my grandmother’s house and afterwards to her final resting place. My grandmother’s body is buried at the same graveyard that my grandfather, her husband was also buried about 18 years ago.

By 6.00 AM the grave was closed and it was time to head on home again.

———————————————————————————

Random facts

  • This is the second funeral I’ve witness from start to finish and it’s very exhausting. I was still feeling weary the day after. The first being that of my grandfather, but I was only 5 years old.
  • I have to admit, that seeing someone close to you die really affects you.
  • Of course I know that we all will die one day, but you don’t stop to realize the things and appreciate the people in your life until one of them is gone forever.
  •  My grandmother had 6 children, which one of them has died years before I even was born. Her own mother who at the moment is 104 years old is still alive and a very strong woman for her age. I often look at her and have great admiration for her. It’s hard to believe that she’s 104 years old, still aware of everything and everyone around her and able to walk by herself.
  • I am not someone who likes to eat vegetables or anything that’s not sweet, but I did always eat my grandma’s vegetables. Hers were the only one I ever ate, because I always though she prepared it in a special way that still taste amazing.

We will all miss her, but the memories will live on forever.

Felicia Edmė Derby-Donk

Born: April 10, 1938
Died: November 10, 2011
Buried: November 16, 2011

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