This I Believe

Madonna - Evansville, Indiana
Entered on July 8, 2008
Themes: family, legacy

Life Lessons from Grandma

I believe in my Grandma’s stories. She would come to visit, sit at the kitchen table and tell tales from her life. Most were told to mother about current everyday events – church work, visiting the sick, helping relatives, quilting and playing cards. She also told stories from childhood, on a farm in the early 1900’s with horse buggies and farm chores. Being a mischievous child, some were amusing, others were of hard times and family struggles. No matter what the story, I always listened with vigilance.

As the years passed, I began to realize I was gleaning life lessons from each tale – “always have fun”, “help others”; “hug and kiss unconditionally”, “keep a diary”, “see everthing with child-like wonder.” As I became a mother and aged into my 40’s, I never grew tired of hearing Grandma’s stories. She was the kind of person I wanted to be.

Grandma did not tell me her last story. I inherited it.

It started with the birth of my first son. My husband and I were young and apprehensive when labor began. At the hospital, we were introduced to Patsy H., a student nurse. Pasty remained with us, providing compassionate and caring attention throughout the entire natural birth – helping us to breathe, keep calm and comfortable. Following the birth, I thanked Patsy, feeling as though her presence made all the difference in our experience. I vowed to send her a note when I got settled at home.

Days turned into months and years, and I never sent the thank-you. I carried Patsy’s name in my memory, regretting not having conveyed my gratitude. I had another son and both of my sons grew into teenagers.

17 years later, my beloved 92 year-old grandmother became ill and was in ICU following major surgery. Feeling lost and helpless, her large family gathered at her side, knowing the end was near. Circumstances beyond my control kept me from being with her. She passed peacefully with her children at her side.

That evening we gathered at mother’s house. She told of a special nurse that was assigned to Grandma in ICU. She spoke of the nurse’s compassion, ability to calm family members, and her professional, yet personal attention to the family’s needs. Mother said, “She made all the difference. She helped us through the entire process. She was a blessing.” I said, “What was her name?” Mother said, “Patsy.”

The following week, I went up to the ICU entrance door. I asked a passing employee to find Patsy and ask her if she used to be Pasty H. The woman returned, looking a little puzzled and said “yes”.

I went directly home and finally wrote the long overdue letter, telling Patsy how she impacted four generations of my family with her care and compassion. I mailed it with a small plaque commemorating the nursing profession.

Then, with tears in my eyes, I said a silent thank you to my grandmother for her gift – the best story of all.