Thursday, April 3, 2008

Together now in peace

In December 2007, Grandma Marion Pierlas died. A little more than three months later, Grandpa Frank Pierlas followed after her. They had been married for over 61 years. They were a beautiful couple, in their youth, with faces decorated with joy, and in their old age, with her body failing and his body there to do what hers could not.
Grandma was sick for some time and slowly made her way out of this world. Even her death was slow and beautiful. I was not there, but Billy says everyone was sitting around her while she laid in her bed with her husband next to her rubbing her back. Slowly, she let go. This was hard for everyone, understandably most of all for Grandpa.
When I saw him at her funeral, it seemed as if half of him were missing. His grief was obvious, and yet was broken intermittently to sword fight (wielding his cane,) with Oliver, to converse with Sophia, and to gaze lovingly at his great-granddaughter Arabella. And then, shortly after, without warning, he died alone at home. While I regret that no one had the opportunity to say good-bye, I think this is the way he would have wanted it. He was a strong and noble man and we can only remember him as such. He didn't have the heart attack at Billy's parents' house, where he could have been immediately taken to the hospital, and artificially sustained at the mercy of technology or a slowly failing body. He left as we knew him. I think this was the way it was meant to be. Grandma suffered for a long time; but, the beauty being, that we got to see their love in action. He took care of his woman. He dressed her. He helped her around the house. He helped her with her food. He explained what she was feeling when she couldn't speak, (one time she started crying when she saw Oliver and Sophia.) She was a gentle woman and he was a gentle man. The image of them living their life together, in such vulnerable ways, will never leave my mind.
They occupy a special place in my life. "Grandpa" and "Grandma" were not just their distinguished titles, but who they were to me in my heart. In middle school, they had come to visit from New York and I was charmed by them. Grandma kissed my cheeks and squeezed my hands, (I began to look forward to this exchange with every visit.) Grandpa insisted that I call them such. I readily agreed. I never had this kind of a relationship in my life; it was always one of those things I had envied. One time, in my hurried, distracted teen-aged state, I called Grandpa "Uncle Bob," who was his brother-in-law. Only later did I find out my mistake, with much chagrin, and realized he never said anything. Maybe he didn't notice. Maybe he was concerned about me saving face. That would be like him.
Luckily, a few years ago, he and Marion moved to Newnan to be closer to their only child, Billy's dad, since her health was getting worse. We were able to see them more, which was nice since our family was growing. I am so happy that Sophia and Oliver pleased them. Of course I regret that we were not able to spend more time with them; one last lunch would have been quite nice.
After Grandma's funeral, Grandpa sent us a thank you note, (Ray played violin for the service.) Grandpa found the music comforting and he mentioned that Ray and I are warm and generous and that's why he loves us.
Interesting... because that's why I love you, Grandpa. We will miss you both.

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