henry_and_rosena_sullivan.jpgInteresting that Ginger wrote about her grandfather’s suicide, referencing Newscoma‘s grandfather’s suicide and talking about loss.  I wasn’t going to write about suicide, but, I was going to write about a loss so great that one just couldn’t face life anymore.

I mentioned a couple weeks back how my mother was telling me about reading her mother’s autopsy report.  This weekend, my sister was here visiting and we had a chance to look over the report and it was quite interesting.  Because it’s written in pathology language that we didn’t understand, we got my late stepfather’s copy of Gray’s Anatomy out and my sister would look up the words I would spell out for her so we could understand what this report was saying. We were pretty lighthearted about the whole thing at the beginning and went into it with the attitude of “This is cool!”  The couple days since then though have left me feeling really sad for my little grandmother and a real sense of grief for her and for my mother.

My grandmother died in 1972.  I was about a week away from turning three years old at the time and sadly, I have no real memory of her.  My grandfather, her husband, died about a month and a half before she did of a heart attack. Both deaths were pretty sudden and unexpected.  Knowing the weight of the grief I felt when I lost my own father, I can’t imagine what my mother went through losing both of her parents so close together. It’s really mind boggling to try to process.  There, she had moved to Nashville from Los Angeles a couple years before, a long, long way from her parents and besides the huge loss of both of them, I would imagine she felt a lot of different emotions, like guilt.  She’s never said anything about that because my mother tends to be pretty tight lipped about what’s really going on inside her.  I do remember my father telling me how my grandmother said to him when we moved to Nashville, “You’re taking my babies away from me” and how guilty he felt about that, especially in light of both of them dying not long after.   My mother was the baby of the family and very close with her parents.   My sister and I were the only “little” grandchildren she had living close to her.  All her other grandkids were young adults by the time we came along so I imagine we were kinda neat little treats for her.

The interesting thing about what killed my grandmother is it was basically pneumonia.  For some reason, the medical personnel treating her did not know she had pneumonia and were not treating her for it.  In the year 2007, I can’t help but be shocked that they missed that, but, 35 years ago, I guess medical technology was different.  She had a variety of things wrong with her…stomach problems, some heart trouble that was undiagnosed (again, in 1972 they didn’t have all the stuff they have now).  Her pneumonia might’ve come from something else. 

Most in the family feel like, and I also feel like my grandmother grieved herself to death.  She and my grandfather married in 1917.  They had eight children and something like 21 grandchildren and no telling how many great and great great grandkids they have now…They buried two of their children, lost everything they owned in the flood of 1927, survived the depression, moving from Louisiana and starting over in the Promised Land of Sunny, Southern California…a lifetime of ups and downs and they had the respect and adoration of all of their children and grandchildren.  Anytime my mother speaks of either of her parents, her voice gets a certain inflection of both awe and longing.  Having a 13 year old daughter who rolls her eyes everytime I address her and reminds me constantly of how not funny and “weird” I am, I can only hope my kids revere me someday like that.

Maw Maw’s autopsy report said that she had some arteriosclerosis, but, there were no obvious abnormalities of her heart, but, I think they were very wrong.  She died of a broken heart after losing her Henry.  I guess even the most trained pathologists aren’t able to see that.