From Right to left, My Great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, and me, not looking at the camera. . Four generations of strong women, for generations of passing on the wisdom.
I haven't been able to talk about it until now, but I feel I need to get this off my chest.
The reality of my situation has been hitting me especially hard this week, with Mother's day just behind me, the first one without my grandmother, the first one I had to work all day so I couldn't spend the time with my mother who is struggling after losing her own. I have to move, my grandmother who was kind of the peacemaker in the family passed away after a long battle starting about three and a half years ago when she coded in the ER, saw Mother Mary, and wished that she wasn't able to be brought back that night. A fact she reminded me of on almost a weekly basis, "why didn't I die?". The battle ended after being diagnosed with lung cancer, and just two and a half weeks later she passed in her sleep, in her home where she wanted to be. She was ready, the rest of us knew it was time, but you're never really ready.
People keep asking me if I'm okay, what they don't realize is that this was an end to a three and a half year wake. I watched my grandmother go from being the feistiest, most passionate, stubborn, person on the planet, to a shell of what she used to be, the last words she said to me were "you're a nice girl, thank you for helping me", and I know in my logic part of the brain that between the meds to keep her calm, the pain medication, the dementia, that she couldn't help it, but god did that feel like a punch to the gut. I think later on when she was unable to speak she started to recognize me again, never being alert to get my name, but enough to know that I was her granddaughter, and someone very important to her.
Watching someone die on hospice is the hardest thing to imagine, I think I'll carry that trauma with me for a long time. With no medical intervention cancer moves fast so she was alert on a Sunday and completely unable to communicate by Tuesday night, a blessing I got to be able to see because I happened to be home. I came downstairs to talk with her one more time when she was relatively lucid. Our later conversations proved much more difficult.
I couldn't stay in the room with her for more than a half hour at a time, it was too hard, too hard to watch someone drowning internally. I'll carry that guilt with me for the rest of my life.
I was there for her last moments, and I hope that will assuage my guilt a little bit.
We had problems, we fought, but the two of us never stopped loving each other.
The following is the Eulogy I gave at my grandmother's funeral
Patricia Beyers –Florio is one of the strongest women I know, she was a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. It is only fitting that this week is teacher appreciation week, if you want to know anything about her you look to her students, her friends, and her family that love her dearly. Her students knew her both as a passionate educator and also as “the strictest teacher they ever had”, she has students all over the world some who still write about how she changed their lives.
For me she was my grandmother, and she loved being a grandmother, she was someone who no one could call an easy person, but when she loved you she loved you with all her heart. When I was younger we would visit her every Sunday, we would have pizza, and she would take me to go and get it and on our way home she would tell me to blow out the red lights so we could get home and eat it faster. She fostered my imagination through small things like that. Now I am an artist. Even when I was older she never stopped helping me out, once right before Halloween my friends and I were in the back yard trying to carve a pumpkin, we were not doing a great job, and all of them knew that it was better to have my grandmother leading the way so they convinced me to ask her to help. She was teaching us even when I was too stubborn to ask, a trait that I definitely inherited from her.
She loved to go on therapy dog visits with my dog Bruce, everyone who knew her knew Bruce and how much those visits meant both to her and to the people whom she was visiting.
She was a tough lady, even later on in life when dementia took a hold, she never stopped loving me or my family. She was brave through the whole illness, and fought to keep her rights and her autonomy.
In the end her faith and her family were what brought her comfort. It is hard to imagine life without her a big piece of my heart is always going to be with her. I wish I could have years more with her, but I know she is now at peace with god, she is with her beloved husband Robert Florio, and she is with Bruce, probably taking him around on therapy dog visits in heaven.
I love you grandma, you will always be with us, and we will never stop learning from you.