Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Beulah Bernadine Hentz (Kessel), 1916 - 2004

My grandmother passed away Sunday morning. She was a good woman who loved her family. She was known for laughing at everything. I first noticed this when I was about 10 during one of our annual summer visits to Shelbyville. I remember my grandparents were visiting with a lawyer, discussing everyone's health when Grandma mentioned how she had broken her arm, or maybe a leg. Then she laughed. I still remember the silence as my grandfather and the lawyer just stopped to look at her as she chuckled. Honestly, her response to almost everything was a laugh.

I think the laugh may have been a defense mechanism. My Grandpa, John--Johnny to his friends--was always quick with humor and a joke. He would tell amusing little stories and puns, and play small tricks on whoever was nearby. I loved him dearly. Anyway, going on 50 years of marriage, he still thought all of this was hilarious. The only time I ever heard Grandmas swear was years later, during a visit to their home after they had retired. He played some small trick at lunch and instead of her usual laugh she let go a tiny outburst, really no more than a sentence or maybe two. I guess some jokes get old after a few decades.

Last year, Grandma stayed with us for a few days during Christmas season. We talked extensively and I learned just how stoic she was. During this time I learned all new things about her health problems, most of which no one else knew. She just accepted some problems, after learning a condition was permanent, she didn't see a need to talk about it anymore. She didn't see a need to go back and forth to the doctor if their wasn't a ready cure, and she didn't see the need to talk about what couldn't be changed. It was what it was, so why bother with it?

During the last year she had a number of small strokes. Her last one was a week before she died. When my mother asked her if she had experience a stroke her response was "Yes, a number of times." When Mom asked if she had a stroke recently recently Grandma calmly replied "Yes." She didn't tell anyone, because what was there to do after the stroke?

Oh, how I will miss her.

All of this is why Kristi and I will be in Shelbyville, IL for her funeral this Friday. To bid a fond farewell to a member of the family, to hold hands and share a Kleenex with loved ones, to use this opportunity to build a better relationship with those who are left, to say good-bye.

I end this with an unattributed poem read at Princess Diana's funeral.

If I should die and leave you here awhile
be not like others, sore lundone, who keep
long vigils by the silent dust, and weep.
For my sake, turn again to life, and smile,
nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do
something to comfort other hearts than thine.
Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine,
and I, perchance, may therein comfort you.

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