My beautiful grandmother, Evangeline Tierson, passed away last night.
She was a healthy, active, loving woman—my mom, the sixth of her seven children, described her as the most selfless person she has ever known. A long battle with Parkinson’s disease took its toll on her brain and body, confining this otherwise healthy woman to beds and wheelchairs, taking away her lucidity and her memory, robbing her of the ability to communicate or control any aspect of her existence…or so it seemed.
She contracted pneumonia last month and never fully recovered, and soon after, she lost the ability to swallow. The doctors put her on a feeding tube, but things were shutting down…so they removed it, expecting her to last, perhaps, two or three days.
She lived for 24 days. No food, no water. The doctors couldn’t explain it; it is likely that she has set, or at least has come very close to, a world record. The only theory any of them had is the fact that she knew we were still there, and that she loved and cherished us enough to stay with us as long as she could.
Times like this make me pause to seriously consider the spiritual realm, for as much as we know about the human body and the physical processes surrounding death, anyone who has ever been around a dying person knows that there is also another, less definable part of us that takes over when science stops and the unknown begins. This part of her, this spirit, is the likeliest reason that she staved off death for so long, but more importantly, her spirit is what gave her a full life even when her facilities were stunted. Her spirit was stronger than biology, stronger than anything any of us have the capability to measure or predict. She lived life to the fullest up until the very end.
I would say “rest in peace,” but I don’t think that a spirit such as hers would be content to simply rest after being speechless in a wheelchair for so many years…so I will say, Grandma, if there is a life after this one, you have certainly earned it. Congratulations and thank you.