My Granny Jo’s 76th birthday was on Monday.
I had planned to write a post introducing her to you all then. Instead, I received a phone call on Sunday saying that she was at the hospital with stroke symptoms, and later that she’d had several severe seizures and had become unresponsive. There was nothing more doctors could do for her.
So instead of planning a birthday post, our family traveled back home to be with her in her final days, and we lost her last night. But I still want to introduce her to you.
Meet my Granny Jo. She rarely smiled for photos, but she was always smiling in person.
She had a life filled with trials.
Here she is with her husband. She lost him in 1983 when he was far too young.
In 1979, she had a major medical procedure done. They lost her twice, but she was revived. She had more living to do.
In 1985 and 1987, her legs were amputated due to complications from high cholesterol. She would live her final 25+ years in a wheelchair. Despite being confined to a wheelchair with no legs, she was very independent, living alone and taking care of herself most of that time. She had a bit of a reputation among the grandkids for being a neat freak.
She liked to look on the bright side of things and add humor to any situation. She would often surprise new people, saying things like “Watch out, you’re going to step on my toes.” The result was that people didn’t focus on her wheelchair or her limitations, they focused on her spirit.
At the end of 1999, the procedure she’d had done in 1979 needed redone. It was a rare situation, and doctors told her to go home and enjoy Christmas because it would be her last one. Her odds for survival were in the 5-10% range.
But she was always a fighter. She spent several months in the ICU, and even more in a rehab facility recovering from the major surgery, but she went on to see her grandkids grow up and to meet several more great grandkids.
Here she is a couple Christmases ago with most of her “grandbabies.”
In the early 2000’s, she supported her daughter, my aunt Linda through Breast Cancer, getting her hair buzzed off along with my mom and younger sister.
A few years ago, she lost her youngest son to the same monster that took her husband–lung cancer.
Over the past few years, her health continued to decline. Her diet became more limited due to continued cholesterol problems and then blood pressure and diabetes. Her coordination was going, along with her eyesight and independence. At the end, she could barely see and was very weak and in pain, which left her mostly confined to her bed and limited her activities greatly.
But all this is just back story.
Because the thing I most want you to know about my grandmother is that she was an overcomer. She knew how to play the hand she was dealt. If ever there was a woman who knew the meaning of the word contentedness, it was her.
I’m not saying she never had bad days, because she did. We all do. And when she did, she had her family to help her get back on course. But overall, she was one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. Life gave her so many invitations to become a bitter, negative person. But she declined them all.
I never once heard her lament the fact that she had no legs. She didn’t dwell on her loss, she accepted the situation and moved on. It didn’t make her bitter. Instead, she found new ways to do things. She didn’t focus on what she didn’t have or couldn’t do. She focused on what she did have and what she could do.