Today a sweet soul has flown home. After a long battle with congestive heart failure, my paternal grandmother breathed her last today in Mt Vernon, Illinois.
The colloquial phrase would be “she suffered many hardships”, but she was not one to suffer. When her husband died tragically and left her with a young daughter, she put her faith in God, picked herself up, and got a job in the family printing press. Her heart did not give up. She found love several years later and married my grandfather, James (Jim) Covey Tevebaugh. Effie had two more children with Jim, and then he, too, left her before his time. She survived two traumatic car accidents, one that hurled her through the windshield. She lost two daughters, a son-in-law, and a grandson to cancer. Her heart remained warm and welcoming to her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, though she must have been weary of tragedy. She had several heart attacks and lost her hearing almost completely. But even to her last days, if you asked her how she was, assuming she had her hearing aids in, she would reply “fairly well, how are you?” She was always positive, always grateful, always kind.
We didn’t see Grandma often, with her unable to leave small-town Illinois and McLeansboro being mysteriously left off our vacation bucket list, selfish as we were. I remember visiting her as a child and the effort she put in to making us feel welcome. Three types of off-brand soda in the fridge, five kinds of cereal and baked goods for breakfast, casseroles for lunch, pork chops and copper pennies for dinner. Playing in her yard was somewhat exotic for an apartment-dweller, and once I caught a bird that was injured. I was so thrilled with myself, but dejected when Grandma told me to let him go because it needed it’s mother. Mothers always know best, I suppose.
When she had her recent major heart attack (not her first, second, or third) my sister and I traveled to McLeansboro to meet my parents and say our good-byes. We didn’t think we’d get there in time as her doctor was preparing Dad for the worst. When the doctor saw her the next morning, he was genuinely surprised she was there. He fully expected this 80 pound, 95 year old woman to meet her maker before the dawn. But her heart did not give up.
Effie managed to struggle her way back from hospital bed, to nursing home, back to her own room in Heritage Woods with her Bingo buddies after a major heart attack and even a fall while in the hospital. She continued to require oxygen and was often short of breath, but her heart did not give up. In her advanced age, and with most of her loved ones gone before her, Effie had been ready to leave her earthly body for a long time. She started giving away her trinkets and things that were special to her to the people whom she thought would love them like she did. One year I got a broach on a chain for Christmas that had obviously been from her own jewelry box. Her mind was ready for the next life, but her heart did not give up.
Three weeks ago, she was back in the hospital. She struggled to breathe, and when she seemed to be improving she had a serious fall that cracked her hip. She elected to have a partial hip replacement, hoping, I’m sure, that she might slip away peacefully during surgery, because what 95 year old has a hip replacement? She was ready. But she came through the surgery with flying colors and was left sore and still short of breath. It’s very hard to get up and about to recover from hip surgery when you can barely breathe sitting still.
Effie has long been concerned with being a burden to others, asking my Dad about her finances when he told her he was going to hang on to her room at Heritage Woods just in case she needed it. She raised a humble but very successful son who never let on that he could afford to pay for her room and her temporary place in the nursing home. I am sure that she was uncomfortable in spirit as well as body, knowing my Dad worried by her bedside. Grandma was a devout Christian who had no doubt about the glorious salvation that awaited her, and Dad worried for her comfort, not her destination. So, without fanfare or fuss, Grandma left us while my parents slept by her side.
Truly, I don’t think her heart gave up. I think her soul explained that there was a new mission: to be with her Creator in eternal grace. And her heart, at long last, rested.