My grandmother died late last year just shy of her 104th birthday after living an amazing life (orphan, POW, immigrant, farmer).
Her last few nights were spent in the nursing home that she had been in for several years, the home has a protocol that when one of the residents is on their last legs a nurse will quietly check on them a few times during the night to see that they are still alive.
Apparently the night before she died she was lying awake in bed around 2am and heard the nurse (who wasn’t very popular with the residents) open her door to do one of the checks.
So she held her breath…and let the nurse walk a few steps into her room so he could listen a bit more clearly…and then said (quite loudly) “I’m not dead yet!”.
Scaring the hell out of the nurse and giving my grandmother and her fellow patients one last laugh before she checked out.
I’ve though the generation that lived through the Depression and a couple of World Wars might have experienced some of the most remarkable times in history and possibly be blessed with some of the best values. She certainly sounded like a real character.
Anyone can pull off the “not breathing” joke. It takes a real dedication to the art of humor to pull it off on the night before you actually die, getting the victim a second time leaning the other way.
“OK, Agnes, very funny, you’re not going to trick me two nights in a row…you can breathe now…Agnes?”
(Said only with the sincerest condolences for you and respect for your wonderful grandma. I hope I have her same spirit if I live to be 104.)
Thanks for all the good thoughts everyone. She died a few months ago and we all knew it was coming and so had a chance to prepare, my mum was able to fly up to see her one last time and be there. She had a good long life and a peaceful death which is about as good as it gets.
Sure, but a little background and another story to fill in her life a bit.
My grandparents were Dutch, my grandfather was in the Dutch army deployed to Indonesia (Dutch East Indies as they were known then). He was sent to Borneo to defend the oilfields at Balikpapan. When it became clear that the Japanese invasion was imminent he managed to get my grandmother and mother (a five-month old baby) onto the last of two evacuation flights out. While their plane made it back to Java safely the first DC-3 disappeared, it’s assumed it was shot down by Japanese fighters.
Granddad was eventually captured on Java and sent to work the Thai-Burma railway (think Bridge on the River Kwai) while my grandmother and mother were in the city of Surabaya when it fell and interned there for the duration of the war.
Post-war, neither of my grandparents knew if the other had survived but my grandmother spent each day walking around the transit camps in and around Jakarta (with my now 5 year old mother in-tow) asking any Dutch soldier she could find if the had heard of my grandfather.
After almost a six months of this she finally met a man who had shared a hut with my grandfather a few months before, he was still in Thailand, still recovering from his time in the camps, but alive. So, based on one story she got a place on an empty troopship heading for Thailand and then hitchhiked to the camp in which my grandfather had been several months before and were reunited.
My late Uncle was a priest on Long Island and was chaplain to a nursing home near his parish. He was called to give Extremunction to dying residents at least once a month.
He told me that once he was called to give last rites to a very old, sick, dying woman. The nurse led him to the patient’s room, and they found the sheet was pulled over the woman’s head. The nurse was confused, and thought perhaps the woman had just died while she was fetching my uncle. She went to check on the patient, who then dramatically pulled off the sheet and shouted “TA DAAAAAAA!!!”
The nurse was scared witless, my uncle cracked up laughing… but having pulled off her last big joke, the old woman died about 30 minutes later.
Battle Pope, your Gramma sounds like a great woman! That story made me laugh. I’m sorry she’s gone but I’m glad you had so much time with her. 104 is a good long time! She sounds like a remarkable woman. Astorian that’s a good story and I laughed at that one, too!
I hope I can keep my sense of humor to the end like these two ladies did.
Good story. The wife and I just paid a return trip to the Bridge and that area last month. You ought to make a pilgrimage. There are some good museums, and the Allied cemetery from that time even has a small Dutch section.