When I visited my last remaining grandparent this summer, she asked if I knew she turned 100. “Yes,” I said, speaking loudly so she could hear, “that’s so great!” “No, not really,” she replied quietly. “I’m tired, Jon. I’m ready.”
A sad moment, but I understood. Elma Aliina Teppo was born a month after Charlie Chaplin’s film debut. Three months before Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. She survived both world wars and a cold war, the Great Depression and several not-so-great ones. Two spouses, five kids and countless grandkids. A life well lived. But her friends and siblings had been gone for several years. It had been a century of goodbyes, and she was ready.
Grandma was energetic, vital and fiercely independent well into her nineties, but the last year had taken its toll. Her hearing had become too poor to chat on the telephone and her sight too poor to read her beloved books. Of course, she had read nearly every book in the Sault Ste. Marie public library, but would have liked to re-read a few. Then a couple of serious falls finally convinced her to move into an assisted living facility three months ago.
“I don’t understand why God isn’t ready for me,” she told my sister on her last visit. But Grandma cherished visits from family and from her Lutheran pastor who offered prayer and communion.
She must have thought her rest would come after a stroke two weeks ago. But five days later she woke up and said, “Dr. Mackie? Oh, no… am I still here?!” This Dr. Mackie was the third generation of Dr. Mackie who had cared for her.
My grandma, or mummo in Finnish, then informed him she was going to go soon whether God was ready or not. The next day she took a turn for the worse; Dr. Mackie III said she “willed herself away.” But the hospice nurses said her vitals were much stronger than they should be. Just like her daughter (my mom) in her prolonged fight with cancer.
It was about a week before she passed and every time her pastor prayed over her, the beating of her heart spiked and her blood pressure rose. They said they’d never seen anything like it.
Elma Aliina Teppo, 1914-2014. Lepää rauhassa.