My step-grandmother Janet Lau passed away a couple of weeks ago. She was 94 years old, in terrible pain and unable to get around due to osteoporosis and a myriad of other medical issues. She had told her son, my stepdad, several times that at night she prayed that she wouldn't wake up in the morning. She finally got her wish on August 26th and never woke to see the following day.
Her husband Norman died 40 years earlier of a heart attack, far too young. He had not been feeling well and left work to see a doctor. The doctor didn't think he had the signs of a heart attack and sent him home — he died later that day. Janet never remarried. She only ever went on one date and afterwards told family that no one could take Norman's place and never dated again.
|Norman on the left, Janet on the right, their wedding photo in the middle.|
Janet loved to play cards. I mean, she looooved to play cards. Every time I saw her, within half an hour of her arrival we were either eating a meal or playing a game of spades, or hand-and-foot, or sheepshead (okay, I wasn't playing that one, I have no idea how, but she was able to play that strategic game until the week before she passed). She was up for any game, as long as it involved cards.
At Christmas she made a traditional German dessert called "himmel futter," or "heavenly hash." The base is called a torte but was more like a crisp meringue with dates and figs baked into it, covered by various fruits, then completely covered in whipping cream. I had never had such a thing before, and the first time I tried one I was in heaven, it is so absolutely delicious.
She raised a wonderful family. My stepdad is a patient, generous, kind and loving man. He is a gift to my mom and our family. He was the primary caretaker of Janet as she got older — he and my mother worked with the home where she lived to ensure she got her medications, managed her finances, and more.
And now she's gone. The managing and caring of Janet is complete. All there is to do is to unravel her life.
Cancel the newspaper she used to read daily. Inform the Social Security office, the government entities that need to know. Clean out her modest little place at the assisted living community. Much of her worldly goods had already been gone through and given to family members who wanted them. Furniture, kitchen wares, pieces of art and more were all in the possession of others. Now, what was left: a hair comb. Bobby pins. Nail file. Shampoo. A small jewelry chest with some last remaining pieces of jewelry. It feels weird to go through a dead woman's things, sorting and sifting the last few items for usefulness or memories.
Janet wrote her own obituary and funeral arrangements. She asked for specific readings from grandchildren, whichever ones thought they could or would want to read. My stepsister Michelle sang a touching song which Janet picked out. The service finished with some beautiful words from Janet herself (paraphrased):
The Lord has come to take me...Let kisses, kindness and love for one another replace the tears. I leave to all of you my legacy of love.She truly was a gift to this world and will be remembered with fondness and love.