In the later years for my Grandmother Anna Kalp Beck and especially after the death of my grandfather Edison Thomas Beck, her age and health limited what she could do for herself. My aunt Estella, my uncle Merle, and my dad would take turns making sure that she was awake, was clean, had something to eat, and then made sure she was settled for the night. They did this for several years.
She was frail and before Granddad died, she fell down the basement steps when he dropped his work pants at the top step. She stooped to pick them up and tumbled to the bottom, breaking the humerus of her arm. After being evaluated, she was kept overnight to decide whether to do surgery of not. Her health was less than optimal and the doctors thought she would have a poor outcome after the anesthesia. A hanging cast was applied and she was sent home.
The hospital where she was admitted was the one where I worked. When I came in to work that night, the nurse taking care of her asked, “Does she speak a foreign language?”
I looked confused, not sure of what she meant. My grandmother was of German heritage, but I had never heard her speak anything but English. When I said, “No.” she continued, “Every time I go into her room, she is lying there with her eyes closed and she is mumbling a foreign language. I can’t quite understand what she is saying.”
A light came on. I knew what was happening. My grandmother was Pentecostal and she often prayed in tongues. When I explained that Grandma was praying, the nurse chuckled and said, “That’s a first for me.”
Her health slowly deteriorated to the point that she could not stay alone even after the broken arm was healed. She was admitted to a personal care home. The home had help available for her twenty-four hours each day. They made sure she was clean and fed, though she was bedfast. She retreated more and more inside herself in times of prayer. She knew the staff and was comfortable.
Eventually her health declined even more. She developed gangrene in one of her feet. The family had to make a decision; take her to the hospital or keep her at the care home. They weren’t sure what to do and my dad asked me what I thought they should do.
I reminded him of what the doctors said about her undergoing surgery when she had broken her arm and her health had deteriorated even more from that time. I said, “Grandma is comfortable and not in pain. She isn’t healthy enough to have her foot amputated. She knows the staff and they know her. She’s not in pain and the hospital is not going to be able to do anymore for her than here in the nursing home, but it is up to you. She’s your mom.”
After Dad got together with his siblings, they all agreed that it would be in their mom’s best interest to allow her to stay where she was. She was comfortable and was in no pain.
After nearly a week she died; quietly and comfortably in her bed, praying in a low voice. The flame of her life’s candle blew out.