There was Glitter in Her Hair When Grandma Died: The Construction of a Death Story

I was speeding by cars on the freeway driving like a maniac; my mom needed me at the hospital. My grandma had just been admitted, maybe had a heart attack – no one knew – but my mom had simply texted “come” and so I was.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 2.47.44 PMI’m still not sure exactly where I was on the 405 when I got a text message that at a glance looked like an update on grandma’s situation. I asked Siri to read the message to me since I was driving. She read the words, “… Grandma died a little while ago …” without emotion or a sense that she should’ve stayed quiet. A cold computer voice told me that my grandma had died. I know some people might think “messages like these shouldn’t be sent in a text” but I had family who could not make calls due to work restrictions and this was the only way to notify them.

I yelled and burst. The shock of the message accelerated my need to JUST GET THERE and be with my dear mom.

With mascara smudged around my eyes I was escorted through the crowds of other sick and hurting people piled into emergency.  A curtain in the corner was pulled back to reveal this scene: my mom, her hair covered in glitter, was leaning over her mom, looking at her, crying and holding her hand. I put my hand on her shoulder and she turned around and fell into my hug. We cried and grabbed hands and felt the significance of the moment and every bit of whatever feelings came our way.

FullSizeRender-1We began to gather details of what had happened to my grandma in the hours leading up to this point. We began constructing her death story, needing to know who saw what and who was with her and what she said. Working where I do I’m familiar with the importance of a death story.

Telling a life’s story is a process. Many families begin with the death story, almost as if it was a gateway to the rest of the story, the code by which they can unlock all of the other stories of their life. We have a need to tell it because it becomes enfolded into our story.

While details were being gathered I noticed again that my mom’s hair was absolutely covered in glitter.

“Mom, what happened? What is all of this?” I asked, pulling a huge gold piece out of her blond hair.

“Oh, I got teacher of the month this morning and they glitter bombed me. Is there really still glitter in my hair?”

“Yes! A lot.”

We all started laughing in the emergency room. Grandma would’ve loved that.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 2.59.18 PMThat’s one of the crazy things about death, sometimes laughter comes just as quickly as the tears. We can flip-flop in an instant and we need to. We need to balance out our extreme sorrow with the joy that life and our memories continue to sustain us with. There shouldn’t be guilt in that; we are only sad because the person brought so much to our lives that when we remember them we smile and so through tears AND laughter their legacy is made known.

Standing around my grandma we recounted what her last moments had been like. My mom was there when they were applying CPR and the doctor said, “Talk to her Karen, she can hear you,” and so my mom talked. One of my grandma’s favorite stories to tell me was about my mom doing exactly that; talking. She would tell me how neighbors would come over “just to hear Karen talk” when she was a little girl. A precious memory that she treasured and I always loved hearing. I don’t know what my mom told her mom in those final moments but we all felt certain that grandma heard her talk one last time.

That day, February 27, 2015 will forever be one of the strangest days of my life; the day a robot voice on my phone told me my grandma had died, and the day my mom, covered in glitter, said goodbye to her mom.

Molly Keating

About Molly Keating

Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.
This entry was posted in News, Perspective and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Becky Finch Lomaka

    What a beautiful blog, Molly. I am so sorry for your loss of your precious Grandmother. Death never comes at the “right” time; it is messy, heartbreaking, and overwhelming but we can find great comfort in a simple, silly moment that we know would have made our loved one laugh or smile.

    I hope that as the edges of your grief begin to soften that you and your family have many happy moments together to share your Grandmother’s story.

  • Marla Loffelmacher

    Molly, I believe Becky said it all! What a beautiful blog. I am so sorry for your loss.

  • Joe Lavoie

    Thank You Molly for sharing your story . I am so glad that your experience of being there with your mom and your grandmother can help us all understand that a special moment of glitter in your moms hair helped you all through a very tough moment in life. I admire your families strength to come together and support one another to honor your grandmother and how I know by you sharing this experience will help many others.
    thank you
    Joe Lavoie

  • Mark

    Molly, what a nice story about you, your mom, and your grandmother. Those amazing moments you shared at the hospital will be memories that will last a lifetime. It is in those toughest of times when you really need your family. You are blessed as was your grandmother. Mark

  • Carrie Bayer

    Molly, this is one of my favorite blogs of yours. I am visualizing everything as I read each sentence. You have once again articulated perfectly a profound moment. I just love how you are able to shed such bright light on things that are mostly left unspoken of, in a way that is thought provoking yet comforting. Thank you for sharing your story. XOXOX Carrie

  • Amy

    Molly,
    Thank you for sharing your death experience so openly and with such great detail. I was able to paint the picture as if I were there. I couldn’t image a phone telling me that information. What has technology done to us? I know your mom with be forever grateful for you getting to her just as soon as you could. We never know when death will occur but the memories we make from it are priceless. Grandma’s are special people who touch our lives like no other.
    Amy

  • Anne

    Molly,
    This is beautiful! I have had fun with SIRI and I have laughed over what I can get her to say to me, but this!! You painted a wonderful, provoking picture of a very hard time.
    I pray it is getting better for all of you.

  • Chuck RIcciardi

    Molly,
    Thanks for inviting us into your life and so sorry about your grandma’s death. You are so right when it comes to the flip flopping of emotions when death happens. Waves of emotions come over you and just like the waves of the sea the emotional waves are just a bit different every time. Waves of sadness and then boom, a wave right behind it that puts a smile on your face and laughter in your heart. Sometimes we get embarrassed when this happens but it is natural and we just need to go with it. Thanks again.

    Chuck

  • Neil

    Amazing story Molly! Between Siri & the Glitter in your Mom’s hair, this will add to the many memories of your Grandmothers life & death. I am sorry for the death of your Grandmother.I hope your honor her memory by continuing to tell her stories and share the laughter that she loved so much. XO

  • Lori

    Molly,
    I love the details of this story and that you let us all feel like we were with you the entire time. From the drive on the freeway, to finding out via Siri your Grandma had died, to your time comforting your Mom, I felt like I was part of that day with you. That is a powerful story. I am so sorry that you had to experience this loss. Her service was a beautiful tribute. I do believe God has a sense of humor and I love that your Mom had glitter in her hair to spark this moment of laughter. I am glad she had you there for comfort.
    Love,
    Lori