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Saying goodbye

Published December 08. 2012 09:03AM

On Thursday, I got to say goodbye to my grandmother, Helen Zubek.

The service was small, a handful of family and friends gathering to say one final farewell to a woman we loved for over 91 years.

She wore a simple blue dress, the choosing of her two sons. I found the choice to be fitting, due to the fact that when I was growing up, all I knew was her in dresses.

In her hands was a white and gold rosary, which matched the one her husband had when we laid him to eternal rest 19 years ago this month. They were finally reunited.

She looked peaceful, content, exactly what we all wished she would be. Her passing was a blessing in disguise because she was no longer suffering.

To anyone who knew her, Helen was a spit fire, having a comment about pretty much anything that went down around her. Sometimes though, having a comment got in her trouble, but she didn't care. She was marching to the beat of her own drum.

Over the last three years, after we moved her into The Summit nursing home, once she could no longer live on her own in Lansford, her real personality began to shine again, including a sense of humor, which I had never seen growing up.

She enjoyed her new home once she forgot about the house that she and her late husband created for their family years ago. Her smile was back.

Helen continued to flourish in this new community of friends, going to the nursing home's activities, especially if they were serving food.

I still remember visiting her during activities when they were making homemade mousse in edible chocolate cups. Her eyes lit up every time they brought the tray around with another round of flavors.

I also can still see her with her "war paint" on.

The nurses were giving the female residents manicures and one of the male residents who was definitely a woman's man in his prime sidetracked me long enough to allow my grandmother the opportunity to wipe her bright blue (still wet) fingernails under her eyes.

When I turned and saw her with blue streaks under her eyes and across her face, I nearly cried from laughing so hard, but also was a little worried as to how we were going to get the stuff off her face.

The nurses finally managed to get the polish off, and her reward was a cookie, one of her absolute favorite foods (along with anything chocolate or sweet).

But as the years continued, we were beginning to see her slowly deteriorate.

Her final weeks were hard on not only us, but her as well. With trips back and forth from the nursing home to the hospital, my grandmother was getting weaker and preparing for her final journey home.

She spoke softly when she was awake, which for anyone that knew my grandmother, was anything but her normal. She knew who we were, which was a little reassurance that she was still with us in mind.

Last Friday, she began to tell us in her own way that it was soon time. Her breathing was slowing and she slept most of the day.

She hung in there over the weekend, and by Monday night was ready to "go home."

The nursing staff said she went peacefully, which helped us find closure that we so desperately needed.

Helen Zubek was my grandmother, the mother of my father and a woman who helped make me the person I am today.

She may be gone, but she, like my Pop Pop and Nana who went before her, will never be forgotten.

Until we meet again, Gram, see you later, alligator.

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