March 1, 2008

farewell to babcia

well, on Feb 7, 2008 at around 9:30pm my grandmother passed away while sleeping in a hospital in warsaw, poland.  my father, mother, sister, and i all flew out during the preceding week to be with her.  she had stopped eating a few days before i got there so she was very skinny and much more of a fragile woman that the one i remembered visiting 7 months earlier.  she was suffering from an assortment of physical aliments (leukemia, seizures, internal bleeding, etc), but mentally she was very sharp and was in very good spirits.  she recognized all of us and enjoyed talking to us, she would tire pretty easily so we took turns sitting with her throughout the day.  i think she knew exactly what was going on since (aside from talking about going out with us to a restaurant) she was talking about how my father was arranging for a gathering of the pilatowicz clan outside of warsaw (which is exactly what he was doing since she was going to be buried outside warsaw).  she was also very excited by the fact that ronda and i had gotten married late last year and described the pictures of our wedding to me from her memory.  she also somehow got it into her head that ronda was pregnant, so she spent a while talking to me about good names for children.  i wasn't going to correct her.  on the night she died my father and i were at the hospital with her till about 8:30pm.  we left the hospital for the night and shortly after got a call from her doctor.

i've never been through an experience like this before and it was really difficult at times to be with her there in the hospital and see her wasting away and struggling to communicate, but even though it was very difficult i'm glad that i did get to see her again and spend some more time with her.  while there, sometimes i tried to recount to her the good times i had visiting her, but i was unable to think about those times without crying, so usually i had to talk about other random things.  now after the fact i can finally go back and slowly go through those old memories.  in the end, i think it all went as well as something like this can go.  she was always worried about dying alone, but luckily most the family that she cared about was present at the end.

after she passed away arrangements were made for a cremation in a new public cemetery in the town of czestochowa, and from there we took her to be buried with one of her sisters and her mother in the town where she was born.  she was the youngest of all her siblings and at 86 years old she had also lived the longest of them all.  she was a religious woman so there was a mass for her before the funeral and another in warsaw for people that knew her there.  i'm sure that now she's with the god she believed in.

in addition to spending time with grandma, the two week trip also entailed spending lots of time with family, which was really good since these days we only get together once a year for the holidays.  it had actually been over 19 years since my dad, mom, sister, and i were all together in poland.  we also met up with old friends of the family, and and lots extended family.  i met cousins, cousins once removed, and cousins twice removed, some of whom i knew and some of whom i'd never met before.

it was all a very tiring experience and i was very happy to finally get back home.  future trips to poland will be very different without babcia there.  she'll be dearly missed by many.  o'yeah, here are some pictures from the trip that don't really reflect the somber occasion for the visit.

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