Born and raised in Vincennes, Indiana, Bernice Beatrice Ballard Latshaw passed away at her current residence in Punta Gorda, Florida on December 10, 2020, at the age of ninety-five. She was preceded in death by her parents, Guy and Violet Ballard, eleven of her brothers and sisters, her husband, Robert Ross Latshaw, and their daughter, Beth Lynn Latshaw. Bernice leaves behind one sister, Helen Ballard McCoy, and two children, Janis Ellen Latshaw Irvin, and Alan Ross Latshaw (spouse, Shelly Clausman Latshaw), grandchildren Tammi Landry-Gilder (Timothy Gilder), Jan-Elizabeth Irvin, Nicholas Alan Carrithers (Jessica Carrithers), Analisa Michelle Thompson (Matthew Thompson), Jeffrey Ross Latshaw (Carolyn Latshaw), Katherine Marie Latshaw (D’Meco Deanes), and Sarah Michelle Latshaw.
I said goodbye to my grandmother today. I didn’t actually say the word, but I knew, as I was talking with her on the telephone, it would more than likely be the last time we spoke. My Grammy is ninety-five years old, and her body is failing her. As much as she would like to be able to get up and out of bed to walk down to get her mail, or bake a lemon pie, or walk on the treadmill, her body will no longer obey.
I’m fifty-years-old, and I am very aware that I’m so blessed and extremely lucky to still have my grandmother in my life. I know many people my age lost their own grandparents long ago. I do feel lucky. I feel happy that I have been able to spend so much of my life with a woman who loved me, spoiled me, cooked for me, and played with me. I can honestly say I couldn’t have asked for a better grandmother.
When I spoke with my Grammy, I told her that most of my very favorite and best childhood memories include her. She made me feel special and loved, even when I was being a disagreeable three-year-old, or a pouting, somewhat selfish teen. I told Grammy that she was the best grandmother and that I loved her. And I do. I love her. Which is why it’s so hard to say goodbye.
I understand in my head that she’s old and frail now, and that maybe it is true that she will move onto a better place. Maybe she’ll follow a beautiful light that leads to a place in the clouds where she will get to see my aunt, her daughter, who sadly died before her. Maybe it’s possible she’ll pass through golden gates and my grandfather, Pappy, will greet her with a smile and a hug. He’ll hand her his eyeglasses, ask her to clean them, then request that she cook him a well done hamburger accompanied by a side salad with only mayonnaise as a dressing. Isn’t it possible she could finish cooking that hamburger, then turn around and greet all her brothers and sisters who left this world before she did? I can’t even imagine how happy she would be.
I know she lived a good life. I realize that when she told me she doesn’t think she’ll make it until Christmas, it was her way of telling me it’s time for her to go, she’s ready, and everything will be okay. I believe there is an angel sitting next to Grammy, holding her hand, and who will be there when she finally takes her last breath. When I close my eyes, I can see that angel, her brilliant white wings sparkling in the light, as she guides my sweet, spunky, and exceptionally special Grammy to a place where she can be healthy and lively again. This is my hope. This is what my grandmother deserves.
My grandmother has been a light in my life. She’s been all that is good and kind in the world. She has loved me all the time, even during the times when I wasn’t very lovable. There’s no other love like the love you get from a grandmother. It’s the most unconditional and pure love, and it’s one thing in life you can always count on to be there when you are searching for something you can’t quite find. It grounds you and makes you realize what is really important in life- having family members who love you, and loving them back.
I have no idea how I will react or feel when my grandmother passes away. I want to be happy that she’s no longer in pain, no longer worried about being a burden, and no longer frustrated and upset she can’t do all the things she used to do. But my selfish side wonders how I am going to navigate the rest of my life knowing my beautiful Grammy is gone. I’m going to miss her and miss all of the special things we did together. Most of all I will miss the little things- how she would give you a good pat on the arm when she would greet you, her off-key, operatic singing, her bright, blue eyes, and her loyal and unwavering support.
I don’t know how to say goodbye, I don’t want to, but I know it’s coming. I hope I’m strong enough to do it well and do it the way Grammy deserves. I wish I was there with her, but this isn’t the year to make another trip. 2020 has given us all too much, and taken away even more. I guess it’s only fitting that this will probably be the year that my grandmother goes to Heaven. I hope the rest of my friends and family up there now are all waiting at the gates to guide Grammy through and make her feel at home.
Goodbye, my sweet Grammy. You will be so missed, and you are very loved.