Brad McElhinny: A grandparent’s death is a great loss at any age
I am a 42-year-old man, and just lost my last grandparent.
All those years were not enough.
I have thought several times in recent years that the grandchild-grandparent relationship is never quite fair.
I would have liked to have spoken with my grandparents adult to adult -- to have had honest conversations about life.
It’s hard enough to be honest about life. And still harder when you’ve reached a level of maturity that’s about as high as you’re going to reach, and your grandparents are gone or failing.
My last grandparent was my grandmother on my mother’s side. Beva Juanita Gant Kiger Cheuvront -- a train of a name that includes a first name of origins unknown even to her, a seemingly hispanic flavored middle name, her maiden name, her first married name and her second married name.
I am a West Virginian. So she was first known to me as “Me-maw Beva.”
Her life was of loss and love.
She lost her mother, Roxie, when she was only about six years old.
Roxie had a kidney disease that could probably be treated today. That’s not much consolation. If you are a first grader when your mom dies, you don’t ever get over that easily.
My grandmother grew up in the aftermath of the Depression, graduated high school in the middle of World War II, married my grandfather and gave birth to my uncle and to my mother.
My grandfather, Bill Kiger, was a hardworking, thoughtful and gentle man who did not complain about the heart problems that were troubling him.
He died of a massive heart attack on the Fourth of July, 1975, when I was 3 years old. One of my earliest memories of my grandmother was her launching herself onto the cool grass of the lawn to grieve.
She was still young and got a second chance at love and marriage. She married Harold Cheuvront, another hard worker who believed in eating his fruits and vegetables. He’d say, “Think positive,” and he really meant it.
Harold died eight years ago in a way that seemed very sad. Now I think it’s about the best way a person could go: He was delivering meals to shut ins, suffered a massive stroke and collapsed in his parked car. He died a few hours later at the hospital with my grandmother holding his hand.
My grandmother carried on, gradually slipping physically. My mother showed devotion that you can only aspire to -- daily visits, hours at a time, to make sure my grandmother was eating and drinking properly.
In the past few weeks, no one’s best efforts could get her to eat and drink properly. Her body just could not do it.
But if a person lives to age 90, even if they deteriorate, it still seems like they will keep going.
They’ll keep going, and what has been will continue to be.
That’s not possible, though. It is not to be.
So the end of my grandmother’s time was apparent the past few weeks. She shut down, closed her eyes and drifted away.
Before she passed, I gave her a kiss, took hold of her hand and said, as I always did when saying goodbye, “You be a good girl.”
I wish I’d felt like the adult that I am. But I felt like a 12-year-old boy who will miss his grandmother for the rest of his life.
Brad McElhinny is editor and publisher of the Charleston Daily Mail.