Friday, July 28, 2017

What on Earth... for Heaven's sake.

I wanted to talk to her yesterday, so very much.  I was looking at my own bloods and body tests and there seemed to be really not good things happening all up in my stuff.  (My stuff is generally defined as life, mental health, physical health in cases such as this).  I know she would know exactly what each test result meant, and what I needed to do to make the results more in congruence with the general population, or if I needed to go see a doctor immediately, and, "Why hasn't your doctor told you that this is very dangerous, and you really should be..."  My nanny.  My nanny always knew.

Her obituary didn't reflect the exceptional and superior knowledge my grandmother retained about all things medical.  It was all true, whoever wrote it didn't get anything wrong, but they missed the most important parts of Estelle Eleanor O'Connor Barry.

BELLOWS FALLS - The world lost a beautiful soul on Sunday, July 2, 2017, when Estelle Eleanor "Topsy" Barry died peacefully at her home, surrounded by her loving family.

Born in Claremont, NH, on May 28, 1925, to Stella (Frenette) and James O'Connor, she became known as the TOP BABY, hence her nickname, "Topsy," was also born. She was lovingly known as "Nanny Tops" to her 15 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.Topsy was raised in a home that valued faith and family above all else. She spent her childhood in Bellows Falls and was a 1943 graduate of Bellows Falls High School. From there, she went on to graduate with an RN from the Bishop DeGoesbriand School of Nursing in Burlington, VT.


In 1947, she married the love of her life, John P. Barry. They enjoyed 63 happy years together, until his death in 2011.In the early 1950s, John and Topsy moved back to Bellows Falls where they raised their five children. Topsy was a wonderful mother and always had an open, welcoming home to all friends and relatives. She had a special love for children and honored their free spirit. Her living room still has boxes of toys for any child who visits.


Topsy was an insightful, creative person and had a gift for saying just the right words to people in need. She was an avid reader with a curious mind and pursued a bachelor's degree later in life from St. Joseph the Provider College in Rutland, VT. 

Topsy also enjoyed cooking, birding and nature.Topsy always enjoyed the beauty of an ordinary day; she could be found in the woods and fields picking the pussy willows and May flowers of spring, or she could be found standing on her front porch to enjoy the first snowfall of winter or a beautiful rainbow in summer.

Topsy was a lifetime communicant of St. Charles Church, Bellows Falls, and a woman of very strong faith. She prayed the rosary every day.

My grandmother died on July 2nd, 12:30 am,  She went so peacefully, family sitting next to her didn't realize she had stopped breathing.  I was terrified to see her like my grandfather, who seemed to suffer so greatly as he was losing his battle with life over three days.  She told the hospice nurse, "I think I'll live three more days."  I saw her on the second day.  Grandchildren who came to see her on the first day didn't get to talk to her.

She wasn't lucid at most points, or was in a state where she couldn't be very responsive.
(That's what my cousins told me.  They didn't have the chance to talk to her.  I did.  I did.  I did).

And that was our box of toys, by the way.  I brought the box, more than 9 years before, filled with a wooden train, and books, and matchbox cars, and little dolls.
Before I went back to teaching, I visited at least twice a week alone with them, and then we'd also meet at Church in Springfield on Sunday evenings.  I am so glad I wrote about it all in journals and took pictures.

What On Earth (Will You Do For Heaven's Sake)
Did you walk that second mile, turn a frown with a smile?

Did you give a little more than you could take?Did you shine your little light upon the children of the night?What on earth will you do for Heaven's sake?

My babies saw her that first evening.
It was a Thursday. It was the same day that, although everyone had described her as fairly unresponsive, when Michael and Stella came through that very door which opens in full view to the chair my grandfather always, and where she was recumbent, her eyes fixed on them, she smiled, and she "woke up."  She hugged them and was able to talk to them and smiled at them the entire, when she wasn't too exhausted by the battle she was entering...

They hugged her happily, as they always have when they visited, and she hugged back as tightly as she could, and didn't let go quickly.  She didn't want to let go.  I know she wanted to say goodbye to them, but she didn't want to let them go.  She asked them questions about what they would do in their future. She, in her wisdom, could always see them as adults.  She could see what they will look like.  I look at them and I can't even try.  I guess I expect I'll be there for that "big reveal."  I see them as babies...  I can see them as little kid, and hear their voices.  Nanny wanted to look at them and know what she wouldn't see.  Not on Earth.

Did you feed the poor in spirit, and befriend the persecuted?
Did you show the bound how all their chains can break?
Did you sow the proper seed? Would you work out among the weeds?
What on earth will you do for Heaven's sake?

I had explained everything to them before they went with Sam that night, and they understood she was leaving, and would be with Grampy John in Heaven soon.  They knew she was going to die.  I also told them not to be afraid, and I knew they were sad:  Of course they would be sad. Heavens, and how strange it is to go to visit anyone, particularly someone you love, and talk to them, and hug them, and hear them speaking, and see them animated and alive, knowing that person would not longer be alive in less than a week? That is what my adult brain couldn't process, yet the twins were ready, and wanting to be with her.

 I told them she would want to see them as they were, and who they were, and it was okay for them to talk to her about their school accomplishments for the year, and what they hoped to do this summer.  I told them if they needed to cry, they should and could, but it was okay if they didn't feel like crying. They would make her smile, I told them, (just as she has lighted up every single time she sees them since they were tiny, newborn baby bundles), by acting like themselves.  I said, "Don't be loud or ruffians, she will be tired and she is in pain, but you can show her you are just as you have always been, and will always be."

I mean, I didn't want them feel terrified to see their beloved Nanny Tops while she was still here.  I couldn't go that night, or

Did you turn the other cheek, are you counted with the meek.
Did you lift a lonely heart bound to break?
Did you also give your cloak, to he who took your coat? 
What on earth will you do for Heaven's sake?

I saw her the next day.  The first evening, I understood that if I went with Sam and the kids, I would ruin her enjoyment of the kids, because I was sick from grief.  I couldn't stop crying.  I was vomiting, then dry heaving over a bowl on my bedroom floor.  (I also know I have major depression issues, and I was luteal).  I didn't do any of that in front of my children. Yes, they can see I am sad, since she passed away, but I don't want the death of loved ones to scare them.


I pulled myself together, for my Nanny (and for Grampy John, because he would want me to), and I was there.  I crumpled over her, my face on her hands, crying.  I didn't mean to cry.  I breathed and wiped my face, and I rubbed her forehead the way Michael loves me to do.  One of my hands held hers, and lightly moved her gray hair to the side with my fingertips.  She closed her eyes and smiled.  The kids had kissed her cheeks, and touched her hand.  Everyone let me be alone with her.  And she was smiling with her eyes closed, just like my babies did when I was helping them go to sleep, and drifting off, when my uncle and sister came in to give her medication, and I had to let go.  I had to let go.


Did you feed the poor in spirit and befriend the persecuted?
Did you show the bound how all their chains can break?
Did you sow the proper seed? Will you walk out among the weeds?
What on earth will you do for Heaven's sake?

-Johnny Cash

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