Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Laid to Rest at Sea

I don't have many memories of my Grandma Dugger. When I was a baby, she was diagnosed with dementia. Soon after, she was placed in a state-run nursing facility.

I know that my dad went to visit her a lot, but I didn't go too often. I think it was just too painful for him to watch her not remember me, since only years before she was bragging about how I was her first granddaughter.

The visits that I do remember are not exactly pleasant memories. I remember visiting her when her illness had progressed very far. Since my cousin Jen and I were still very young, he would take my grandma out of the nursing home to go to the park. We would grab lunch at McDonalds and head out to the park that my grandma used to take me to.

My dad used to have to lift my grandma out of her wheelchair to put her in the car. As we would drive, she would begin to repeat certain words. She loved to stare at the sky and I remember her often repeating the word "bird" when she saw a seagull or pigeon fly by. I also remember wishing that I had a "normal" grandma who would make me cookies and take my shopping like other kids had. Now that I am older, I feel bad for feeling that way, but I remind myself that I was only a kid.

The sicker my grandmother got, the less often I went with my dad to visit her. While my dad and I have never had an in-depth discussion on the reasons for this, I think it is because it was just too painful for him. My dad's family is not much of an emotional bunch and I know it was difficult for him watching her mind and health deteriorate. My dad had such a close relationship with his mom - so watching her health slowly deteriorate must have been difficult.

She died when I was 12, just before I got interested in genealogy. I remember hearing the news that she had passed away. My dad went to go stay at a motel for a few days because he wanted to be alone. I always figured that a funeral would happen eventually, but it never did. We didn't mention my grandma in our house for months after she died because we all knew it was too painful for my dad to discuss.

Many years later I asked my dad where grandma was buried or where her ashes had been scattered. To my shock, he told me that a nonprofit organization had taken her ashes out to sea. I asked if anyone in the family had been on the boat as her ashes were spread out - he said no.

Perhaps if I was part of another family, I would feel that my Grandma Dugger's children had abandoned her. I know that they did not abandon her but that they loved her very much. The only people that were left in the family were her three surviving children and her three grandchildren. No one had the money for a formal funeral - the family had already spent the little money that we had on her hospital care.

I am very grateful for this organization - because they spread my Grandma's ashes in the ocean. They said a few prayers and then came back to shore.

I have very few pictures of Grandma Dugger and I. The ones that I do have include ones of her showing me how to make a sand castle and holding a sand crab. I know that the ocean was a very peaceful place for her, so I am happy that she was laid to rest at the place that brought her so much happiness.

Nancy Jean (Rogers) Dugger
1924 - 2002
Loving Mother
Greatly Missed


Cheryl Palmer said...

I am sure this was very difficult for your father. You wrote a wonderful and interesting post. Thank you for sharing your family story.

Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

My major personal reason for blogging was to help memories of my ancestors live on and it's wonderful that you're doing this for your family.
Evelyn in Montreal

Dorene from Ohio said...

What a touching story!