Babci on Death

by Sandy L on October 18, 2011

Today was a rather odd and sad day for me.  At about 9:30 in the morning, my little cul de sac was overrun with police cruisers, fire trucks and ambulances.   We had a relatively new neighbor move into our little pine covered street and I just found out she died sometime in the last few days. She was just a little older than me and lived alone.   She was such a sweet lady and I’m so sorry I didn’t have enough time to get to know her better.  A part of me feels guilty that I didn’t reach out to her more often.  She had only lived in the neighborhood for about 6 months and when the weather became nicer, I offered to share some perennials for the garden that her mom was digging for her. She graciously accepted and was really incredibly touched by such a simple gesture.  She had a little lounge chair and I often saw her outside reading. She would always give me a big smile and a wave when I drove by.  She was a warm and friendly addition to the neighborhood.

She had some kind of health problem that her mom alluded to when she said that her daughter wasn’t capable of exerting herself. I also noticed the lifeline alert necklace around her neck. Although I communicated my open door policy to her, I felt it was a little too soon to offer help specific to whatever health condition she had.  Now I regret not trying to reach out to her more and a little sooner.   The conditions of her death are still unknown, but a police cruiser is parked at her house and they are interviewing the neighborhood about suspicious activities.   I wish I could have done something to help.  Our ever so observant elderly neighbor came over  and knew a whole lot more than I did. She told me that her mother lost her other daughter in a car accident when she was 9. Imagine losing 2 of your children in one lifetime? My heart just aches for this woman’s family.

Babci’s Sayings on Death

I had to go out with Babci today to run an errand and I told her what happened.   She immediately pulls out one of her favorite sayings and tells me: “A person never can predict when they are teetering on the edge of death.  Death doesn’t have favorites.”    She then went onto tell me the story of why she always sat in the back seat of our mint green Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme growing up.  You see, some people thought it was odd that  my mom insisted on sitting in the back seat while I sat in the front seat.  When someone asked her about it, she told them the grisly truth.

The car was one of the many ways my dad psychologically abused my mom.  In addition to not allowing her to get her driver’s license and having control over her comings and goings, he also took it one step further.  On more than one occasion he would be driving with her and tell her:  “All I have to do is swerve your side of the car into that pole or tree and I can kill you just like that . The cops would think it was an accident and I’d have you out of my life for good.”  I also have some scary memories of my dad driving extremely drunk with me in the car.  I remember begging him and crying to turn around to go home. He was literally so drunk he was driving onto curbs and stuff.  Thank God neither of us was seriously hurt during those scary years.   She thinks it’s  ironic that he’s been dead for almost 15 years  and she’s still alive and well despite his numerous threats to snuff her out.

Babci truly believes that there is a specific time you’re meant to die and no matter how many near misses you have, you won’t die until you’re number’s up.   She says that she’s already almost died 3 times, but here she is almost 80 years later, still kickin.   When she was little a horse trampled her and she was unconscious for 2 days, the second time she almost got electrocuted and the 3rd time had something to do with a car or train in Poland.  She knows she doesn’t have a ton of time left but she seems at peace with the fact that when it’s time to go, she’ll be ready and okay with it.

Living for Today

I guess there isn’t a lesson here except to say that time is precious and try not to take it for granted.  When I asked Babci earlier this week what she would have done differently if she was my age, she just looked at me and said “Why would I waste time thinking about something that I can’t change?  I only have an opinion about what I can do from this point forward given the hand that I was dealt.”  For someone who’s constantly dispensing advice, I was a little surprised that she wasn’t more retrospective about her own life, but I guess her response is exactly what I should have expected.  She’s had so many horrible things happen to her that dwelling on the past would be the last thing that could have made her into the jolly old lady she is today. It’s so much better to continue to have hope that there is a better tomorrow around the corner.  Regretting and dwelling on the past does not actually help your life tomorrow.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Molly October 19, 2011 at 9:01 AM

We’ve been surrounded by death these last two weeks and it’s been bringing up a lot of conversations on our own morality. An uncle died, another one is in his last stages of ALS and I just found out an old friend (my age) has incurable cancer.
I can sympathize with Babci- I can only imagine if at one point you thought you were pretty darn close to death you would have her perspective.


Sandy L October 24, 2011 at 3:48 AM

Molly – yes, I continue to learn a lot from the ol Babci. Mortality is a great reminder to live mindfully.


retirebyforty October 19, 2011 at 3:52 PM

You never know what can happens. I think that’s one reason why people don’t like to save for retirement. A lot of people would rather enjoy life now. I agree with Babci and I’m not very retrospective either.


Niki October 19, 2011 at 4:54 PM

That is such a good point Joe. I never really thought about that before. I suppose lots of people don’t want to think about getting older (and taking care of themselves) since it seems so much closer to death. I think growing up with my grandparents made me realize that we, usually, do get older and we have to think ahead. Death be damned!


Sandy L October 24, 2011 at 3:50 AM

Yes and Yes. I also know people who refuse to write wills because they think it’ll hex them or something because they are acknowledging that they will die someday. Why not plan for something that we are 100% certain will happen someday. I don’t get it.


Bob L February 25, 2012 at 6:08 PM

When I was young and first started working at my carreer (engineer) a few of the older guys would sit down and talk to me about my future. To summarize what they said: “You won’t live forever, and you may not even live a long life, so enjoy every day of your life. BUT……You might live a LOOOONG time, and older Bob will be really pissed at younger Bob if he doesn’t prepare for the future and save etc.

I took this advice to heart, and it has served me well. Some of those guys are still alive, in their 80’s, and some died at fairly early ages. I thank them silently every time I run into some one that wasted their life AND their money.


101 Centavos October 20, 2011 at 9:09 AM

How wonderful that Babci is not retrospective in a negative way. All the more to enjoy the time you have all left. My grandfather lived his last years with many regrets of choices not taken.


Sandy L October 24, 2011 at 3:51 AM

101 – I count my blessings that babci is not bitter. It could have easily gone the way of your grandfather. She still gets grumpy on occasion, but I just tell her that her life has been a cake walk for 20 years and to stop complaining about the past.


growingmygirls October 20, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Wow, what a story! Thank you for sharing the info about how your dad was in the car — how awful and what a survivor Babci is. I’m old enough now to have people my age start dying and it is a rattling and difficult feeling. I hope you are feeling better.


Sandy L October 24, 2011 at 3:52 AM

Growing my Girls – yes. It’s a little strange to age and lose that feeling of invincibility that we had as teens.


Jacq October 20, 2011 at 11:37 AM

And who says only the good die young? I agree with Growingmygirls, Babci is a survivor and obviously passed on that wonderful quality to you.
Rumination about the past is only useful to the extent that you look at mistakes you’ve made and learn not to make them again. Anything more than that is kind of self-indulgent stuck-ness and possibly whining. Unless you’re remembering the happy stuff!


Sandy L October 24, 2011 at 3:54 AM

jacq – yes, happy memories are keepers for sure. It’s definitely easy to dwell on bad choices, but dwelling doesn’t actually fix anything, so best to move on.


Squirrelers October 20, 2011 at 11:01 PM

This is quite an introspective post. I tend to see things the way Babci does with this topic, at least based on what you relayed in the post. Many of us just don’t really know we’re teetering on the edge. That’s probably true as many seemingly healthy people drop dead, or get into accidents. Best to try to control what we can (living safely, proper health care, etc) and hope for some good luck otherwise. And, enjoy each day without dwelling on the past too much. Each day is a precious gift!


Sandy L October 24, 2011 at 3:55 AM

Squirreler – each day is a gift. Well said, and yes, I also have health insurance and all that stuff…just in case.


Jackie October 20, 2011 at 11:28 PM

You need to write the Book of Babci. She sounds like an amazing lady. And I’m sorry to hear about your neighbor.


Sandy L October 24, 2011 at 3:56 AM

Jackie – the book of babci. Tales from the cabbage patch. Too funny. Maybe someday.


shanendoah@Baking the Budget October 22, 2011 at 5:28 PM

I think the best any of us can do is to live our lives so that if we died tomorrow, we would have as few regrets as possible.
Babci has had a difficult life, and she chooses not to dwell on it. Instead, she looks forward. She gives advice to those who can use it to change the present/future.
How terrible for your neighbor and her mother. While you may not be able to do anything for your neighbor, you’ve obviously talked to her mother. Contact her, offer your condolences and bring her a casserole (or something). Don’t dwell on what you could have done in the past. Focus on what you can do now.


Sandy L October 24, 2011 at 3:58 AM

Shanendoah – yes, I guess I should have listened to my own advice. The obit finally came out and there is a place to make donations. I think I’ll do that instead.


Kris @ Everyday Tips October 25, 2011 at 8:41 AM

Babci is the best.

I have no specific thoughts about death, besides it happens and I hate it. Regarding your neighbor, don’t feel bad at all. From what I know of the situation, I don’t think you could have changed anything, it sounds like it was just a mess.


Acorn October 31, 2011 at 11:39 AM

Babci is a real treasure.


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