The Day Mildred Died

The Day Mildred Died by Autumn Taylor Le Sueur

On December 24, 2010, I was preparing to go to mom and dad’s. That’s the day that Mildred died.

I got a phone call at around 2:15pm that day. My caller ID read “Everett Le Sueur.” I got scared because my dad never calls me from his cell phone, let alone uses it. My heart racing, I flipped open the phone. “Hello,” I said, “how are you, dad?”

He began to talk and I could hear quivering in his voice. “Autumn, I’m calling to let you know your grandmother died this afternoon,” I could hear him crying then. I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say. “When did she die,” I asked. He replied, “About 45 minutes ago. Your mom and Aunt Kitty are at the home.” “Once I get get dressed, I’ll be on my way up to El Shaddai, then I’ll be coming up to your house.” “Ok,” he said, “drive carefully.” Then we both hung up. I tried to call my mom’s cell phone but it wasn’t on; my call went directly to her voicemail.

I dashed from my bed and went to my bathroom. I went into my closet and gathered together clothes and shoes. This also included what I needed for the visitation and funeral, considering that I had no idea when either would be. I had to speak with my mom and aunt about that first. Mildred is their mother.

Once things were gathered together and I was showered and dressed, I prepared my apartment for days of being without me. I made sure that all was secure. On my way out the door, I grabbed my Mariah Carey Greatest Hits cd and my Josh Groban Closer cd.

It was cold and snowing.

I stopped by my friend Heather’s house and dropped off Christmas cards and gifts before I left the neighborhood. No one was home. I then drove as fast as I could to get to the turnpike. It was the fastest way to get to El Shaddai. While driving, I popped the Mariah Carey disc into my CD player and put repeat on disc 1 track 11, Without You. I played that song after my grandfather died. I decided to play it the day my grandmother died.

It only took me 30 minutes to get to El Shaddai. By then, Mildred had been deceased for two hours. My cousin Heather met me at the home’s Christmas tree. We hugged and said hello to each other – short greetings. Both of us with tears running down our cheeks. That was the first time tears flowed from my eyes that day. My cousin Tracy was next. I hugged her and said hello. She had a sad, depressed look on her face. No tears though. From her, I walked to my grandmother’s room. My Aunt Kitty was on the phone with the undertaker – trying to find out where he was and when he would be on his way. Then my mom greeted me.

“Hi mom,” I said, “I’m sorry to hear about Mom Mom.” “I know honey,” she replied. “How did you know we were here?” I proceeded to tell her about my dad’s phone call. She nodded her head in understanding. I could tell that she had been crying. Her cheeks were still a little wet and her nose was red. She had tissues still clutched in her hand. “Here, I’ll let you go sit next to Mom Mom,” my mom stated as she adjusted the chair next to Mildred’s bed. She then walked past my aunt and out to the hallway.

I sat down in the chair next to my grandmother. Her thin, gaunt body justed rested there in bed. She looked like she was sleeping, except for her mouth being open (later my mom told me that Mildred sometimes slept with her mouth open). I put my hands in her right hand. I held it. She was still warm being that it had been nearly two hours since she died. I ran a hand over her head and through her thin hair. I just sat there looking at her. I had no real thoughts…my mind just sat there blank. I continued to hold her hand and rub it. A some time had passed and I got up. “I love you Mom Mom,” I said as I kissed her on her head. As I walked towards the hallway, I looked back at her, knowing that I would miss her so. Just the day before, I had visited and talked with her.

December 23rd

At 11AM, I visited Mildred at El Shaddai. I was on my way to my parents house and I wanted to bring my grandmother some Christmas music. I told her the previous Saturday that I would be back before Christmas to visit – that Saturday I gave her Christmas presents. I brought Kenny G’s Miracles: The Holiday Album for her. I brought that CD because I play the saxophone (alto and soprano), and she had liked Kenny G’s music.

Once I arrived at El Shaddai, I told her about the album. “Mom Mom, I brought you some Christmas music,” I said. She was awake and looked at me. She gave me a little smile and mumbled something incoherent. I put the disc in and let it play. I then walked to her bedside and sat in the chair next to it – I took my coat off. I began the conversation. “Hi Mom Mom. How are you?” She looked over at me again and mumbled more. She smiled. I grabbed and held her hand…nothing but skin and bones. She had been skin and bones for months now – gaunt.

She had been lying in bed, covered up; her left arm holding the bunny rabbit she made years ago. It was amazing to see this once smart, energenic, vivacious woman now nearly a vegetable. It was very hard, very hard. However, I tried to keep how she previously was in mind. It was hard to see how Alzheimer’s changed her so much.

Five months before, when she turned 87, I told myself that she would be dead before the end of the year. However, on December 23rd, I had a feeling that her life would be extended a few more weeks into the new year.

After about 30 minutes, I decided to leave. In those five months, her last five months, conversations with her became worse. I could no longer make out what she would say. I would just smile and nod my head. I would still talk with Mildred and ask her questions, but there was no real comprehension. So, visiting with her wasn’t something I could do for long…conversation wise.

“I love you Mom Mom,” I said as I stood to leave. I put my coat on and picked up my purse. I kissed her on her forehead. Again, she said something. This time, I could make out that she said, “I love you too.” Then she smiled. The last thing I said to her was, “I’ll be back in a few days.” I had planned on visiting her on Christmas day. Then I left. Little did I know that that was the last day that I would see her alive.

Little did I know that it would be the last day I would see and hear her mumble words, trying to converse. Little did I know that it would be the last day she would say to me, “I love you.”

December 24th

I gathered in the hallway of El Shaddai with my mom and cousins. My aunt had just gotten off the phone with the undertaker. He was on his way to pick up Mildred.

About ten minutes had passed by the time the undertaker had arrived. He rolled the stretcher into my grandmother’s room. It was now time to go – time to leave. My mom and I were heading to my aunt’s house. We all left El Shaddai together to discuss arrangements.

Once I was back in my car, I changed CDs. I put in Josh Groban’s Closer disc and played, on repeat, track 12, You Raise Me Up. He’s another musician my grandmother liked…the song she liked the most was You Raise Me Up.

At that point, there were tears running down my cheeks. I had tissues in one hand (the one not on the steering wheel, driving). It was Christmas eve – the day before Christmas. The day that family gets together to share the birth of Christ. Now, our family had to get together for a death of a matriach.

Several days later

It wasn’t until the following Wednesday, December 29th, that my grandmother’s visitation began. Her funeral was the next day, December 30th. The funeral was a sad time, however, it was also a celebration of a great, loving, generous, strong woman who lead by example.

At the cemetary, family (and a few friends) gathered. I place a rose on her casket, which was placed into a small building. The rest of the immediate family did too. My brother and I held my mom; my dad was behind us. Once we said our last goodbyes, we gathered back outside. As with Christmas Eve, it was slightly raining.

We left the small building and stood in the paved path. The funeral director and another man stood together. The man had a cage of seven white doves. He also had a CD player. He discussed letting the birds fly free, and what they symbolized. Once he released the doves, he pushed play on the disc player.

“When I am down, and oh my soul, so weary….” I really began to cry when I heard the lyrics. The song that played was You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban. I had no idea that the song was picked. I cried, my mom cried, my dad cried. I don’t know who else was, but I didn’t care. I knew that this was the time to say goodbye.

As we all left the cemetary after the song was done, I held on. My brother and I took his truck back to the church and discussed our loving memories of Mildred. She will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, Mom Mom. You are with God and Granddad now.

I love you always,

The Day Mildred Died


Leechburg, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

How I dealt with the death of my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s.

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