Katherine 93

Lovely memorial paper written by Kays youngest teenage granddaughter

Kait Valentine
Wisdom of Our Elders
It was a beautiful, but chilly November afternoon. Kay Kelliher lay in bed in her son’s
home, feeling very weak and tired. Sunlight poured through the ceiling high windows, the room
cozy and flickered with shadows. The soft hum of her oxygen machine lulled her in and out of
sleep, as it had for nearly the last three days. It was a Sunday, around noon; she should be at
church, as she was every Sunday for her entire life. But today she couldn’t, maybe she never
would again. Her family was spread around the house, talking quietly. The dog was barking
incessantly, she probably couldn’t hear it. Her heavy breathing would pause every once and a
while, nearly giving anyone in her proximity a heart attack. But it would start up again, jagged
and slow. The hours ticked by, and there she lay. That night, her breath paused once again. That
night it didn’t start up again.
Kay Kelliher, 92, was suffering from Gynecological Cancer, undiagnosed for several
years. After living in her home for many years in Norridge, Illinois in which she raised her six
children, she moved into a condo once she was too old to move about the two-level home.
After a dangerous fall, she was moved to an assisted living home in Edison Park. Finally,
unsatisfied with the assisted living home, she moved in with her eldest son Michael and wife
Debbie, in hospice. Shortly after, Kay received the news that she had cancer. What did this
mean, that after living for so many years, suddenly some disease was going to take her life? Kay
was enduring much pain, and was dying, but did not want to go to the hospital because she was
too proud, and too scared. It wasn’t a matter of if she would die from cancer, but when.

But Kay did not go down without a fight. The fact that this disease had gone
undiagnosed for years had made it impossible to cure. The last few years of her life had really
been a struggle. Her family watched as she survived many bad falls, being rushed to the
hospital, but always recovering. The main obstacle, though, was pain. Kay would have
excruciating pains all over her body that no amount of morphine could dull. Her death was not
a peaceful one. In the final week of her life Kay worsened by the extreme. Her skin had gone
pale, the rosy glow in her cheeks gone, and her eyes looking glazed if open at all. She slept most
of that week, barely eating or drinking, until her body finally shut down.
The week that followed her death was hard. Kay may have left this life, but she left
behind a family that was lost without her. Her children especially had no idea how to adjust to
life without their mother. A funeral was arranged, in which her friends and family all attended
and shared stories of times they shared with such a life changing person. Shortly after was
Thanks Giving, another hurdle for her family. The holiday was just not the same without her.
Before Cancer hit, Kay did not have an easy life. As a young girl, she dropped out of
school to take care of her brothers and sisters after her parents’ deaths. Later in life she
married, though her husband died twenty something years after her sixth child was born. Then,
if these events alone were not enough, her number of children tragically was reduced to four.
These all contributed to who Kay was. Although she was slightly reserved and guarded, she was
also generous and selfless. The Cancer may have weekend her body, but in the end it made her
stronger. Activities of daily living became more difficult, but she did not give up. But after taking

care of everyone after all these years, it was her children’s turn to take care of her. Being the
independent person she was, she learned its okay to ask for help and learned just how much
her family loved and cared for her, and still do.
Although I only knew my Grandma Kay for a few years out of her long, colorful life, she
taught me a lot. She showed me how to be strong in times of distress; she taught me how to be
patient even when all you may want to do is give up. And most of all, she taught me that no
matter how long your life is, it really isn’t that long. Life is really pretty short. One day you can
drive yourself to church and the next day you can’t even walk anymore.
I’ll never forget the last day I saw my Grandma. She was in a deep sleep and could no
longer open her eyes or communicate in any way. I told her goodbye, and gave her a kiss. My
mom told me that the doctors had informed us that even though she was not conscious, my
grandma’s hearing was still intact. And even though it seemed like she was barely hanging onto
life, her heart was still beating. I will always think of my Grandmother as a woman with a heart
as big as herself.