Hope In Hospice

A Forgotten Immigrant Story

October 31, 2010
Lorie Kramer

The other night I got one of those telephone calls from a family member that carries sad news. Out of the blue, my 99 years old in two weeks Grandmother decided she was ready to go to hospice. She had had a recent fall injury which was healing, and has other issues a woman close to a century old would have, but none of us saw this choice coming. She has been residing in an assisted living place, but has her own apartment, and is far from bedridden. She plays bingo and follows the Steelers. But now, my Grandmother has chosen to depart. I am sure the medical morons will be happy to assist. Upon her arrival, they immediately offered her morphine, even though she is not in pain. She refused it. It reminded me of the "going home" scene in Soylent Green...but, that's another web page.

Times like these make one, if they have a working heart, think about the life of the person leaving, and their connection to their own life, and to those who have gone before.

My Grandmother was the daughter of German immigrants. Legal immigrants.

Great-Grandfather, Mother, Grandmother
Lorie @ about 6 months

My family came to this country legally, through proper channels. They did this because they had enough respect for this nation and themselves to do so. When they got here, they didn't try to reconstruct Germany, they kept their family traditions...and also assimilated. Although my Great-Grandfather's native tongue was German, he learned English and his children all learned English. This is because they knew they were living in a country whose native tongue was NOT their own, yet this is where they wanted to live, work and grow their families. Each Christmas, I can remember our family pausing to listen to my Great-Grandfather sing a Christmas song from his childhood, in German. I can still sing most of it from memory. So, they all learned English, because they knew it was the right, and common sense thing to do if they wanted to succeed. There weren't street signs and government forms available in German, and none of them whined about it. I have often wished our family had been more bi-lingual, I think it would be great to speak other languages, but I can appreciate why we are not.

They worked hard, got homes, had children, put them through school, and taught them values...including American values. They taught their children to be excellent, not just get by, or get over.

The story on my father's side is similar. However, that side of the family was Catholic, which didn't help them. It didn't matter what color they were...German Catholics had their own issues in trying to assimilate into American life. But assimilate they did, and the first time I ever got to vote I was able to flip the switch for my Father who was running for Precinct Committeeman, and won. We were taught about the importance of giving back, and our responsibility to "We the People", which is really responsibility for ourselves.

Grandmother, Lorie, Father

These people had character. They had a love for their new home, a dedication to it's values, and the work ethic to succeed. They had strong connections to their religious beliefs, but did not disrespect the beliefs of others. Even when times were very tough, they never went on welfare. It would have been anathema to them to not be able to provide for themselves, especially in this country. I know how to use my brain to read and speak ...to work, cook, can, and sew today... because of them. I will never go on welfare unless there is absolutely no other way to survive. Why would I want to?

I think of my Grandmother and what this world must look like through almost 99 year old eyes. Especially hers. I can see why she'd want to take off.

What immigration to the US USED to be about, was going to a great country and helping it stay that way, and becoming a part of it. Not expecting to be given every necessity, without having to do anything for it. Not ignoring the laws of the land. Not only not assimilating, but actively rejecting assimilation, and in some cases actually destroying the culture. Shame on this nation for allowing that to happen.

In all the years I have been working in this "alternative news" stuff, there has been a part of me that has always had hope. This was because I knew there were still people out there like my Grandmother, whose life was an example of how good we could be if we wanted to do so. I know that compassion, honesty, respectfulness for self and others, personal responsibility, the golden rule, love of family, of country, of planet, and respect for its laws; are real things. I know this because I have seen lives lived that way, and the positive outcomes of such lives, in good and in bad times.

But now, it feels to me like hope has gone into hospice. Not the fake hope of the fake president, real hope. Her life was an example of hope for what we can be, because she did it, they did it. Her generation is almost gone, mine is starting to get there. The current generation of immigrants are no where close to what grew this country when her family's immigrants came here, and we see the results everyday. When a family member would visit Germany, they would not refer to it as going to visit "my country"...THIS was their country now.

If you ask me, that's the kind of immigration reform we need. Immigrants who have respect for this country, and themselves, and national leadership with the same; the rest don't need to be here. Like that's going to happen.

Goodbye Grandma, and thank you...you did a great job, rest well. I love you.

Lorie Kramer

Uncle Sam On His Knees
Conrad Hilton - Life Magazine

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