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92-Year-Old Grandma Takes One Final, Daring Flight (VIDEO)

by The Stir Bloggers on February 23, 2013 at 1:23 PM

Holly's grandmother

Late last August, I got a panicked call from my mom. "Holly, babe, Grandma’s not doing well. I’m driving down tomorrow. How soon can you come?"

My dad’s high-school buddy picked me up at the Kansas City airport. As we headed up to the family ranch, I braced myself. I'd studied death and bereavement in college, so I knew a great deal about the whole process. But I realized that watching my 92-year-old grandmother Dorothy Ellis go through it would be the hardest thing I’d faced yet.

When I walked into her room, she looked like she wanted to leap out of bed and scoop me up like she did when I was little. Instead, I spent the next five days sitting by her side, saying the Hail Mary and singing "Silent Night" with her while she drifted in and out of consciousness.

I was ripped apart inside when I had to return to New York, but she gave me a look that told me it was okay. I was sure I’d be back soon for her funeral.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I got another call from Mom a week later.

Mom: "Grandma’s flying in a powered parachute tomorrow!"

I Googled it. It looked like a cross between a lawn mower and Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.

Me: "Are you nuts? You can’t let Grandma go up in that thing! Put her on the phone."

Gram: "Hi, Sweetie."

Me: "Gram, you can’t be serious about riding in this flying death-trap."

Gram: "Well, at my age, I figure I’m going to go one way or another!"

You can’t argue with that.

And fly she did along the horizon. She looked as though she'd had the time of her life when she landed.

My uncle caught it all on camera, and I edited the footage. We chose the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz. When you have a grandmother named Dorothy from Kansas, well, what other song is there?

There were times I got overwhelmed editing the video, but watching the way she claps like a 6-year-old on Christmas morning in it, I knew I owed it to her to share that amazing memory.

She seemed to have a resurgence of appetite and vitality after the flight, so we hoped we might have one more Thanksgiving with her. But when I spoke with her on Halloween, I had a feeling it might be the last time. It was.

Holly's grandmother
Holly & her grandmother

She was the Grande Dame of our family, and we all feel a void without her. But I’m touched by the way strangers are embracing this story and sharing memories of their own loved ones.

And you know what? Gram would have been tickled to pieces by all the attention, too.

Do you have any memorable stories about your grandparents to tell?

This post was written by Holly Ellis who has produced both the Sundance-selected feature film, Prairie Love, and The Daily Stir at CafeMom.

Filed Under: aging, cafemom studios, video


  • Sarah...
    -- Facebook comment from

    Sarah UsedtobeZech Cone

    February 23, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    THAT was beautiful. Thank you for sharing;your grandmother was obviously a very special lady.

  • nicol...


    February 23, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    amazing,. made me miss my own gram. =( i want to cry! 

  • nicol...


    February 23, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    ok i really did cry!

  • Laura
    -- Nonmember comment from


    February 23, 2013 at 3:25 PM
  • zombi...


    February 23, 2013 at 4:02 PM
    Beautiful :') The version of that song gets me grandma was the "shopping on Madison Ave" type but this video made me miss her terribly all the same...
  • fleur...


    February 23, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    This made me miss my grandmother so much. She died this past summer, also at the age of 92. She was one of the last southern ladies of her kind. She never left her apartment without full makeup, hair perfectly done, and heels.

  • tuffy...


    February 23, 2013 at 8:50 PM
    Why do tears come when the heart swells? I was so blessed to have such a vibrant, loving, morally upright, intelligent Granddaddy who could just do anything he set his mind to do. He was a great example for how to live life, and one of the last of a dying breed, I'm afraid.

    I'm sorry you lost your grandmother. She must have been a real blessing to you.
  • Yoram...


    February 23, 2013 at 9:08 PM


  • Bruic...


    February 24, 2013 at 3:03 PM
    That was beautiful. Most people don't have that kind of courage at 22 much less 92. She must have been a very special woman. Thank you for sharing!
  • lissa...


    February 24, 2013 at 5:43 PM

    Wow...amazing memory, so glad you shared it with everyone. She really looked like a beautiful soul. I'm so sorry for your loss.

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