So, many of you know that my Grandma D died on the 22nd of August. Although it was sad, it wasn’t fully unexpected. She has been battling Alzheimer’s for the past five years and about three weeks ago stopped eating. I guess this is common in the final stages of Alzheimer’s, but it is still heartbreaking to hear that someone you love and care about is now gone.
I made a whirlwind driving trip with my sister Lindsay in order to be at the funeral and not be away from my family for an extended amount of time. Jesse was fantastic and took Friday off work to be with the kids and then held the fort down the entire weekend. I worked on Friday and then Lindsay and I left around 2 o’clock. We arrived in Portland at about one in the morning. The funeral was at ten the next morning and my mom wanted to be there early in order to get everything finalized. The service was wonderful and truly, what Grandma would have chosen herself. All three of her children were there…my mom of course, my Uncle Larry, and my Aunt Barbie. Even all the grand kids (minus 2) were able to attend. All my siblings were there, but one, and it was wonderful. There have been few times in my adult life where I have been genuinely and extremely grateful for my brothers and sisters. It was so comforting to have them all there and I hope in some small way we were a comfort to our own mother.
All of us participated in the funeral service and I will include the thoughts I shared. We were all able to go to the cemetary and dedicate the gravesite. It was truly one of the most beautiful cemetaries I have ever seen. Maybe it was just the beauty of the morning or the gorgeous Northwest, but it was the most perfect place for Grandma D. After the cemetary we all had lunch together and spent some time remembering Grandma and all of our crazy stories. Lindsay and I headed back home about six that evening and drove all night.
As I pulled into the driveway that morning I was talking to my own mom on the phone. I couldn’t help but thinking I would be totally lost without her. She does so much for us and without her, we couldn’t have the life we do. I know Grandma was old and sick, but I still don’t look forward to the day when my own mother is gone. I am so thankful every day for all she does for me and my little family. Atticus and Ainsley love their grandma so much and I truly hope they have as many wonderful memories of their grandma as I do of mine!
These are the thoughts I shared at my Grandma D’s funeral:
There have been many times throughout the past week where I have contemplated over and over what I would talk about today. I often thought to myself how do I pay homage to a woman with a life as rich and colorful as Grandma’s? I have loved and admired her for over thirty years and where would I even begin? There are too many memories, too many funny stories, and too many feelings to compile into a few minutes time. Grandma is the kind of woman that makes me thankful to share the same gender title. She has shaped and guided my life in so many ways beginning as a young girl and continuing on well into womanhood. As I begin to raise my own daughter, I can only hope that I teach her and guide her the way Grandma raised her own children and grandchildren…with love, laughter, and the occasional dash of crazy thrown in!
A few days ago I was having a discussion with a friend about the mysteries of life and the big unanswered questions of the universe. She made the comment to me that each major change in our life is like a new chapter in a book leading to a conclusion that is usually unseen. Being a school teacher and a self-proclaimed book nerd, this comment resonated with me. I thought how true. We journey through life writing our own stories, our histories, and hopefully, leaving our bestselling legacies to the generations to come. Often times our own plot lines follow one path and then quickly travel down a dark and scary road to the unknown. However, there are times when the fairy tale comes true and we find the gold at the end of the rainbow. I truly believe Grandma wrote many stories, some happy, some sad, but mostly stories we all love and cherish.
Grandma had many chapters in her life. Her childhood in North Dakota, her teenage years, which if my memory serves me correctly and her stories are true, were rather rebellious and colorful. Now when I say rebellious I ask you to please keep this in perspective and remember it was the 1930’s, the middle of the Depression, and seriously, how much trouble can you really get into? I recall her telling me stories and never believing that she was young and not always just “Grandma.” When you are young you always believe that a person has been the same way their whole life. It was hard to comprehend and realize she had gone through all the same stages of life as me and all the while, continued writing her story. The next chapter of her life was written as a wife and mother. I am continually amazed and hold endless admiration for her years as a single mother. Being a mother of two small children myself, this fact holds clear perspective when my husband leaves for work each day. However, she persevered and raised three happy, healthy, and strong children who went on to continue her legacy and love.
I am sure there are many short stories within these chapters, but her next chapter, and the one which influenced me the most is her chapter as a Grandma. For me, she was the only grandparent I had growing up that I really remember and with whom I had a lengthy relationship. As her story progressed she took on many character roles. She was an adventurer, an inventor, a playmate, a doctor, a navigator, and friend. This short list doesn’t do justice to the many things Grandma was to each of us, but for me she was always a colorful character and someone I wanted in my storybook. She helped me to begin writing my story at a young age and I feel her presence and spirit as I continue to write my own story.
I am convinced that we are blessed in life to have certain people a part of our story. Grandma not only helped to shape my story, but in a way, was the beginning of it. She helped me to imagine and believe. She empowered me with tools to become a strong, compassionate, and forgiving woman. I love her with all my heart, and as her book ends in this life, I look forward to reading the next installment.