A Sad But Almost Funny Moment of Grief

Grief surprises you.

Just when you think you are doing fine – it hits you right between the eyes.

Like today, as Jan and I were casually walking through an antique store in Jamesport, Missouri.

I was just wandering along looking at things – when I saw Grandma’s china.

Well – it wasn’t Grandma’s exact china – but a set that was identical.

I’ve always loved Grandma’s china. It was a beautiful pattern with tiny blue flowers – and there it was staring at me.

On a shelf at the antique store.

With a sign that read 50% off.

I gasped and stopped so suddenly that Jan almost ran into me.

“It’s Grandma’s china! On sale! Well – not exactly Grandma’s china – but it looks just like it!” I said in a rush.

Jan just looked at me quizzically.

“Maybe I should get a cup and saucer to put in my china hutch to remember Grandma by? But then again – it isn’t really my Grandma’s china is it?”

Just then I spotted a gravy boat in the same set and continued without pausing for breath, ” A gravy boat! I remember when Grandma first got the set and used a gravy boat at Christmas. It was the first time I ever saw a gravy boat. I loved it!”

And then it hit.

Without warning.

I teared up and broke down right there in the front of the china display in the middle of a crowded antique store.

I saw Grandma making mashed potatoes and filling her beautiful gravy boat with her homemade gravy and placing it on the dining room table in front of me.

And I cried.

Blubbered even.

Mashed potatoes and gravy pack a powerful emotional connection.

Boy did people clear out of that section of the store fast! You could almost hear their thoughts, “Emotional melt-down in aisle 3 – please clear the area!”

I headed off to another section of the store and stared at a meaningless display of cameras and tried to pull myself together, leaving my poor husband staring after me in confusion.

“Does she want me to buy the cup and saucer?

Or am I supposed to buy the gravy boat?

Or both?

Or neither because it isn’t actually her Grandma’s china?

And where did she go anyway?”

Bless his heart.

As I stood staring at the vintage Brownie cameras I realized that down deep – it wasn’t the cup or the saucer or the gravy boat I wanted.

It was Grandma.

And no – we didn’t buy any china today.  I’m sure I’ll see that pattern again if I change my mind.

But we will definitely be having having mashed potatoes for lunch tomorrow.

With homemade gravy.

And I’ll remember Grandma.

Grandma’s Legacy

I’ve been trying for days to write a tribute to Grandma. Searching to put my thoughts and my heart into words.

Grandma’s visitation and funeral was a bittersweet time. Much laughter. Many tears.

It was sweet to remember the Grandma that was – the one that lived a few miles away and always had Frosty root beer, Schwans ice cream and Ding Dongs. Who loved having her grandchildren there and knew the best toys to have around – a wooden swing in the tree out front, a cedar chest full of dress-up clothes, and hay bales to jump on.

She was the grandma who would take you berry-picking, let you help make lunch for the hay crew and ride beside her in the old brown Rambler to deliver it to them in the hay field.

She was the grandma who bedded you down on homemade comforters when you spent the night, who fed you ice cream when you were home sick – even though home was only 5 miles away, and sent you a letter every week when you were at college.

Letters filled with farm news – how many pigs Grandpa worked, how many loads of laundry she did, who was there for coffee, and most importantly – what she made for lunch. Letters that made you both homesick and hungry.

She was the grandma that knew your favorites and when the mashed potatoes ran out before she thought you had enough – she went in the kitchen and made you more.

She was that grandma.

Grandma and momBut as I listened to the memories shared at visitation – I realized that she was so much more than just the wonderful Grandma I remembered.

She was the thirteen year old girl who lost her dad to pneumonia. Who worked her way through college, taught in a one room school and eloped with a younger man (my Grandpa) when her mother wouldn’t let them get married.

She worked beside Grandpa for 72 years.  Together they were a strong team – she helped with farm work and chores, he did the dishes after the meal and swept the floor.  They loved each other and weren’t afraid to show it.

Together they raised four kids, milked cows, raised pigs, sold eggs, put in crops, baled hay, and weathered storms.

Grandma had a zest for life – a determination to not miss out.

She was capable – cooking meals from scratch for years. She served a meal to anyone and everyone that Grandpa invited in – from the feed salesmen to the neighbor stopping by.

She made clothes on a treadle sewing machine – including her daughter’s wedding dresses. And beautiful wool rugs that are still in use today.

As this picture of Grandma grew more clear – another thought surfaced.

All of those things that I can say about Grandma – her zest for life, commitment in marriage, hospitality, homemaking skills –  I could also say about my mom.

The loving environment my mom created for her grand kids – full of dress-up clothes, homemade chocolate sauce on ice cream, laughter and acceptance  – she learned from Grandma.

The many and varied guests around our table growing up – she learned that from Grandma.

Her love and faithfulness to my dad – and not being afraid to show it – and working beside him and with him no matter what job needed to be done – she learned that from Grandma.

The home cooked meals, the home made clothes,  the hard work, and even that zest for life – were all learned from Grandma.

I can see it so clearly now – Grandma’s richest legacy to me was much more than being a wonderful Grandma (and believe me – she was!)

Her greatest gift to me was my mom.

Thank you Grandma.

A Precious Gift

Grandma’s heart had been weakening for some time.

The diagnosis of congestive heart failure was no surprise, she was almost 95.  But it meant that she didn’t have many days left – and we wanted to see her again.

So we planned an epic one day trip – over 300 miles one way – with my siblings, my parents, one niece and her precious baby girl.

We didn’t know what we would find. The nurses had reported that Grandma was weak and slept most of the day.

But we received a gift that day – a precious gift – the gift of time.

Grandma was alert and sat in her wheel chair with us for over 3 hours.

final memoriesWe had time to sit beside her, leaning in close to share some final memories.

Always soft-spoken, she had only whispers left.

We held her hand as we remembered together.

sharing stories She had time to enjoy her only great, great granddaughter, laughing at her antics.

That little sweetheart was quite taken with her Great Great Grandma’s fuzzy slippers. She would lean over and rub them.

When we called them Great Great Grandma’s dancing shoes, the Little Sweetheart pointed to her own dancing shoes and she did a little dance.

Then Grandma moved her feet in a slow-motion dance of her own.

Little Sweetheart smiled and laughed.

Grandma smiled and laughed.

It was a five generation connection.

A priceless gift.

Grandma's final family pictureWe had time for one more family photo. My parents, my siblings, the little sweetheart, and myself with Grandpa and Grandma.

One last time.

One last I love youWe had time for one last hug.

One last “I love you.”

One last goodbye as the tears that had been so close to the surface all day broke through.

That day was a gift. A precious gift.

Grandma died last night – just six days later.

Bird Watching with Grandma

rose-breasted grosbeakMy youngest son recently spent the night with Grandpa and Grandma. He loved all of the one on one attention he had, and the captive audience for his many stories and ideas!

One of the special things he does with Grandma is watch the birds that come to her many feeders.

Grandpa and Grandma’s house is situated in a very protected spot with lots of trees around. They keep several feeders out all year round and see quite a variety of birds.

During this visit he and Grandma kept a list of all the birds they saw. Grandma introduced him to the birds he didn’t know, and together they saw quite a collection!

Their list included:
2 Cardinals
3 Blue jays
2 Catbirds
2 Goldfinch
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Nuthatch
1 Rufous Towee
2 Mourning Dove
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
3 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
1 Cowbird
3 Robins
1 Chickadee

What a special memory! Grandma passing one her knowledge and love of birds to the next generation.