I woke up this morning thinking it was all a dream. A terrible, terrible dream. Until my 5-year-old daughter ran into my room and yelled in my ear, “Mommy do you know where they are going to put grandma’s bones?” Dammit–it was not a dream. I did not imagine my dad calling me yesterday to tell me my grandma had died–it was reality. Real, f’ing terrible, punch-you-in-the-stomach-and-rip-out-your-heart reality. I named one of my cats after my grandma; that morning, she climbed up on me and I spent a good 20 minutes petting her, hugging her, and wishing I could get just one more hug from her namesake–hear her voice just more time call me “Punkin.”
My grandma and I were extremely close, even though we lived in different states. She was there for me when I was a baby, through my parents’ divorce, through my rocky adolescence, through my soul-searching college years, and even through the first five years of my parenting journey. Not only did she consistently attended all my dance recitals, band concerts, and graduations, but she enthusiastically cheered me on at every stage in my life. She always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Her last words to me were, “You are the powerful one. Just keep following your instincts, honey, and the kids will be okay.”
She taught me how to be powerful, how to listen to my instincts, how to be okay, and most importantly how to be strong. She was the strongest woman I’ve ever met. She was a survivor. She survived uterine cancer (twice), colon cancer, loss of her father, an abusive first marriage, traveling the world as a military wife, raising two boys and four stepchildren, and the mental and (later) physical loss of her mother. Throughout all these and many other hardships, she remained strong. She made me promise to finish my college (and post-graduate) education before getting married, because she said an education is something no one can take away from you. It is what saved her in her first marriage, and what helped keep her strong. I kept that promise and turned my career into helping empower strong women like my grandma.
She taught me how to love. Even though my family was divorced, she was always my constant. Although she was my dad’s mother, my mom let me see her all the time. When I was little, I would spend a week during the summer with Grandma and Grandpa, all by myself. We shared the love of shopping, reading, eating, and being together. She spoiled me with toys and clothes, but even more so with love. Whenever I was having a hard time in life–as a small child, teenager, or young woman–I wanted to run away to Grandma’s house; to play Bingo, eat chocolate chip cookies, and feel safe, happy, and loved. She was always there, always mentoring, always supporting, always laughing, always loving.
She loved so much that she always cried when we parted ways, in person or on the phone. When she visited me, she would often sneak out of the house before anyone got up because she hated saying goodbye. I guess it seems almost fitting that she passed in her sleep, without having to say goodbye. We didn’t need to say goodbye because we know how much we loved each other, but I would have liked to have one more hug, one more kiss, one more “I love you.” I can’t believe she’s gone already. We knew she was having heart issues, but we all thought we’d have a few more years together…at least two more weeks, when the kids and I already planned to visit. I am so glad I got to see her with both of my children, but even more fortunate that they got to meet the woman who made such a profound impact on my life.
I love you, Grandma. Thank you for absolutely everything, especially for being my grandma.
“And though she be but little, she is fierce.” –Shakespeare