One week ago today, my beloved Gram passed away. She had been in the hospital for the last two months, after suffering seizures and developing pneumonia. She was a huge blessing in my life, and G’s life (and my whole family’s). She always just loved me, no exceptions or qualifiers. Gram made me laugh, made me feel loved, and was always there for me. Now she is gone, and I miss her terribly.
Gram (also known as “Ma” or Mrs. Goodnough or El/Eleanor, depending on who you were) was spunky, smart, and feisty. I cannot believe that I will never see her again (or at least not in this world), never hear her voice, never get mail or a phone call from her. I feel such a hole in my being.
Gram always thought of others and put them first, going without if it meant someone she loved had what they wanted. She loved to hear about what her family was doing, how work was or what your vacation was like or just what you got at the grocery store for a great deal (she loved a good bargain). She always asked about what The Wee One and I were up to or what crafty thing I had made, and she loved having me show her things I had created. For a while, I had my swap address set to her post office box because she loved seeing where things came from and what arrived. We would look at the postage stamp from the Netherlands and then check out the fun stationery I received in one swap. Or the amazing swapper who saw I loved all things British and sent me British coins and other goodies. Gram loved good mail.
When I was a kid, my gram was amazing fun. My siblings and I got to take turns staying with her on summer vacations, in her apartment on Main Street in the small town she lived in then (she loved living on Main Street because she was a devoted people watcher). She would give us money to go (by ourselves sometimes!) pick doughnuts from the bakery case or coins for the rides in front of the grocery store. Gram would play games with us for hours (like the crazy Mork & Mindy game where you had to shout NaNoo-NaNoo) and let us do things like jump in and out of the giant box of packing peanuts she had. She let us pretend the box was a jacuzzi, not caring for a second about the mess of styrofoam going all over her living room floor. On Friday nights in July, if we happened to be visiting then, we would go to the Fair in the Square. We would walk around looking at the things for sale, get chicken bbq, and listen to the music being played in the bandstand. All of my childhood memories of her are like that– happy, full, loving. I look forward to being a grandma one day just so I can try to make such happy memories for someone else.
This summer, she was the sickest I had ever seen her, sometimes unable to wake up when I would talk to her in the hospital. When she did wake up, though, I still could see that spunky Gram I loved so much. We took the Wee One with us so he could see her, too, and he sang “You are My Sunshine” to her each visit, loudly proclaiming at the end “I Love YOU, Grandma.” She would smile and mouth back she loved him, too.
We were with her last weekend when they took her off the ventilator, one of the hardest things I have ever gone through but still something I wouldn’t trade for anything because it meant I could be there for her, keep talking to her, telling her how much I loved her, we loved her, and spewing happy memories she made for me, as her breathing became difficult and then slower. My Gram was a fighter, though, and she hung in there through the night, after all but her youngest son went home for the night, until she peacefully passed the next morning, holding onto my Uncle’s hand. My uncle made sure the love and respect she gave others her whole life was given to her at the end of her life, for which I will be always thankful.
All this last week, my head had been filled with memories of her and the aching disbelief that she is gone. Then, Friday night, I had a dream about her. She was like she was when I was a child, strong and happy. The dream was filled with light and a peaceful feeling, and her happy face. I woke up sad, so sad that she was gone, but that dream also somehow seemed like a message that she was okay now, not in pain but a better place. Yesterday was the first day things felt a little bit better.
We are planning her memorial service, and I am working on a photo collage of her. It is going to be hard going through all the pictures, but I am also glad it will give me a chance to pay tribute to her and her life. We keep reminding the Wee One that we always have her love for us and our memories of her, and in that way, she will never be gone. I admit I have to remind myself of this, too, and that sometimes, memories without the chance to make new ones with her feels like a very poor consolation prize.
I am going to end this post with a poem I first found in high school when writing an essay about my great-grandmother. It is by one of my favorite poets, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and is called Dirge without Music.
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, — but the best is lost.
The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
PS: I have another pre-scheduled post for tomorrow (the Hexies Blog Hop post was prescheduled, too), then I will probably be sporadic for the next little while. Please bear with me.