My Grandma passed away today.
Grandma was the mother of four children who grew up close and have remained so for my entire life. She worked as a nurse on the night shift; she went for years simply ‘high-fiving’ Grandpa and her children as she walked in the door and they walked out in the morning. She spent about fourteen years taking increasingly more care of Grandpa as he suffered a series of strokes and in the end cancer. She never asked for anything for herself that I can remember in my life, she only asked if there was anything she could do for us kids. Me? I learned to always ask for an afghan (I did this with both my grandmothers). It would take months to get one because she’d knit one for whomever in the family asked her for one, and all of us knew to ask her for one (and there were a lot of us in the ranks of the grandchildren). She was always almost always working down a request list. But we always eventually got our afghans. The afghans were about the only things I worked hard to salvage out of my flooded home in Grand Forks in 1997, and I use them all to this day.
Grandma wasn’t just a beloved family member, she was also my last close family member who was a direct historical link to the generation that came of age in the Great Depression and fought the Second World War. She was almost the first person I called after September Eleventh once I’d cooled off a little. She was the one I could talk to who could help put the event into some semblance of proper perspective; she’d lived through the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, after all. We also talked about the 2003 Iraq War shortly after the fall of Baghdad, and I remember specifically telling her "Now all we need to do is win the peace." At the time I didn’t think it would take as long as it has. The outcome is no longer really in doubt (unless we quit all of a sudden); we’ll win, although it will depend largely on Iraq itself to determine the speed. Unlike the last great war, there won’t be a surrender ceremony on a battleship at the end of this one; we’ll wake up after awhile and realize it’s over, barring some other extraordinary circumstance. But Grandma won’t be around to see it with me.
Most important of all, she was the spiritual cornerstone of the family. If I felt like I needed a prayer chain going, once Grandma let me know she was on it, the chain always felt anchored. I don’t know how many times my family and I got to go to church with her and Grandpa when we were younger. She almost always played organ at the services, but she was equally talented with the piano. The fact that I can quote the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 verbatim are her credit. There was usually a reward of some sort after we recited back to her whatever verses she’d asked us to memorize. I don’t remember what it was, it was probably a couple dollars. In the end, the real reward clearly was not the material thing but the wisdom gained; this is a lesson I’ll remember and use to pass along to my successor generation.
Actually, the true reward will come someday in the far future when my time comes to depart and travel down that road to find her again.
Congratulations on one of the longest, most meaningful, and most successful lives in which I’ve ever been blessed to share. Rest in well-deserved peace, Grandma!