Sunday, July 10, 2011
Rest In Peace, My Sweet Grandma
On Saturday, July 9th, my beloved Grandma, Frances, passed away. I can't even believe I even just wrote those words. It is completely and utterly surreal.
The past couple of months had been a fight for her. It all started with 2 broken vertebrae after she tripped at her house and that spiraled into a serious of treatments and medications that her body just couldn't handle. Eventually we were told there was nothing that could be done and we all made our way, one by one, to Lincoln, NE to see her and say goodbye.
It's only been 9 days since I got back from that trip, but I can honestly say that my decision to see her before she passed was one of the best things I have ever done. I will cherish that time forever. If you are ever unsure if you should visit a dying loved one, do it. No excuses. Just go.
My Grandma was an INCREDIBLE woman. She was the kind of person people write books about, overcoming so many obstacles that it would take hours for me to type them all out. However, there is one story that always sticks out in my mind. Living in the small mining town of Butte, MT, she was married at 17 and got pregnant shortly thereafter, having 3 babies in 3 years (the 3rd one being my Dad). During this time, her husband started to drink too much and began beating her on a regular basis. His drinking got so bad that she had to take a night job to provide for the family. One night, after working a long shift, she missed the bus and had to walk home. Upon arriving home that night, after her long walk, she found every single piece of clothing she owned cut into little pieces. Apparently her husband was angry that she had missed the bus. This was the last straw for her and she scooped up the kids, left the house (and everything she owned) and never returned again. She had nothing, but was determined to provide a better life for her children.
Shortly after that episode, my Grandma filed for divorce - something almost unheard of in the 1950's. A devout Catholic, she turned to the church for help, but was shocked to find that they now wanted nothing to do with her. She was a divorced woman, and that was a scarlet letter they did not approve of. Like salt in the wound, her church (that she had gone to her entire life) asked her to never come back.
But she did not give up. She never gave up.
In a story that is much longer than I am going to delve into here, she stayed focused, believed in her faith and did what she had to do. I take so much away from that story. I look at my Grandma as a shining example of how to keep moving forward. How to believe in better things. How to persevere.
'This too, shall pass' was one of her favorite sayings, and I know she knew the truth behind those words.
In the years that followed, my Grandma met Bill, my Papa. He was a wonderful man who took her in, along with my Dad, Aunt and Uncle. He treated them as his own, eventually adopting them. Years down the road, they had a child together. Life had it's ups and downs for Fran and Bill, but there was a deep love that lasted until my Papa's death in 2008. I don't think that it was any coincidence that since the day he died, my Grandma's health has been failing. It is the thought that they are now together again that is helping me more than anything else, as I navigate these murky waters, knowing they are both gone.
Oh Grandma - I love you so much. I don't think you will ever know how much you have inspired me and guided me. You were a feminist in your own time. You were a pioneer, a force of nature. Despite the miles between us, you and Papa were always there - always a part of our lives. Your sense of humor was sharper than a knife and I will forever miss that laugh. I loved that you always had your nails perfectly painted and your makeup applied like a pro. I've said it before but will say it again - we always had the best dressed Grandparents at every event. I hope you know how much you were loved. I look at my Dad, and what an amazing man he is, and I know that we owe it to you. Thank you for being you and for everything you brought to all of our lives. You fought so hard in the end, just as you did your entire life. It was so hard to see you in so much pain. I wish you nothing but the greatest peace, dear Grandma. I love you, forever and always. And, when the pain of losing you feels too unbearable, I am going to remind myself that this too, shall pass.
Have a good week everyone, and take a moment today to tell those you hold dear that you love them. At the end of the day, that is what life is all about.