Saturday, September 11, 2010

Missing Grandma

Grandma with Todd and I at our wedding, January 2004
This weekend is my first Grandparent's Day without a grandparent.  I've always made sure to celebrate Grandparent's Day.  The day symbolizes the importance of grandparents and the wisdom they pass on to their family.  It's true.  My grandma was the matriarch of the family and was always teaching us something.  But, my grandma passed away this week.  I just got home from her funeral.  It was a long two days, but I know she would have loved the service.  It was a perfect celebration of her life.

Her health has not been good for some time now, but every time she took a turn for the worse she always found a way to bounce back.  Last weekend, she fell and her body couldn't take the stress anymore.  She passed away on Monday, September, 6, 2010.  She was 91.  It was not a surprise that her health was not good, but it still didn't make the call at 2:30am any easier.  I think it took about 5 minutes for me to register what had happened when my parents called.  I didn't cry right away, but once I did, I couldn't stop.  I didn't really sleep the rest of the night.  I was thankful Monday was a holiday because there was no way I would have been able to go to work.

The visitation was from 6-8pm on Thursday and was a steady stream of people.  My grandma had so many friends and family.  Friends she has known for 30 and 40 years.  I guess that is what happens when you live almost your whole life in the same small town.  Friends from church, her bridge club, her birthday club, PEO, her school where she retired as secretary many years ago.  Family came from as far as Massachusetts.  Family friends traveled from several hours away, too.  Most that are 91 tend to have small funerals as they have outlived much of their family and friends.  Not my grandma - she has friends from every generation.  I knew most of those that came through from seeing her so often and even going with her to birthday club lunch or dropping her off at bridge club and meeting her friends.  It was neat to hear some of their stories.  One friend has lunch plans with my grandma for next week.  She is still going to go and celebrate the day by thinking of her.  Some of her friends are probably feeling as sad as the family.  Friends she has traveled with and shared holidays with over the years.  So many people came through that I was exhausted by the end of the night.  But, my grandma looked good and would have loved that so many came in her honor.  After getting something to eat, we headed back to Iowa to stay with Todd's parents.

Friday morning before the funeral was a little stressful.  Todd's parents live about 30 minutes from my grandma.  The funeral was at 10:30am and I left their house at 9:20am.  I've done this drive hundreds of time to go visit my grandma.  We come up every month or two and I always come see her or pick her up for a holiday celebration.  What I didn't know was the amount of road construction that had been set up since I was up to see her in August.  There were three spots where the road was down to one lane.  The road is a 2-lane highway and it is pretty much the only way to get from Iowa over to Illinois, so it is busy.  The drive took me an hour, due to stopping to get through the construction zones.  I was a wreck.  Todd, my brother's family, and Todd's parents were all several minutes behind me.  I walked into the church and broke down.  I was frazzled from the tense drive, upset to be so late, worried about the others getting there, and freaked out knowing that would be the last time I would make that drive.  Ever.  I cried when I got the call and cried at the visitation, but I just started crying uncontrollably at this point.  My mom had to take me to the bathroom to calm me down. 

The actual funeral service was beautiful.  My grandma would have loved it!  It was the best funeral service I have ever been to.  I laughed and cried the whole time.  My grandmother's friend of 30 years gave the eulogy.  At first I was upset about this.  My mom had asked if I would say something and agreed to do so.  However, she later called and told me that one of my grandma's longtime friends would speak.  I felt strongly that someone in the family should speak, but on the flipside, this was perfect.  It would have been too difficult for a family member and this friend did a fabulous job describing my grandmother.  It was the perfect tribute.  Another friend from my grandma's church sang two solos, both of which she had requested years ago.  He was amazing.  I was also upset about this at first because I wanted my sister-in-law to sing.  But, it would have been hard for her and he did such a wonderful job.  The minister did a great job on the sermon, too.  I have the audio from the service, which I need to digitize so I can listen to it again.  The coolest thing is that my 5-month old niece was asleep in her car seat between my brother and I.  She sleep like an angel the entire service and kept smiling in her sleep.  I am not sure what she was dreaming about, but we think grandma was talking to her in her sweet dreams.

My grandma loved dark chocolate M&Ms.  We always brought her some whenever we visited.  We found several bags when we were cleaning.  She always had a bowl out for herself and any visitors.  It was her trademark - everyone knew she would have some when they came to see her.  So, we put some in her casket and had them out in bowls at the funeral service.  My mom also had the M&Ms graphic printed on her memorial pamphlets.  I think she would be surprised that we did this, but thought it was neat.  She always liked neat, cutesy things like that.

The burial was short, less than 10 minutes, and my niece stole the show.  It could have been a sad time, but those that gathered there couldn't help but focus on my niece.  She was in the cutest outfit, in the best mood, and my mom was holding her as the minister gave the final blessing.  She was smiling at everyone and we all joked afterward that grandma would have been watching her sweet face had she been there, too.  It really made me think about the circle of life.  Lily only 5-months old and my grandma 91 years old.  My grandma got to see her twice since she was born and loved every minute of it.  (In fact, in the eulogy, her friend said she was worried at one point that she might only ever have great-granddogs.  There are 6 dogs between 6 grandchildren.  LOL)  The luncheon following the burial was a good time to see more family and friends and eat more M&Ms.  :)

It was harder than I thought it would be and am still worried about several relatives and friends.  She meant so much to so many people.  She was a truly special person and treated her friends like family and spoiled her family.  She did so much for her church and the community.  I miss her already.  She has been with me for many holidays the last five years, especially every Thanksgiving.  It is going to be hard not having her there this year.  While I wish I could talk to her one more time, I am thankful I did get to see her so often despite living 6 hours away.  So, for those that still have living grandparents, hug them if you live close or call them if you live far away.  Wish them a Happy Grandparent's Day and let them know you are thinking of them.  As one of my friends told me, they are very special people.  I wish I could call my grandma this weekend.

My family at Lily's baptism, June 2010 (minus Todd beind the camera)