Heaven gained a beautiful angel on December 25th.
My grandma passed away early in the morning on Christmas Day, and I can not put into the words how empty I feel inside right now. It’s like a bottomless pit in my stomach. As much as I am relieved that her pain and suffering is over, the selfish part of me wants her to be here still. I can’t help but think I should have and could have spent more time with her, even though I did visit them as much as I could. Having 2 babies that constantly have colds kept me away unfortunately, and I wish I would have just gone over for visits with her anyways. There’s so much I wanted to say to her and things I wanted to ask her. I’m also thinking of all the random things about her that I’ll never get to have again- hearing her voice, smelling her cooking, seeing her at parties, visiting her at home, watching her sing songs with Phoebe…all of these wonderful things I had with my grandma are now just memories. Happy memories.
Christmas Eve was spent at my house since I live closest to the hospital. I along with my cousins prepared all of the food so that my mom and all my aunts and uncles could focus on being with my grandma. Our original plan was to forgo the traditional Christmas Eve food and not have much of a party, but on the last day that my grandma was coherent enough to respond and speak to us, she was slowly listing out all of the food she wanted us to have at Christmas Eve- ham, rye bread, 4 cans of kraut, cranberries, peas, carrots, cake.
We had our party, mostly so the little kids could still have a fun night and open their presents. I’m glad we did. My grandpa came over for a break from everything, to eat and take his mind off the sadness he had been faced with for the past week. My mom, grandpa, aunts, and uncles went back to the hospital to be with my grandma, who had been resting peacefully in hospice care. She hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink for days, but when my grandpa said his final goodbye to her on Christmas Eve night, she had a few tears streaming down her face. She knew it was her time.
My grandma was a faithful believer, loved her church and serving God. She was happy to be reunited with her son, excitedly telling everyone that she was “going to see Jim!” on her last days of being able to speak to us. As sad as I am that she won’t be present in my life, she has left us with so many ways to carry on her legacy- cooking, baking, going to church and being a faithful servant to God, caring for and showing kindness to everyone who crosses your path, spending lots of time with family and friends.
I wrote a eulogy for my grandma and presented it during the wake. It was so hard to write, yet so easy because the words truly just flowed straight from my heart. This is what I wrote:
If I were to speak to you all about my memories of my grandma over the last 30 years that I had her in my life, we would be here for hours. She was more like a second mom to me and I’m sure all of my cousins would agree that she was just as kind, gentle, nurturing, and sometimes even scary like our owns moms.
Grandma would take care of us when we stayed home sick from school, always being sure to put a sheet out for us to lay on the couch and serve us grilled cheese or chicken soup. That sheet was used at Halloween, when we would dump all of our candy out on it and make our trades with each other, while Grandma made sloppy joes and hot chocolate. For birthdays, she would take us to the store to pick out a toy. Every year she drove to the store, I was always amazed to see Grandma drive a car because she never, ever drove. I remember one year I even asked to see her driver’s license because I didn’t think she really had one. Walking into her house and being bombarded by the smell of her amazing spaghetti sauce will stay with me forever, and of course we were always invited to stay for supper. Cooking and baking was a huge part of her livelihood. Some of her last words as she lay in the hospital bed last week was our traditional Christmas Eve menu. She slowly listed them for us- Sausage, 4 cans of kraut, cranberries, ham, rye bread, peas and carrots, cake. Cooking for us was what she loved to do.
Some of my fondest memories of her are at the cottage. She loved being there, I think mostly because she had us all together to enjoy our company. I loved going to the orchards and farms to get whatever fruit or vegetable was in season. They’d always buy produce by the bushel so that they could make whatever they bought into jam, pies, or they canned everything so we could enjoy it throughout the year. She loved helping out in the kitchen to get meals prepared, sitting on the patio every evening while we grilled and ate appetizers, usually wearing a sweater even though it was 80 degrees outside. I even remember some days she would walk down to the beach and sit on the cement wall and watch us play in the water when we were much younger.
And when we were all young, I’m not sure why she ever agreed to let a bunch of us sleepover at her house on occasion. Once bedtime rolled around and we were jumping around on her bed, laughing loudly instead of going to sleep, you better believe the fear of God was set in us as she slowly crept the door open, rolling pin in hand, and in the sternest voice she could muster up would say, “Go to sleep, or I’ll smack you all!”. We would quickly retreat into bed, stay quiet for about 2 minutes, and then start laughing again. I’m sure she laughed as she walked away from the door, too. This is something we all laugh about to this day.
I could go on and on and on with happy memories of my Grandma. She was everything anyone could want in a grandma. She took such good care of us and loved being a grandma. I remember whenever we’d get a sliver while playing outside (which was a very traumatic thing for us as kids), she would do Grandma’s “magic” to get it out, simply by numbing the area with ice and gently prying it out with a sterile sewing needle. We had no idea how she got it out without hurting us, which is why we called it Grandma’s “magic”.
Her unconditional love, her warm presence, that standard “Hi, hun!” greeting, the smell of her cooking billowing out of her house, the lamb cakes at Easter and nut cups at Christmas, the love for her church and respect and devotion to God, her witty comments and comforting advice at times when you needed it the most…everything she did for us. That was all Grandma’s magic.
Being raised without knowing the true love of a mother for most of her life, and being able to devote her life and whole heart to raising 7 children, 19 grandchildren, and 11 great grandchildren is Grandma’s magic.
Every memory, every picture, every piece of heartfelt advice, whether it was about how to make gravy from the pan drippings or calmly reminding me, “That’s just what babies do.”, when I was sure Phoebe would drive me into insanity, that was and always will be Grandma’s magic.
Grandma has passed her torch on to all of us, and it is up to us to keep the flame lit and her legacy alive. She will live on through our actions and words- when you call anyone who is playing against the Fighting Irish a bunch of jerkamers, that is Grandma. When you can tomatoes in August, that is Grandma. When you press your lips on your child’s forehead to check for a fever, that is Grandma. When you make sloppy joes on Halloween, that is Grandma. When you hang a picture of your favorite priest in your house, that is Grandma. The next time you find yourself feeding whipped cream to a baby or table scraps to a dog that shouldn’t be eating table scraps, that is Grandma. When you make that perfect batch of spaghetti sauce that you can smell outside your house, that is Grandma.
Her love, her life, and her legacy will live on through all of us.
The only thing left to do is move on. Get used to a new normal without my grandma, and the thought of that makes me tear up and feel all sorts of horrible. Time is the best healer in situations like this, and I keep reminding myself that we will all be better soon.
My grandma would want me to be happy, so I’ll put a smile on my face for her.