We said goodbye to my grandmother this weekend. After several years struggling with Alzheimer's Disease, her suffering finally came to an end. As the minister at her funeral said, this time came with a conflict of emotion. I certainly felt a sense of relief knowing that my grandmother is no longer suffering, but the loss that comes with the finality of death is always difficult and she will be missed dearly.
My grandmother lived a very long and full life; her struggle with Alzheimer's was just a tiny blip in her lifespan and it is not how she will be remembered by all of us who loved her. She was born in 1919 and it is incredible to think that women did not even have the right to vote when she was born! She lived through the Great Depression, World War I & II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, etc, etc. It is amazing to reflect on how much our world has evolved and changed just in my grandmother's lifetime. She is survived by my grandfather, who is 92 years old. My grandparents would have celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary on 12/31. Isn't that absolutely incredible? What an inspiration.
My grandmother was an amazing, unforgettable, and feisty woman. She lived her life passionately and that passion spread to those around her. She worked very hard and she also played very hard! One of her many passions was playing games. She had a closet full of boardgames suitable for all ages. She especially loved to play cards and she was ruthless! She played to win and, well, I think she did always win! This was also a lesson she taught us in life: give it everything you've got and never, ever give up. Oh, and, make sure you are having fun along the way!
Another lesson my grandmother taught me through the way she lived her life was to never apologize for who I am and never compromise what is important to me. My grandmother had very strong convictions that guided her life and she stood strong by those convictions. She never wavered on what was important to her: her faith and her family. My grandmother was especially uncompromising when it came to family traditions, like Christmas Eve. Every year, we gathered at my grandparents house (along with all my aunts, uncles, and cousins) on Christmas Eve and we always had a family service before ANY gifts were opened. This involved gathering together to read the Christmas story, sing hymnals, and focus on the true meaning of the holiday. Of course, as kids we would grumble, but we all loved it and it brought us all closer together as a family, even if for just one night out of the year. These memories are so special to me and such an ingrained part of who I am.
My grandmother and I did not always see eye to eye on various things, but that was okay because through that she challenged me to be a stronger person, to think more critically about my values and beliefs, and to not apologize for them, even if they were not the same as hers. Unfortunately, it took me awhile to figure some of these things out and I did not get the opportunity to thank her for teaching me to push the boundaries of my own convictions. That, I suppose, is the struggle for those left behind after a death. But, my grandmother wouldn't care about that. My guess is she would not want any of us to dwell on regrets because that would just be a waste of time and energy! Get up and do something, she would say!
Thank you, grandma. I love you and will miss you dearly.