Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Gift from Grandma

I think about my grandma all the time.  She died four years ago on March 17th.  Some days it feels like we have been without her forever.  Other days it was just yesterday that I sat in a room talking to her.
I have experienced grief where the pain of memories seers the muscles of your heart and strums the nerves in your mind.
Remembering my grandma has never felt this way.  She spent my life preparing me for the day that I would not be with her.  It was not done despairingly or dark and gloomy.  She was just very honest about her struggle with chronic illness and the prognosis for her life.  She talked to me honestly, shared stories of her challenges, her accomplishments and her failures.  Unlike any other adult in my life, she allowed me to see her vulnerable and she gave me permission to be fallible while encouraging me to be better in light of mistakes or missteps.  Possibly I am painting a picture of a soft spoken, gentle woman.  That brings a huge smile to my face.  My grandma was outspoken, opinionated, hard headed and relentless. I was witness to many instances where the recipient of her sharp tongue was fighting a losing battle.  As difficult as my grandma could be she was always in my corner, supporting my spirit and who I was or who I could be.
My grandma's death was sudden and anticipated.  Someone who has watched a loved one struggle with a lifelong chronic illness will understand this sentiment.  I think when my family is honest, we knew that her time with us was increasingly limited, but one day she was okay and within a week she was gone.  I remember feeling like there was a tear in the fabric of my existence the day that she died.  I was not sure how I would navigate life without my cheerleader.
I would like to reiterate my love for my grandma.  Her presence in my life was a blessing and her death filled me with sadness.  I have learned that as we learn to cope and heal following the death of loved ones sometimes we begin to see the gifts that they have left for us.  The reminders that while life is different without them their influence continues to the end of our days.  My grandma's death left me two very special gifts and I am so grateful.
The first gift is the relationship that I developed with my grandpa.  My grandma was such a force in our family.  As in many relationships, I think that it was easy for my grandpa to be eclipsed by the enormity of my grandma's personality.  My grandpa is a quiet, thoughtful, humorous soul but my grandma was regularly the one that relayed information from our family to theirs and vice versa.  Following her death, we had to refashion the connectedness that we chose to have with one another.  I began to see my grandpa differently. I heard his voice, I could visualize his world and learned about who he was as an individual.
I have always loved my grandpa, but now we are part of a relationship.  It is nice to communicate with him and I have learned so much about who he is.  It is a gift and I cherish him more every day.
The second gift is a little more complex.
Following my grandma's death, I felt an emptiness.  I missed the love and support that she gave me and I believed that was an adjustment that I would have to make.
Audrey entered my life by bringing happiness to my grandpa's life.  Audrey has a gentle, considerate nature.  She has embraced our family with empathy and compassion, recognizing that we would need time to reconcile our loss.  It did not take long to see that she is thoughtful and witty (like my grandfather).  Her charisma and energy is infectious and welcoming.  Audrey did not join our family trying to fill a hole.  She has shown our family so much respect and yet as I recognize my grandma will never be replaceable I also acknowledge that there is a place for Audrey in our lives and in our family.  People become family on much less merit than the love, patience and respect Audrey has shown for my family.  I do not believe anyone can have too much love.  I feel blessed and like my grandma has given me one more gift in Audrey. 
My grandma defined her role in my life by being my cheerleader, by loving and respecting me.  In life I felt very loved by her and in death she ensured that I would continue to feel loved.  How lucky am I?  

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