It’s been a unexpected stretch. I had trouble writing it like this for a bit but here goes- my paternal grandmother died rather suddenly on July 17th. We were very close, talking almost weekly and I had been back to visit family on the 4th of July weekend as I usually do (remember the nail story from last year?), so I am better off than I could be in this situation.
She wasn’t feeling well, turned out there was a need for surgery but her body and spirit decided it was time to go. She was ready, she had lived an amazingly full life and she wanted to be with my grandfather (who died when I was little).
I strongly remember, and mourn, the passing of my beloved great uncles Virgil and Dean and my two great-grandmothers but this was my first real experience with death in the immediate “never able to hug her again” mode. And it hit me hard. Not because I don’t have a lifetime of memories (she lived near us growing up and was intimately involved in our lives) and not because I have any regrets (she knew all there was to know about my life and was completely up to speed thanks to a long chat in person on July 4th), but because I will miss her. I will really miss her.
I take some comfort in the fact that she passed peacefully and quickly. I think there truly was a conscious choice that this was enough, that this was the time and it was all okay. In fact her last words to my parents before surgery (and what turned out to be her true last words) were “let’s get this show on the road.” And the show for her, honestly, was probably letting go and dying. It’s weird to say that and even weirder to write it but I think it was true. She had a body that was weakened and a spirit that was ready to go. She had made her peace and it was time. My mother was alone with her near the end (while my father, aunt and uncle got some air) and she held the phone down by her ear. I whispered to my grandma that it was okay to go and that I would be brave just like she taught me. Honestly one of the hardest things I have ever done.
She wanted no big fuss or ceremony so we honored her as best we could with just the right amount of fuss. The graveside service (in near 100 degree heat) was simply memories, poems and the like read by my father and then us four grandchildren. She would have loved it. Just family, with laughter through the tears. I made it through my poem (the one she requested to be read, she was VERY specific about the events) with some tears but I think I did her proud.
So many people sent cards, called my parents and came to visitation- sharing stories of Gussie and the countless lives she touched. That was beautiful to see. This woman who married at 16, finished school on her own steam years later, survived being widowed and forged a life on her own terms- she was something remarkable. And I can only hope that even a tiny sliver of her spirit was passed down into my DNA.
She was my biggest cheerleader, always believing in me and never doubting my path. I only wish I could have done more before she died, accepted that Oscar or Tony on TV. But I know that she will still be cheering me on when it does happen. And I returned from my trip back to see her laid to rest in time to attend the awards ceremony for the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity (where I’d been nominated for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play). And I won. The first thing I wanted to do was to call my grandmother… but then I realized that she probably already knew, and maybe even had something to do with it. You never know, she was pretty damn powerful.
I love you grandma and can never thank you enough.
This has reminded me that life is fragile. So I am even more resolute in my quest to stay connected, tell people I love them, gather pictures, collect stories and share all I can with whomever I can in the time I have.
I hope you are safe and sound + staying cool,