Yesterday I was looking for something in my e-mail and a quick search pulled up a list of e-mails. I found one with the subject line "To Grandma," and I was intrigued.
I didn't remember writing it.
Grandma suffered a massive stroke on June 1, 2012, her 89th birthday.
The stroke left her paralyzed, unable to eat or drink.
The doctors said she would only last a few days,
but they didn't know Grandma's spirit of strength and resilience, of pushing through challenges no matter what, of never letting pain stop her from accomplishing what she needed to.
I suppose that is why she lasted 12 DAYS without food or water before she was finally gone.
While her stroke was on her 89th birthday,
she passed away on June 13, 2012, my 23rd birthday.
I felt so happy to have yet another connection with her. Every time my birthday rolls around, I remember my grandma, too.
Once, when I was about 16, it was April Fools' Day. I dipped some cotton balls in chocolate and sprinkled the tops with sugar, ready to prank my family. I don't know what possessed me to do it--why would I trick the most guileless woman on the planet??--but I decided to take a "chocolate" to my grandma.
Grandma loved chocolate, and she was so delighted when I held the plate out to her.
I held back my laughter as she took a chocolate and bit into it, then almost immediately spit it out.
And then she started laughing...and laughing...and laughing!
She was far happier about the prank than she was about the chocolate in the first place!
When my parents came home she came out of her room to ask them if they had seen my funny joke.
"I thought that was the cutest thing!" she exclaimed.
Being good-natured was second-nature to her.
The hospice nurse who came to the house each day told my mom that he wanted to pass away in the environment my grandma had. She was surrounded by family, beautiful music was playing, sunlight streamed through the window, and those who sat at her bedside read her letters and stories from her loved ones.
When I was in High School, my mom and I were cleaning a closet at my grandma's house in preparation for her to come live with us, and we came across a box filled with letters my grandpa had written her during his service in World War 2. I immediately claimed them, wanting to surprise her with a book of the letters, which had been buried in the closet for many years.
My cousin read Grandma the letters at her bedside, along with countless memories my cousins and I posted to a Facebook group where we could share pictures and memories of Grandma during that time.
Evidently my mom also recruited us to write her a letter during her last days on Earth, and I wanted to share my letter here as a way to preserve it.
Grandma's ways were simple.
She never saw the need for philosophical, intellectual debate,
preferring instead to change the world through a listening ear, a homemade chocolate cake, or a genuine compliment.
Hers was a life of doing good no matter the cost
and finding joy in the small things.
I miss you, Grandma.
June 4, 2012
I have been reflecting on the wonderful life you have lived and the many, many legacies you have left your children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. Your influence has been felt in so many ways and will continue to be felt as time goes on.
I think about the legacy of quilting and sewing you have left. I just finished making Sam a quilt for his birthday and kept thinking about how I made my very first blanket at your house. We picked out the fabric together, put it on the frames, tied it, and you finished the edges. That soft blanket with the cute little bears all over it comforted me for years--and taught me a lot about tying quilts. I think of the beautiful red, white, and blue quilt you gave us for our wedding. The incredibly hard work that goes into each quilt carries with it evidence of your love.
I think about the legacy of cooking. So many memories I have of your house revolve around the kitchen. There was always a delicious treat waiting for your eager grandchildren. I cherish the recipes that have been handed down through the years because of the heritage they represent and the delicious foods they produce! I just made Sam's birthday cake using your famous chocolate sheet cake recipe. No matter how uncomfortable life got for you, you were always serving and helping in the kitchen. After you moved in with my family, you made the meat each Sunday. You contributed your special grape salad to family gatherings. Your love of cooking has been handed down to me along with your recipes.
I think about the legacy of canning. I just finished canning 52 quarts of peaches, and I thought of you with almost every peach I sliced.
I think about the legacy of simple pleasures. There was the people feeder on the microwave full of M&Ms, the toy drawer in the bathroom, the tire swing hanging from the best climbing tree in the world, good ol' Harry Barker who would greet us for so many years, the pop-bottle hurricane toy, the balancing fisherman, the playhouse out back, a whole farm of neat things to explore, and countless other simple things that delighted us as we visited. One of my very most favorite things was the candy bar game we played at the family birthday party. These things helped teach me that life doesn't have to be extravagant to be fun.
I think about the legacy of loving to play games. When I was young and had a holiday from school, that was often the way my mom helped make the day fun for us--we would sit down and play a whole bunch of games. Sam and I have many games already, and playing games is one of our favorite things to do together. You were always there to play dominoes, rummikub, and more.
I think about the legacy of loving to read. So much of my reading material in high school came from you, because you were always reading a good book!
I think about the legacy of "making do." We don't have much money as we live the student life, but your example has helped us to make do with what we do have. From patching jeans to saving pennies, you somehow created a wonderfully happy life even when money was tight. I remember when I was graduating from high school and you gave me a bank shaped like a little boy you had had sitting on your bookshelf for many years. You had dropped spare change in that bank over the years, and you gave it all to me. Those pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters added up to a substantial amount of money!
I think about the legacy of cultivating a strong marriage. Uncle Gary's song sums it up perfectly: "We come from a long line of love. When times get hard, we don't give up." You were always loyal to Grandpa, even when times were tough, and I truly admire your example. When I interviewed you for a paper I was writing in college, you said, "Make your husband the most important person in your life...You grow more together when you're doing things together." The challenges you and Grandpa faced were overcome with your determination to keep your marriage strong. One of the most meaningful things I got to do was type up Grandpa's letters to you from the war and learn from your example. I am so grateful for the way your example has helped me build a strong marriage.
I think about the legacy of selflessness. Selflessness is one of your most prominent qualities, Grandma. I remember the story of when you were run over by the potato combine, I believe, and even though you were injured horribly you were in the kitchen making sandwiches. No matter how much pain you were in, how hard it was to breathe, or how bad your arthritis got, you were always helping my family. You would weed in the garden or help clean the house or come into the kitchen when you heard the clang of pots and pans asking, "How can I help?" You told me the most difficult thing about growing old is that you have to become dependent on others--you never wanted to inconvenience anyone and were always more comfortable on the serving end of things.
And then I think of the legacies that matter most of all--legacies of kindness, of service, of staying true to the Gospel, of keeping high standards. Legacies of temple work, missionary service, and always accepting Church callings. Legacies of sacrifice, of family love, of true charity. You have been such a Christ-like example to me, Grandma. I could write for a long, long time about the legacies you are leaving behind. These are just a few of the many that come to my mind. I will always cherish the memories I have of you and your life. I am blessed every single day because of the sacrifices you have made. I am so grateful for the influence you have had in my life.
I love you, Grandma!