for grama

This is what I read at Grama’s funeral.

Grama is my favorite person.  I was the only child in the family until I was about 11.  I was the luckiest grandchild because I’ve been close to her my whole life.

She and Grampa took care of me a lot when I was small.  Grampa built me a swing in the backyard and taught me to swim, Grama propped me up on her triangle wedge pillow and read me the funnies in her bed.  Grama was prone to spoiling me.  She called me “Precious Honey” so much that I thought it was my name.  If she ever found out there was something I liked, she would have it on hand whenever I was coming over – root beer floats, fruity pebbles, kiwis.  In fact, for years after I became allergic to kiwis, she would proudly hand me a bag whenever I walked in the door. 

I was heartbroken when Grama and Grampa moved down to Arkansas, but I got to visit them once or twice a year, sometimes spending the summer.  When I was in high school, she moved back and that was awesome!  It was a wonderful experience to get to know her as an adult when I could appreciate her.  I had precious close years with her before her hearing was totally gone. 

Grama was really special.  Her spirit is so loving and welcoming, she had a wonderful zest for life, and a really fantastic laugh.  Her favorite thing in the world was just “being together.”  She loved to eat and to treat other people.  She loved her God.  She loved to share the stories of her fascinating life. 

I loved her face.  I used to love taking pictures of her.  In recent years when we would go out for dinner or get together for a holiday, I loved just looking at her face.  I thought she was the cutest person ever, and she got more beautiful as she aged.  I loved her facial expressions, the way she worded things, and her joyful content when we were together. 

In a way I have been losing her for quite some time.  With the deterioration of her hearing and sight, communication got steadily more difficult.  Then dementia ate away at her memory and ability to speak.  By the last week of her life, I didn’t know what she was aware of at all.  But I sat with her and talked through some of my difficult feelings and just watched her.  Sometimes she would raise an eyebrow, or the corner of her mouth, and I got a glimpse of that beautiful face again. 

A couple of years ago, Grama told me I was her best friend.  What an honor!  In many ways, she was mine, too.  I believe in many best friends.  It wasn’t that we told each other all of our secrets or that we spent so much of our time together.  But on a base level, we just really liked each other, in addition to the love.  In a conversation with her hospice chaplain a few days before she died, I was having a really hard time understanding whether Grama knew I was there or not, with her deafness and dementia, and what that meant for me.  I struggled a lot with myself about why I felt so guilty and insistent about being there with her in that state.  The chaplain gently said to me, “you are her person.”  For me, that said it all.  We have been each other’s person for my whole life.  So I began to relax about whether or not she knew me and just sat with her.  I played her the music you heard in the prelude.  In fact, that was the last thing I did for her.  I was not with her when she passed away, but one of her attendants at Augustana told me she asked for me about an hour and a half before she went.  So I think she knew I was there. 

Since she passed, I have not cried at all for her death.  She was more than ready to finally meet Jesus.  And imagining the celebration in heaven as she arrived always makes me happy.  But I have cried for me and the loss of my person.  Over the past few months especially, I had gotten used to the loss of her physical presence.  But after she died, the floodgates opened on all the precious memories of my lively, fun, smart, compassionate, quirky Grama, with all her warmth and expressions.  Her absence is huge. 

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