It is strange when a loved one passes away. My grandma was as tough as nails. She had colon cancer the year I was born, which back then was almost always deadly. She was in the hospital for this or that on a rather frequent basis from my point of view. When she had her stroke last summer we knew the end was near. I did not understand the devastation of a stroke until I saw her in rehab. She could not use half of her body. It was sad. That's more motivation for me to keep running. One day I could very well be in her position and I do not want to yearn to run when I get to a point that I will never run again. I want to say, "That was fun, but now I'm looking forward to..."
My grandmother typically had an attitude that we would see as pessimistic, but as I try to remember her complaining, I can't. In fact, most of my memories of her are of her lighting up when she saw us. It is strange, when she was here I thought of her as quiet, a little odd, smelling a little different, and set in her ways. Yet, for the last week all I have thought about is how happy she was when she was around us, her grandkids and family, and what she must have been like when she was my age.
My grandfather, Palmer, died in 1964 a couple of weeks after his 40th birthday thus my grandma was widowed just before her 39th birthday. Everyone left knows her as a widow, but I can't help but think about her younger years. I know that my grandpa had diabetes and there were heavy discussions about wether they should have children or not because diabetes in the 50s was a death sentence. Fortunately for my cousins, sister and I they did have kids. I keep imagining a young couple, him with a life threatening disease and those two people in love making decisions about what kind of life they wanted. It is very intense. I am curious if they ever thought about grandkids or great grandkids. But we have no memory of that because we were not there. We only know the frail woman who both never left home, and traveled to 47 states and over 50 countries. We only know part of the picture.
I know that a number of my relatives will read this, and for many of them there are things that I wonder, that I will never ask because it would make them angry with me and I suppose that those things do not really matter. Still, my grandma will not tell me of her relationship to my grandpa because neither one of them are here. My aunt and mom only have the vague memories of preteen kids. I do not think she kept a journal, but I am sure it would have been interesting.
So that is how it goes, one gets sick, then there is the death, then a funeral. I am a Christian, and my grandma was a Christian, and to the best of my knowledge my whole family are Christians. My faith defines my view on death and there is quite a lot of comfort in that. In fact, I have only cried since her death when someone has said how much her grandkids meant to her, I hear they were her greatest accomplishment. Aside from that, the sadness is over, her pain is done. To be honest, I am happy that we had the time with her that we did even while she was in the nursing home. It was not as nice as when she was able to care for herself, but it gave us plenty of time to consider the value of our lives. Life is such a blessing. For her to spend 86 years with us, while not always comforting at the time, I feel she taught us the value of family in a way that only a grandparent who lives far away can.
My entire senior year of college my one goal for running was to run under 33 minutes in the 10,000 and qualify for ECACs. The reason being that my family was going to come out for graduation and would be able to see me run. At the last meet of the year I ran 32:58.50. As it turns out only my parents and grandma came out. It was the first and only time my grandma went to a track meet or watched me race. Running in circles is at times and from many points of view a pointless endeavor, but I see each step as a celebration of the blessings that I enjoy. Wether or not she saw it that way I do not know. What better way of physically thanking God for our blessings than to run a race?
After the funeral Tuesday night my parents and I went out to Chili's. We spent time talking about my grandma in the quiet restaurant as I am sure we will many times in the coming months. We must talk about her so that we can grieve and move on. When we returned to her house I went into her bedroom and office, which I had never been into and opened some drawers and lifted some papers. Everything has to be gone through. My mom and I found my grandpa's wallet and multiple licenses for everything from his taxi license in Chicago to his milk truck license in Wisconsin. Nearly 50 year old documents preserved almost perfectly. My mom asked if there was anything I wanted (to of course be discussed among the family so that I don't run off with a pile of gold bars or something) and when I saw her cane I knew that was it. It is not even a very nice cane, but to me when she used that to get around she always projected an image of dignity and adventure. She didn't want a wheelchair, and she was not going to miss the excitement either. Like I said, tough as nails.
We buried her in the 35F rain beside my grandpa who died 22 years before I was born. When someone walks the cemetery in the future they will see a husband and wife who died 47 years apart and no mention of kids or grandkids or parents. My grandma spent thousands of hours on genealogy and I am interested to look through the files and hopefully document everything on the computer. I have relatives that were at the funeral that I had never met before. Once again there was far more to her life than I know.
What does the future hold for our family? I am not sure but as the sun shines through a window on me after a snowstorm, I know it will be good.