While I was taking a break from blogging this holiday, my beloved Grandmother passed away surrounded by loved ones in her home of 70 years that she built with her husband.
Attending her funeral with the majority of my siblings in Utah, I was hit with almost joy. Being in her later 90's, she was ready to go. She had been in unendurable pain and bed-ridden for the past few years.
Before that, in her early 90's, she had been so active. She was known for still going up on her roof shoveling snow and tending to her acre size garden by hand irrigation. (I can only hope to be that active.)
She had lived a full, active life and she was being reunited with her husband who had passed away 30 years before. We celebrated her life rather than mourning her passing.
Grandma was so ready, she had planned out her funeral in advance down to the last detail. Beyond coffin choices and flowers, she had picked speakers and assigned topics and chose musical selections. A grandson representing each family was asked months before to be pall bearers. The program given out before the service was just waiting for a filled in date when she died. My aunt and and her daughter were given a duet to practice for the service last year. Even the luncheon menu was chosen my Grandma.
So, you can imagine, the service felt very much as if Grandma was with us. She had been definitely ready to go, so she got the details out of the way; Grandma believed in being prepared, so that we could laugh at the well-prepared stories, listen to the beautiful duets, and yes, shed a few tears.
I did discover a surprising fact while in Utah. Apparently, Utah Mormons don't wear black to funerals. My black clad siblings and I encountered holiday dresses and floral church wear. We were a bit of a spectacle in our sombre attire.
Who knew! I guess we all grieve and pay our respects in our own way. One little cousin even showed a bit of censure in her voice (if a three year old can approximate censure) when she asked why we wore black because it "wasn't allowed." Oops! Ah well. We Californian cousins are a wacky bunch.
Not surprisingly, my mother knew of this aversion to black (too Catholic she said) being an Utah Mormon once and wore a mossy green, but she didn't pass this fact on. It would have saved me much swearing about the yellow dog hair I battled on every black skirt, blouse, and sweater while packing.
Another funeral gaff we had was at the gravesite. We wacky Californians brought flowers to lay on the coffin, while apparently it's a tradition for the children to pull off a rose from the arrangement to save and dry. Well, now translate this to a gajillion million grandchildren deciding to do the same and the flowers we put on the coffin were picked up from cousins to take away.
Again, got to have a sense a humor with this. I am beginning to think it might be good to put out a funeral etiquette book with relation to religions and regional differences because I felt a bit clue-lessssss. Yet, Grandma had a good sense of humor; I can still hear her signature chuckle in my head, so I'm sure she was laughing with us.
To help a sister financially, we ended up sharing a hotel room with 3 sisters, 2 infants, a toddler, and a brother-in-law without incident. Crazy, but it worked. I also saw a sister and her family from Montana and my brother and his fiancee. There's nothing like a funeral to bring a family together.
In the end, it was a very satisfying trip. So imagine my surprise when a month later in Washington, it finally hit me. Sobbing into CG's shoulder, I realized that my grandmother was my last grandparent.
I am grandparent-less.
What set me off? This Grandma, a widow on a small policeman's pension, didn't visit often and couldn't offer much in the form of gifts. However, she made every grandchild feel special with her birthday cards.
Without fail, she sent each and every child, grandchild, great-grandchild, and great-great grandchild a handwritten card with a carefully chosen, handwritten verse and several page letter with a $2 bill tucked inside. She sent out over 300 of these each year. Imagine the time and love spent writing these cards. She spent hours each week on this task.
The $2 bills, while small, were a huge dent in her meager income and yet they came.
My childhood birthday memories always include a card and $2 bill from Grandma as do my children's memories. Eldest received his last card this last August. So back to what set me off? Eldest finally got his Guitar Hero. I purchased it and when he brought me his cash to pay me back, he had two $2 bills.
I knew they were from Grandma. She was still here. I knew they were the last he would receive. I told him to keep them, turned around, and started to bawl. I soaked CG's shirt.
I recall seeing at the funeral a framed $2 bill, but It's hit me now.
No more $2 dollar bills.
I love you Grandma.