Grieving my Grandma

Today Mya and my mom (Nana) got to enjoy and celebrate the fruits of a project they have been working on for months. As I thought about this today, I felt so grateful that my children have the blessing of many active grandparents in their lives. I also thought about all the treasured memories that I have of my grandma and felt deep gratitude for my grandparents.

My grandma passed away in 2003 when I was 23 years old. It was just about a month before my first wedding and I was devastated. However, I was wrapped up in all the planning and upcoming life changes and knew nothing about grief.

It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that I believe I truly started to grieve her passing. I wrote her a letter that I would like to share with you……

Dear Grandma Dean,

I have been thinking about you, especially your death, a lot lately. Recently, I have been struggling with a lot of health problems. I have been feeling crummy, getting lots of medications prescribed to me and going to lots of appointments. I know you can completely relate with all of that. In addition to the “new” stuff going on, I still have all the usual stuff – achy joints, sore back and low energy.

Recently when I was talking with mom, something came up about my body being more susceptible to ailments just like yours was. I wonder if it is physical, emotional or both. My guess is it’s both. I am so curious to know what your life was really like.

I remember clearly that you developed RA at age 13. That must have been so difficult. When I was little, I specifically remember noticing more than once how similar our hands seemed – wide knuckles, curved and short fingers. I think it was kind of foreshadowing for me and I had a sense that I would deal with arthritis as you had. My mom has a good amount of it too.

I never knew that you dealt with anxiety and depression until I went to Brylin in 2014. Looking back now as an adult, I can see some of it, but as a kid I had no clue. The place had a rough feel when I stayed there almost 5 years ago, I can’t imagine what it was like when you were there.

My heart goes out to you. You didn’t have an easy life although when I was a kid, I thought you had it made. It just goes to show that reality versus perception can be very different from one another.

You were such a great grandma to me and I love you so very much. I was so blessed to have you so involved in my life for my first 23 years. I remember you taking us to Disney on Ice and getting us those cool lights. I always loved the Shrine Circus and was never afraid of clowns. My kids are creeped out by clowns, especially Mya. Can you believe that?

I remember our sleepovers playing Bargain Hunter, shopping in your can goods cupboard, watching movies and those sugar cookies you always had. I remember when you got a cordless phone, it was the first one that I ever saw and how cool I thought it was. I loved sleeping upstairs in my own bedroom of pink at your house. I loved all the music boxes and bells and am crushed that I didn’t hang on to more of them. I felt seen, heard and important with you. It was a break from the rigors of normal life and it was fun!

I remember spending several New Year’s Eves with you blowing noise makers and ringing in the New Year. It was so fun to set up the film projector in the den and watch Tom Cat and the other cartoons you had. Your calculator with the paper roll was the coolest and I loved pretending I was an accountant or cashier with it. I loved all of your stationary and office supplies. I still have a few of the envelopes that you gave me in the teal stationary set with my name monogrammed on it. I saved that for so long and used it very sparingly, I didn’t want it to be gone.

Last week when I walked up to Millard Suburban Hospital for my CT scan, I immediately thought of you. I remembered that heartbreaking weekend when you passed away. I remembered you being at my wedding shower just weeks (2 at most) with 2 black eyes from falling. It was hard to look at you because the bruises looked so painful. I feel a knot in my stomach forming right now just thinking about it. My heart went out to you as you sat there with Aunt Betty. I knew you wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

I remember being in your hospital room as you lay there unconscious. I remember feeling uncomfortable and unsure of what to do or say. I had a few minutes with you, I can’t remember if I was completely alone or if there were a few others in the room or not. I told you I loved you and would miss you so much. I believe that your death was the first in my life that really impacted me hard. I was crushed and so wanted you to be at my wedding just a month later.

There was a hole, a void when you passed away. In my life individually and so profoundly in the family. Looking back, I see that problems were there well before you died. But you were the force that brought everyone together and the glue that made us stick. Once that glue was gone, it felt like everything and everyone fell apart.

I used to love holidays, especially at your house. Everyone with their own stack of presents in their own wrapping paper on Christmas. By the way, I love that you stopped cooking on Christmas Eve and started ordering pizza. Good for you!

I can see the picture in my mind of me with the tall chocolate bunny I won at one of the Easter egg hunts you took us to. I know Papa did his best, but it so wasn’t the same (not even close) without you. You were the hub and everything seemed to fall apart without you. I recently realized that I have a lot of mixed feelings around the holidays and tend to view them as being mostly stressful, anxiety-producing and unpleasant.

I treasure the memory of wrapping your Christmas presents as a teenager when it got to be too much for your hands. I think you paid me $10. Of course you had everything wonderfully organized and in boxes so the wrapping went real quick. We watched movies and talked the whole time. It was so much fun.

Your devotion to Dunkirk was amazing. I was always proud to say that you were my grandma (anywhere, not just at Dunkirk). You worked tirelessly for the camp. I believe you started The Spirit newsletter. You would love to see what it has grown into today – glossy and colorful, full of pictures. I remember you typing it out on your typewriter, man that’s commitment. You never had a computer, that would have made life a lot easier!

You coined the phrases “Dunkirk is love” and “Shalom”, both of which are still used today. Believe me when I say that your legacy continues to live on in that place. The craft barn is such a special place for me. Every day after rest time as a little girl, I went to the craft barn to paint something with you. Then over to the pool. This year I want to go and paint something, to have the experience, to remember, and to honor you.

Grandma, I’m so sad and disappointed that you didn’t make it to my first wedding. I so wish that you had the opportunity to meet my kids, you would have loved them. I regret not spending more time with you during my college years. I regret not getting to know you more and allowing you to truly get to know me during those years.

You were the queen of catalog shopping. The kids would say that was something people did in the “olden days”. Well I guess it’s the “olden days” version of Internet shopping and I’m a big fan of that – it’s efficient, convenient and cost-effective, what’s not to love?

You are a great love in my life and I want my kids to know about you. I want to have some pictures of you to help me remember you and so my kids will recognize you. I love and miss you!