August 10, 2017 — As many of you might recall, my Grammie passed away this June. Even though she was in her 90s, my family and I were caught off-guard by her sudden passing: she was spry, quick-witted and full of life. “I’m so upset,” my mom tells me one day. “I just wasn’t done having fun with her.”
My mom and her sister sort through the piles of things my Grammie saved. Her cherished possessions (#hoardertendency) are divided and sent out to relatives. I inherit a ring that I helped my Grammie pick out one Christmas. I remember I helped her ring-shop shortly after my grandpa Richard (her second husband) passed away. She wanted something that sparked and selected a diamond cocktail ring. I plan to wear it for my wedding.
With the ring, my mom finds a photo that Grams took of her hand wearing the ring. We laugh and decide to pose our hands with her hand:
Along with the ring, my mom gives me a handwritten note that Grammie wrote around that same time. In the note, she is clearly and plainly examining her life as she approached her 80s.
Now, I’ve written about my Grammie in an earlier post — recall that after the election of Donald Trump, I suffered through a tortured Thanksgiving in Minnesota. From my earlier blog:
Back when my grandmother divorced my grandpa, divorce was considered “distasteful.” She had three kids and enough of my grandpa’s alcoholic tendencies.
After moving from Kansas back to her home-state of Maine, grandma marries my grandpa Richard who promised not to move her back to Kansas. But then dude moves them right back to Kansas (she was not pleased, but they otherwise had a long marriage).
In her 40s, my grandmother goes back to college, and graduates at the top of her class (despite Richard’s discouragement and insistence she didn’t need school). Then she works as a school-teacher for 20 years, gets a pension and retires. After Richard passes away (he really was a lovely man in many ways), she’s alone for years until she meets an old flame. In her 80s she marries a third time. Her husband recently passes and now she’s back to traveling solo.
Thanksgiving was the last time I saw my Grammie and I’m grateful that I had that time with her despite my election trauma. Grammie always represented determination and spirit in the face of adversity (even if we didn’t agree politically).
But, back to the note my mother found. My Grammie writes:
“Married to two men whom I adored at the time of marriage but failed to make a great success of either marriage.”
Her words are so honest and completely lacking of self-pity. She owns that she loved them, but failed to make the relationships a success. Her first marriage did create three children. And even her step-kids from her second marriage were shocked and upset by her passing. They were always people she talked about and truly loved. She goes on:
“Have been widowed for 3 years and am surviving (I seem to have been just existing). I now plan to live fully for the next years or days that may be left to live.”
This is the heart of my Grammie. She was true grit and determination to make life amazing. Her note is her recognition that she was going to be fierce to the end. I love it.
She ends her note with two quotes:
“I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not just exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them; I shall use my time.” — Jack London
Live life more passionately! If we spend our lives well, death loses its sting!
“As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life, well-used brings happy death.” — Leonardo da Vinci
I don’t really know how my Gram viewed my life. But I now know how she viewed hers and life generally. I will try to follow her lead.
Here is the full note: