This is the post that I have been meaning to write for about a month now. I haven’t written anything else because I knew that this was the next post that I needed to write. But I haven’t written it sooner because, well, saying goodbye is hard, and I wanted to do it right…
Y’all. I wish you could have known my grandmother Frances. You would have liked her. Don’t think I ever met anyone who didn’t like her. She had a quiet personality, seemingly unruffled by circumstances around her. And patient. She was very patient, just like my mother, who is the fourth of Frances’ five daughters. I so admired her patience with my grandfather when his mental health was failing in his last years. It’s the kind of deep inner calm that I doubt I’ll ever have, but it made me admire it in her all the more.
Her inner calm often translated to an outer reserve. She was never one to heap on praise or cover her grandchildren with hugs and kisses, but just the same, I always knew she loved us deeply, because she always showed up. At least once a summer while I was growing up, she and my grandfather would make the trek north to Minnesota to watch myself, my brother and my sister all “play ball”. Grandpa would enthusiastically record our games with his gigantic camcorder sitting up on his shoulder (you know the kind that actually held an entire VHS tape on the inside). Grandma, on the other hand, would sit in the stands and just take it all in.
Music was one of the things that Grandma and I had in common. Being an organ and piano player herself, she found little ways to encourage me in my musical pursuits. Like buying me a Little Mermaid music book for Christmas and always listening to me play when I was at her house. She didn’t usually say much after my little recitals, but one time she went over to a cabinet and pulled out a much worn piece of music, carefully preserved in plastic sheet protectors. “This was my favorite piece of music to play when I was younger,” she told me. “You’re probably not ready for it yet, but you keep practicing and someday you will be.” Then she actually let me take that precious piece of music home with me. It was called “The Storm King” and the cover page is now hanging framed in my piano studio.
Quilting is something that anyone who knew Grandma will remember her for. She made quilts for every occasion. Every family wedding, every high school graduation, every grandchild and great grandchild arriving in the world, each celebration called for a quilt. A beautiful, one-of-a-kind work of art. She even gave me one for Christmas one year to match my new bedroom wallpaper. It was the 80s folks, your bedspread was SUPPOSED to match your wallpaper. I was probably only eight or nine years old and even I knew that! Although, it must be confessed that I was slightly disappointed that the quilt was not a Malibu Barbie, I was still incredibly pleased to be the proud owner of a bedroom where everything MATCHED!
Family was incredibly important to Grandma. My grandfather was Danish, so she bought me an aebleskiver pan and made sure I knew how to use it. She also spent countless hours researching our family’s genealogy, tracing our roots back hundreds of years and across the Atlantic Ocean. She formed family traditions, like the fact that at Christmas everyone in the family had the exact same homemade red cotton stocking with their name on it in white cursive script.
That’s why when Lydia was born I knew we had to go visit her. Even though she was living with my aunt in Seattle. Even though her mind was not as clear as it used to be and I wasn’t sure if she would even know who we were. We packed up the two girls and flew across the country to see Great Grandma Frances.
It must be acknowledged that the trip was a disaster in nearly every respect. I won’t go into the details, but stomach flu and unseasonably cold weather played a major role. However, I will never regret going, since it is the only time Lydia ever met her Great Grandmother and it was the last time I saw her alive.
On July 26, 2013, my grandmother Frances went home to be with Jesus. For me at least, I’m not sure that it’s fully sunk in yet. How odd it will be not to have her at family gatherings quietly sitting back and taking it all in. She was deeply loved and will be missed by all of us who were fortunate enough to be part of her family.
Bye Grandma. I love you so much and I’ll miss you!