This morning, my Grandmother Louise passed away, peacefully, surrounded by her children. She had been declining for several years, and she was ready to go.
She took a dramatic turn for the worse last week, and became mostly unresponsive. Saturday morning my mother emailed to say that my nephew had sent a long letter, and she had been able to read it to her, and my grandmother had heard it. And that if anyone else wanted to send letters, she'd do her best to read them to her in those final hours. And so I sat right down and wrote out a goodbye, and was so very grateful for the chance to do so. My mother read it to her, in small increments, over the course of a day.
I've decided to share excerpts from the letter with you, in hopes that it may evoke memories of your own loved ones, and perhaps inspire you to share love.
Thanks for reading.
All my life you’ve been preparing me for this eventuality, and I am not ready. The phrase ‘when I’m gone’ has always been a regular part of your vocabulary. ‘When I’m gone, would you like this?’ or, ‘When I’m gone, I want you to know about the Kenneys and the Milams and all the rest, so I’ve copied and labeled these pictures for you.’ I am so thankful you made such an effort, throughout your life, to make Super 8 movies of us, cassette tape recordings of conversations with our siblings and cousins and of interviews with you, and carefully labeled pictures of our lives, extended relatives, and those who came before us. And then you typed out the story of your life. Thank you.
I remember seeing you kill a tarantula with a hoe. You’ve always done whatever needed to be done at the time.
There are so many things I’m going to miss about your house - the salt and pepper shakers, the swivel chair in your bedroom, the white formica in the kitchen, the storm cellar and the clothesline. I will miss the smell of your house. I wish you still had that clock that used to hang in the living room. But what I will miss most is the pantry closet doorway with all of our markings, documenting how we all grew in between our visits to you.
Christmas would not have been the same without the felt stockings you made us, and without the handmade dolls and pillows and such we received from you year after year, all of us cousins.
I remember making the most amazing mud pies in the tins you let me use, and playing in the apricot tree.
I will always remember the taste of the chicken fried steak you made, your crisp fried okra, the sweetness of your corn and peaches and apricots, and your black-eyed peas. There is nothing like home grown. Lemon meringue pie will always be my favorite dessert.
I remember the trips you and Granddad made to visit us in Alaska. We used to anticipate them for months in advance. I looked forward to our Saturday phone calls and your frequent letters. As I look back on them, it is obvious how much my mom missed you, and what a nice relationship you had with her.
I’m glad I got to spend your 75th birthday with you, the first time I had chemotherapy so many years ago. Thank you for coming to be with me. I enjoyed showing you my apartment, driving around town over Seattle’s many bridges, and our meal at the top of the Space Needle. My oncologist still asks after you.
You have given all of us the example of strength of character. You raised your young family, alone, for a time, under adversity. You did what had to be done.
Thank you for teaching me to value family, for showing me how important it is to record and keep track of our days, for showing me how strong a person can be.
I will love you and remember you for the rest of my life.
All my love,