I received the call from my parents on Sunday evening saying that my grandma had passed away peacefully, surrounded by her family. She was in no pain and as my beloved aunties surrounded her with singing, she briefly sang along. I know that she is no longer in pain and she’s with my Grandpa and uncle... The funeral Mass was to be officiated by a seminary classmate of my uncle (former priest) who knew my grandma very well for many, many years.
I just wish that I had been able to attend the funeral and be with the family right now. Ah well. Even if I’d had the money for a plane ticket, I probably would have spent a few days sitting in an airport somewhere in the Midwest in the middle of a snowstorm. Or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.
We moved a great deal when I was a child and the tiny little house in Flint, Michigan was “home” to me. No matter how far we went, we could come back and everything was the same. Grandpa would be stomping around and singing (“K-K-K-Katie” was his special song for me) while cooking up turkey, chicken, sausage, ham, or all of the above in his custom cooker/smoker made out of a toolbox, complete with rotisserie. Somewhere I have a picture of him with my dad in the backyard standing next to the cooker--in about a foot of snow. His solution for nearly every problem was a liberal amount of food and hugs, a combination that often really did help. I miss him, too. Every time I see my husband with his rotisserie cooker, I think of grandpa and smile. And I know that he will be smiling on me when I run the half-marathon in January.
Grandma was quieter, but not weak. She had even more books than I do and one of my favorite things was sitting on the couch next to her, reading a book. Every so often, she’d reach over and pat my arm and I felt so very safe and loved. When I was trying to find my way after college, she always made sure that I knew that I was welcome to come to their house and just sit and be fed or read or sleep. I remember one weekend when things were really bad with my then-roommate and I sought refuge at their house. They took me to their church’s fall festival and in between a pancake breakfast, pig roast, and hula hoop contest for the little kids, we went to Mass and before the service, Grandpa had the organist playing “Bill Bailey” and he was singing with great gusto (and some skill, I might add). Grandma looked over at me, rolled her eyes in mock horror and chuckled deeply. It was one of those moments that taught me more about life, love, and how to stay married to your high school sweetheart than any pile of books could.
I think the holidays are an especially difficult time to lose someone you love. When I’m not feeling sad, I do count my blessings. Some people never know any of their grandparents and I had almost 34 years with my Grandma’s physical presence in my life. She will live on in many ways--from my very prematurely white hair to the wall of bulging bookcases in my living room. And I have known what it is to be truly loved no matter what I did. Whether I succeeded or failed, I have been loved and that’s what matters most in this world.
Obituary from the Flint Journal (12/4/07):
THOMAS, Doris A. - Age 83, of Flint, died Sunday, December 2, 2007 at her residence. Mrs. Thomas was born January 10, 1923 in Lincoln, Nebraska, the daughter of George and Darlie Weiler. Friends may visit the family from 3 to 8 p.m. today at Brown Funeral Home, 1480 E. Hill Rd., Grand Blanc. A Rosary will be prayed 7 p.m. this evening at the funeral home. Mrs. Thomas will lie in state at church from 10 a.m. Wednesday until time of service. The Funeral Mass will be celebrated 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, December 5, 2007 at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, G-5199 Richfield Rd. Fr. Paul Schwermer will officiate. Memorial contributions may be made to Avalon Hospice.