Friday, December 07, 2007

Au revoir, Grandma

Grandpa and Grandma, San Diego, 1943
Doris Arlene Weiler Thomas
January 10, 1923-December 2, 2007

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.

It's been a hard week or two for me. Once we got the news that the end was nearing, I was full of a mixture of emotions. I knew that she'd been ready for quite some time and yet I want her around forever. I want her to snuggle my babies and kiss their round cheeks and read books to them. I want her to see all the wonderful things that have happened in my life because of her love.

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.


Manic Mom said...

Oh. I'm sorry. Strangely, that is the day of my own grandmother's death, only 20 years later. In fact, that day I called my mother and said to her, "Nana's celebrating her 20th birthday in Heaven today."

Actually, I didn't say that. I said, "Only one more year and she can legally drink in Heaven." But that's just the humor of our family so I figured you might not get it?

You were very lucky to have your grandmother's presence in your life for so long. What a blessing. It's a sad time for you though too. My thoughts are with you. And your family. May she be at Peace Kate.

rpsimpson said...

You look like her. A lot.

zydeco fish said...

Sad news. I am sorry to hear this. That's a great photo of your Grandpa and Grandma.

Jonathan Brisby said...

I'm very sorry to hear about your loss. My Grandmother died last year, we knew it was coming but it still hits you harder then you think it will.

I hope you're feeling better soon.

shoeaddict said...

I've been praying since you asked. It's wonderful to know that you are loved unconditionally and I'm glad that you know that feeling. Know that your grandparents are cuddling your babies for you now. That's how I like to think of it.

Your grandma was born the same day that mine was! I am also a January baby- special women!!

Love to you and your father, Kate.

Junebug said...

My sympathies to you and your family. We've lost two grandparents around Christmas and it's actually become comforting. With the twinkle lights and music and family stuff, well, it's just become a really nice time of year to reflect on the special memories. It may take a couple years for you to get to that point, tho.

Again, my sincere sympathies.

WendyB said...

I'm sorry for your loss. It sounds like she died a "good" death without suffering and that's a relief. Wonderful picture of her and your grandfather.