Tomorrow I'll write more about why I haven't written much lately, but today I need to write. I need to write for Grandma Pat. I need to write for my heart. When my Grandma Schoon passed away five years ago, it was so cathartic for me to write THIS. So I wanted to write something now, after Grandma Pat passed away two weeks ago.
The morning she passed away, there was a man playing the piano down the hall. Brent's aunt thanked him, letting him know how much Grandma loved the piano, and soon he had wheeled the piano just outside her hospital room door. There he sat and played for two hours. I'm thankful she got to hear some music that day, due to that kind man's heart and gift. And now Brent wants to fully learn how to play the piano. We want tangible ways to hold on to her. But we can't. That's not realistic.
It still doesn't seem real in a lot of ways. At her visitation one of the granddaughters said, "I really thought she would outlive me!" And I think we all did. Last February I packed up the girls and a crockpot of soup and we buzzed over to Grandma Pat's house to wish her a happy 89th birthday. I asked her if she thought she would live to be "SO OLD!" and she laughed and dismissively waved her hand, "My land! No!" Brent's sister recently asked her how old she felt mentally, and she said, "Oh, probably 20." A few months ago Becks was playing with a toy and it rolled under a dresser. Grandma sprawled out on the floor, flat on her belly, and retrieved it. And so the fact that someone so vitally with us is now not with us is hard to comprehend.
|With 10 of what was then 13 great grandkids [before Becks]|
I don't have a lifetime of memories with her like her grandkids have-- I only have eleven years-- but it didn't take long at all before she felt like family to me, because the instant Brent chose me, Grandma Pat trusted him wholeheartedly and chose me too.
It's funny because this past week I was able to talk with so many of the family members, and everyone felt like they had so much in common with Grandma Pat. I thought about that a lot, because we're all very different people. And I decided the reason: We all felt like we had so much in common with her because she learned about us, and she talked about things that interested us, and poured into things that we enjoyed simply because she enjoyed us. And that is a remarkable thing. That is a selfless thing. The family asked me to write her obituary, which I was honored to do. It was cathartic and tangible, and I knew she wouldn't have liked it because she wouldn't have wanted one at all. I sat down and wrote it quickly, not because her life wasn't meaningful, but because it was so meaningful and there was just so much to say.
|Blythe LOVED playing with the dollhouse that Nini Pat's dad had built her when she was a girl|
Grandma Pat and I always shared our love of books. On those little trips to her house I would bring a stack for her, and leave with a new stack from her endless shelves. The next trip we would swap back and discuss. She was up for any genre, any style of writing I threw at her. In return she introduced me to many books I may never have picked up, and one [East of Eden] made its way to my top five list. I now have her collection of Steinbeck books on my shelf, and I can't wait to share them with another book lover someday. The last book she loaned me was "Gone with the Wind." She couldn't believe I had never read it, and ensured me I would love it. She always said it was her favorite movie, too, as she thought the characters were wonderful and because Clark Gable was in it! I started it about a week or so before she died, and I am almost finished. I normally fly through the end of books, but I am savoring this one. Each page is like one last moment in my Grandma Pat book club, and knowing I can't discuss it with her when I finish will be one more step in grieving for me.
We didn't just discuss books, we also talked a lot about her childhood and all the history she experienced in her life. She was born in 1926, and I remember one morning asking her to share her experiences with me from the times when she learned about Pearl Harbor, JFK assassination, and 9/11. It was fascinating to think of living through each of those events. And, of course, she vividly recalled each one. [I wrote about her Pearl Harbor experience HERE]. I knew her vast memories were a treasure, and I wanted to collect them and write about them sometime. Somedays I took notes, somedays I recorded our conversations with a hand recorder, but most days I just kept asking questions and walked through her scrapbooks and photo albums with her. I am so grateful for these intentional conversations I had with her and the memories she entrusted to me. [I wrote only a couple stories: here and here.]
In May she was healthy as always, down on her knees showing Becks how to put coins in her new piggy bank at her first birthday party. In mid June she was more tired than usual, and began feeling weak. Her blood counts were off. She had to go off of one of her meds. On July fourth, most of the grandkids were visiting, as well as most of the great grandkids. She didn't have as much energy as usual, but was still in the mix with everyone. By mid-July she was sleeping a lot, and still couldn't get her blood counts right. On July 24th, I got a text from Brent's dad saying it would be a good day to visit her. Brent decided to come, and we buzzed over with the girls. She was on the couch, and was clearly weak. It was the first time I'd seen her not look capable of making a meal for twenty people. We visited awhile, and then the hospital called and said it would be best if we brought her in. Joan and I helped her get ready, and her hairdresser came to cut her hair, because she hadn't been able to get to an appointment and she was not going to go to the hospital until that happened. I helped her back to the couch and gathered a few items for her to take. I asked if she wanted to bring a book with her, and she said no. I knew then it was nearing the end, even though it had just begun. Beck, Joan, and I helped her out the front door of her house for the last time. She passed away at the hospital six days later.
It was so fast. And it seemed so sudden for someone who had been so healthy her entire life. But she was 89. And she was ready. Grieving is such a hard process. It's so necessary and messy. I've read C.S. Lewis' "A Grief Observed" a couple of times, and he begins by saying, "No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep swallowing." I kept thinking how selfish my grief was-- I wasn't sad for Grandma Pat, I was sad for me. I am sad for my girls. Lewis mentions the scripture that Paul wrote, "Do not mourn like those that have no hope," and reflects, "What St. Paul says can comfort only those who love God better than the dead, and the dead better than themselves." And in light of that, I mourn like one who has hope. Beautiful, life-giving, abundant hope. Hope that whispers to my soul, "It is well." My heart was heavy in saying goodbye to Grandma Pat, but it was also so very full. Full of all the good that she brought into my life. Full of all the memories. Full of all the games of dominoes she played with Blythe, and all the "coffee-milk" she poured for her. Full of all the songs she sang. Full of all the love she gave. Full of hope. Full of that blessed assurance that she is with our Savior now.
|All of the family after the funeral, minus three great grandkids and one grand-spouse|