It was 18 years ago today that Grandma left us here and returned home to God and to be reunited with all of those who had left before her. I will forever remember her last weeks as some of the most difficult, but also some of the most beautiful moments I’ve had in my life.
It was important to Grandma that she return to the ranch and that she not die in a hospital where nobody knew her. My parents and uncles and aunts arranged for her to come home to her house, and they set up a hospital bed in the living room for her.
Probably what I remember most is how the family gathered. It seemed like the house was full of her children and grandchildren – all of us eating, drinking tea, and sharing stories. I’ve always felt Grandma’s heart in this house, but never more than I did during that time.
There was even a moment – one that I call the “I’ll love you forever moment” where she wanted to join us all in the kitchen but was unable to walk from her bed. My loving cousin Ryan picked her up the same way I’m sure she had picked him up countless times when he was small, and carried her into the kitchen, gently placing her in a chair, so that she could be part of the fun. When I would read “I love you forever” to my kids I always burst into tears when the son carried his mother because of this moment. It was so simple and beautiful.
Dad called me at work when she died. Somehow they let the call go into my classroom so I got the news while standing in front of my students. At the time I was teaching mostly kids who had been labeled with behaviours so extreme they were not allowed into regular classrooms. I can’t think of a better bunch of people to hear the news with – most of these kids knew sorrow. They were so good and kind and all of them said something nice to me as a I grabbed my things and left for the ranch.
When the boy and I got out there (he was almost 3 at the time – I’d grabbed him from his dayhome) the house was much quieter. My uncles and aunts were there, grandma was still there although her soul was already dancing in heaven. My aunt headed out to the field for a quiet moment and returned with crocuses – it’s very early to have them here on April 5th and we don’t really get them here at all anymore. I remember we all just sat there, sharing stores and supporting each other. My other aunt knew Grandma well enough to know that she wouldn’t want to go out with her hair all a mess so she sat down in the living room at the bed and redid that fabulous updo that Grandma sported for as long as I could remember. Another beautiful act of kindness and love.
I have learned a lot about how to love and how to grieve from my family. And a lot about how important it is to have faith. I have faith that Grandma is in a better place that is filled with love and joy. I hope she looks down on us living here in her home and knows how grateful we are for the space, and for the memories that live within these walls.
From Grandma’s Kitchen has been a series of stories and photos that was created here in the kitchen she loved so much, but really it is has been a way for me to honour one of the greatest, fiercest, most loving and faith filled people I have ever known. This home was a place of refuge for me when I was younger, not because of the building but became of the home that Grandma created within these walls. She taught us all the importance of family, of loving each other, and of loving God (and also of cows and to always dress and act like a lady).
Grandma I am so grateful for all the gifts you gave me- I carry that wisdom deep in my soul. You are missed and you are loved.