A year ago today, we lost Handsome’s grandma. Born in a small town in S. Dakota, she lived without running water or electricity until high school. Moving to California as a young adult, she married her high school sweetheart and eventually had 2 children. A resilient woman, her life was not without extreme heartbreak – most notably being widowed at age 51 and losing both her children before her own passing. She did however find her soul mate in Jimmy, who was her rock for her last 22 years.
From the time we learned of her cancer diagnosis until she left us was a mere 7 days. So today, I’d like to share a letter I wrote to her that never made it to the mailbox…
I began writing this letter the day after I learned you were ill, to tell you all of the things you’ve meant to me, but then you left us so swiftly that I never had the chance to send it. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it here instead.
Just 3 months before I married Handsome, I lost my own paternal grandmother. So although you weren’t my grandma by blood, in a way I feel like God poured all of your spunk and loveliness into that void just when I needed it most. The fact that you came as a package deal with the Jimster didn’t hurt either, since I had never known my own grandfather. Together, you two were the storybook version of what grandparents should be: you with your amazing home cooked meals, firm hugs, handwritten birthday cards… and Jimmy sneaking us chocolate at all times of the day.
When we all ended up in Arizona for a few years together, I witnessed first hand your resourcefulness, hard working mentality, and love of a good project. Handsome and I marveled at all the improvements you’d make to your already beautiful homes; both of us hoping to remain that productive and energetic in our twilight years. On several occasions, we were even the beneficiary of your skills, like when you helped us build that dog run to contain our reckless puppy or when you coached me on how to pick the perfect lemon tree for our yard. You were never short on ideas or thoughtful suggestions.
You were never short on opinions either. For better or worse, people always knew where they stood with you. Whether that assertiveness developed as a result of being the youngest of 11 kids or simply from knowing yourself well enough to never compromise, I envied your conversational confidence. Thank you for always being a straight shooter and as genuine as they come.
The epitome of health and mental sharpness even as you turned 80, I admired how adamant you were about exercising and eating right. How could someone who walked 3+ miles a day, snacked on carrots and sliced cucumbers, tended to all your extensive yard work yourself, and never got sick possibly find themselves staring down such a devastating diagnosis?
Guess we all kinda figured you would live forever.
But in a way, you will.
I see your work ethic every morning when your grandson leaves our house before the sun to tackle a 16 hour work day without complaint. I hear the authenticity of your words when my kids choose to tell the truth even when it’s the hard thing to do. On the too-rare occasion that the family is all together, the laughter and food reminds me of your love of a great party. And when I think my week has been hard, I channel the grace and strength you showed when faced with more heartache than I could ever imagine.
Even now, when I publish a blog post or share a new photo of the kids online, I half expect to still see your heartfelt and uplifting comments. I will miss your random texts just to check in and letting me know you’re praying for Handsome when he’s overseas. For 14 years you loved and claimed me as your own. What a blessing it was to do the same.
I love you Grams and miss you like crazy.