Family life

Saying goodbye to a great grandma

Tracy's family is grieving the loss of a special lady — and celebrating her many wonderful gifts.

By Tracy Chappell
Saying goodbye to a great grandma

Anna with her great-grandma, August 2012.

The day before we left on our cruise, my grandma died. She would have turned 94 next month and had pretty severe dementia, but somehow, her passing seemed very sudden. She was in good health, but took a turn and grew very ill, very quickly, and was not conscious in the days before she passed. I was torn about what to do and, in the end, didn't get a chance to see her for the last time. I'm at peace about this now, because we shared a very beautiful, close relationship my whole life and the last time few times I saw her, we shared some laughs and good conversation. No regrets.

But not being able to attend her funeral was simply heartbreaking. Because she was so special, and so loved, I wanted to be there to hear people sharing their stories of the impact she'd had and how much joy she brought to their lives, and to share that experience and mourn with my family — especially my mom. But it was not to be. Because I knew I wouldn't be there, I wrote the note below for her and sent it to my sister as a draft — so my sisters and my cousins could add their own special memories and read it at the funeral.

I thought this was an important thing to include in my blog. My girls are so lucky to have had the chance to get to know this wonderful woman (and my dad's mom too, who is also still living). They also brought her such happiness. Even when she could no longer remember their names, she loved to just sit and watch them running around and giggling — and she adored their curly hair.

In the weeks since, our family has received an outpouring of messages from people who knew Grandma, and many of them expressed that she was simply one of the nicest, most kind-hearted people they'd ever known. I couldn't agree more. What a legacy to leave behind and a good reminder that, in this world, kindness still matters. And is remembered. 

She was the perfect grandma
What I think of first, when I think of Grandma, is the joie de vivre she carried around with her and injected into any time you spent with her. She loved to laugh and joke, and always had a twinkle in her eye. Grandma was a ray of sunshine to all who knew her.
She was always dressed: a brightly-coloured pantsuit with a white blouse was her signature look (even when just hanging out around the house), often topped off with a pretty scarf, lipstick, jewellery from her collection and those beautiful white curls. She loved curly hair. She got her hair done all the time — permanents, she called them — and was forever searching her grandchildren’s and great-grandchildren’s heads for the sign of a curl. Nothing would delight her more than finding one.
She had a signature scent, too: Blue Grass. But most of us are more likely to associate the scents of the mouth-watering meals she made for her family on Sunday nights with her, than perfume. She made the most incredible roast beef and gravy, and made sure our favourite things were prepared — dumplings, Yorkshire pudding, cheese sauce, homemade French fries; banana cream pie or rice pudding or angel food cake with lemon topping. We all looked forward to those get-togethers, to be wrapped in her embrace and spend time with our cousins, watching old Star Trek re-runs, playing hide-and-seek, climbing the tree in the backyard or the railing on the front porch (without ruining the morning glories), and making up plays to perform for her, our most captive audience.
And who didn’t love a sleepover at Grandma’s? We used to fight for it to be our turn. She made us popcorn and gave us her old fancy nighties to sleep in, and in the morning, a dainty feast would be presented — with our own miniature teacups and milk jugs, soft-boiled eggs in fancy cups, or toast cut in strips and with a pot of jam to spread ourselves (and then to share with her dogs, Missy and Casey). The clinking of a fancy teacup on a saucer never fails to remind me of her.
No matter how big our family grew, we always gathered around her Charlie Brown Christmas tree in her small living room on December 25… waiting for Grandma, who would be upstairs still wrapping “parcels” and writing out cards at the last minute. She loved greeting cards, and it was always a joy to get a card from Grandma, knowing how much time she spent making sure it was the absolute perfect one, and reading the note she’d write that was so personal and full of love.
Yes, she made it special to be at our house. But not just because of the things she did or meals she made, but because when you were with her, she made you feel like the absolute centre of her universe. She couldn’t get enough of her grandchildren, and certainly made each of us feel that we were her very favourite. What a gift she was — a grandma who doted on us and delighted in us, and couldn’t think of a better way to spend her weekend than with her grandchildren. Days spent with Grandma were filled with adventure and giggles —  because she had the very best giggle — and such an all-encompassing love that it’s no wonder we would pretend to fall asleep on her couch, so our parents would be forced to leave us there overnight.
It’s been a long time since Grandma remembered all of these little details, which seems ironic, since she was all about the details that made everything extra-special. But those of us who loved her — and were loved by her — will never forget. We know how lucky we were to have the perfect grandma.

This article was originally published on Mar 21, 2013

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