My grandmother died today. My mom woke me up and told me and then let me decide whether or not I wanted to go to school or not (I didn't). So I've sat at home and let myself cry and reflect. It was just the day that I needed to heal. I don't want to focus on the sadness, though, because I've had enough of that. I want to focus on the good.
My grandmother has been there for me my entire life. Since my parents both worked, she, along with my other grandmother, took my sister and I in after school and during the summer when we didn't have camp. She was the only one who I let brush my hair as a child. The garden she tended in the back of her house was like a paradise for me and I loved to play in it; when she moved into our house, it was sad to see that garden go. She spoiled us and she worried about us but in a quieter way than our other grandmother did; she only had to smile and pull out something out of her wallet or say it softly for us to know that she was going to indulge us and she only had to check up on my grandfather when we were out for lunch (or other occupants of the house) for us to know that she was worrying (though her pride would never allow her to say it outright). When my other grandmother was too overbearing, she would intervene in that subtle way of hers and my other grandmother would back down (or at least compromise). She never critiqued me even though I certainly have told her the most outrageous things; she only had to raise her brow and set her mouth just so that I knew she was displeased. When she moved in with us, I would go watch Jeopardy! with her and eat candy. Eventually, I stopped being as enthused with the show and only went down there to keep her company and then life got busy and I stopped coming altogether. She said she understood. She always understood too and, with that taciturn way of hers and that listening ear, she was so great to go to advice to.
My grandmother was a very strong person, having weathered so many storms in her life. Growing up under the care of a strict German father, she had inherited many of his mannerisms, his stern and brisk ways. Under her tough veneer, she had a soft heart. She wasn't the emotional type but she made sure to show that she loved me. She was simple often to the point of being spartan, never extravagant. She never wasted a word, not even to say "goodbye" on the telephone. Today, if she could have talked to me, she probably would have told me to stop being a slob and go to school because she wouldn't be the excuse that kept me out. Being a part of "the Greatest Generation", she grew up in the Great Depression and transitioned from girlhood to womanhood during World War II. Growing up in a family of eight children, she also knew how to make sacrifices. The war had taught her gratefulness and what really mattered: she watched each of her brothers go off to war, unsure if they would ever return and she learned to make do with drinking black coffee (because the rationed sugar and milk was needed for other things) and she learned how to decorate the Christmas tree when her parents were too disheartened to do so. Her childhood taught her even more: she watched that very German father beat her mother under the influence of alcohol and then she watched many of her brothers also become abusive alcoholics to their wives and she learned what it meant to be a woman in the forties and fifties and she learned what it meant to work so hard her fingers developed calluses. She grew up to marry a man who she made sure was not like her father (he's not. He's one of the kindest, gentlest souls I've ever met) be a nurse who wasn't paid nearly as much as male counterparts who did the same tasks under a different job title; in the emergency room, she saw death and blood and bodily fluids daily. She had six children, one who died shortly after birth and the other who suffered from cystic fibrosis for all of his too-short life (although he did die in his forties, which was and still is unheard of, that didn't take the pain away from burying her own child).
Proud and stubborn and independent, her decline killed her soul. She was always somewhat harsh in demeanor but became more so as she lost more of her independence. She had lived a long and fulfilling life but she was not happy when she died. It is better that she's not suffering anymore even if she leaves the rest of us behind in the process.
I love you and I'll miss you, Grandma. Rest in peace.