Last week I went home to Minnesota for my Grandmother's funeral. While it was definitely tearful, and she will be dearly missed, it was also, in a way, a celebration of her life and how present she was in all our lives. Born in 1913 as Mary Batchelder, grew up in Granite Falls, MN, attended University of Minnesota, married Fallon Kelly in 1935, had four children - Kitty, John (my dad), Anne, and Molly, who gave her 18 grandchildren, and they gave her more than thirty great grandchildren. In the last few weeks I've been filling a journal with stories of her, from my childhood until now. Lots of beautiful, sweet, funny, and sentimental memories. I smile as I think of them even this very minute. I've flipped through photos, both here and at my parents home, and even more memories flooded in. It's hard to think of her not being at the other end of the phone, or opposite me at the dining table, but it was her time, and we are grateful for a full, happy, healthy life she enjoyed.
After the funeral last Friday we had a family dinner with all the relatives (there were alot!) and there was encouraging chatter about sharing stories. You may not know this about me, but I am a total chicken when it comes to standing up in front of a crowd, even if they are loved ones. Several of my cousins got things started and confidently stood up to share a favorite memory or two. This one spoke, then that one. We laughed, we toasted. Dad spoke. Mom spoke. I squirmed in my seat, wondering which story to share, hoping I could muster the courage to join in, and refrain from crying before I finished. I wasn't sure I could do it. But I didn't want to miss the chance to say she mattered. That evening It became a running joke between cousins, as each took a turn, claiming they were the favorite grandchild. When I did leave the safety of my chair at the corner table, I managed to squeak out a few sentences before my throat clenched and the well of tears was ready to burst. I said that we each knew Grandma's qualities, which were many - including hunter, hostess, golfer, great listener, matriarch....but that she also knew everything about US. She *got* us. Each and every one of us, of every age. She knew what we were each about, what we were into, what was going on in our lives, because she was genuinely interested in even the smallest of details. For years she was sending me newspaper clippings of articles I would enjoy, she was the first person to take me to an art museum (Walker Art Center), she gave me my first book of poetry, ..... later she wanted to know what my latest project was, we'd exchange thoughts about books we'd read, she wanted to know what Graham was cooking, where Peter was working, what Sam was doing, what Fallon was studying. It was the same with all my cousins and their families. It occurred to me, after I sat down, that in addition to making the statement that she *got* us, that it was obvious I left out one important observation. I can't get a re-do, so I will finish my thoughts here. I can see now that the reason we each felt like we were the favorite grandchild, was because that was her gift. That connection of feeling important and special is what she gave us, and hopefully she felt in return. What a great life lesson. To make each person in your life - relative or friend, feel like they are your favorite. Thank you Grandma. I will try to live up to your example for the rest of my days.
Here's a small view into her life....
My last photo with her, August 2014. She lived to 102....we were so lucky!