Life as a queen in a land of many kings…

For the love of Faye

Something I looked forward to this year was taking Westin to visit my grandma at her nursing home.  I was always squeamish about exposing his little immune system to all that lurks inside the home, so I limited his visits to warmer months when the weather was nice enough to visit with her outside.  I had done this last year when he was not yet able to walk, and it brought Gram (and onlooking residents) such joy.  I knew she would be delighted by my walking, talking, dancing Westin.  But on March 19th, those visits I so looked forward to were taken from me.  My grandma was taken from me.

Gram had been in poor health for years.  Strokes, heart failure, cancer, diabetes…we wondered what would take her from us and feared with each new illness and setback that it might be her last.  Still, she persevered.  She fought harder than we probably gave her credit for and amazed us with each comeback.  But the thought always lingered in our minds:  we could lose her any day.

In her final years, she suffered kidney failure and received dialysis treatments.  She became confined to a wheelchair, and in time we started to notice she wasn’t often present in mind.  She was surviving, but in a lot of ways she wasn’t alive anymore.  Just a week before her death, hospice had told us she was in the beginning stages of the end.  They felt she still had months to live but hesitated to say a year.  We were prepared to make the best of the time that remained.

And then, suddenly, there came the call that she had passed–quickly, peacefully, but without any warning.  I think her body had just had enough.  Despite all the times we wondered if she would make it through surgery, all the times we wondered how much more she could take, the news came with an unexpected shock.  It happened, it was over, and we were left to try to make sense of it.

My relationship with Gram, whether or not she knew it, had been strained from my early teenage years and on.  I understood why, I accepted it, I told myself I would have no regrets, yet when she died, I wondered if I should have done more, visited more, laughed more, hugged more, kissed more, loved more.  And now, I would never have the chance.

When she died, I didn’t know how to mourn, I didn’t know how to feel.  There was a numbness.  And a guilt that I wasn’t grieving enough.  Didn’t she deserve for me to grieve more?!  I was sad, but I didn’t cry.  I missed her, but I felt it was a blessing that she was no longer suffering and she didn’t have to experience a slow, difficult death.  I wished I could have visited once more, kissed her once more, told her I LOVE YOU once more, but no regrets!  Remember–I told myself over and over, no regrets.  It happened, it was over.  I had to accept it.

At her celebration of life service, there was an emptiness–this feeling that she should be there.  All the people she loved the most were there to celebrate her, and she couldn’t be there to experience it.  I imagined how she would have smiled.  How she would have laughed, her belly jumping up and down.  How the grandkids and especially the great grandkids would have absolutely delighted her.

It saddens me still that she never got to meet toddler Westin, only infant Westin.  She never got to see him running around, playing Ring-Around-the-Rosie, giving his cousin Talia hugs, eating cookies and fudge made from her recipes, and smiling while going down the sliding board like he did at her service.  At least not in this world.

It has been over four months since she left us, and I’m finally starting to come to terms with this.  I’m thinking of her more and more, and at the most unexpected times.  Quietly, softly these thoughts of her hit me.  I have even shed some tears, tears I have waited more than four months to cry!  I’m recalling some of my fondest memories and savoring each and every moment spent with my Gram.  I’m remembering so warmly the Christmases she spent with us during my childhood.  The way she rubbed my back and comforted me back to sleep when my parents refused my request to open gifts at the reasonable hour of 4 a.m.   The blankets she crocheted for each of us grandkids one Christmas.  (She was always crocheting something.)  The tubs of baked goods she gave us for more recent Christmases.

Then comes the reality that this will be the first Christmas without her.  Very suddenly one day, it came to me that Gram still needs to be part of Christmas, the way she was all those years ago.  I need to make her a part of my Christmas.  And so, after some thought, I purchased an angel cookie cutter ornament that will hang on my Christmas tree in her memory.  Gram was an avid baker.  My famed sand tart recipe came from her.  I think of her often when I bake.  The ornament represents her, our angel.  It represents our Christmases together.  It represents our shared love and talent for baking.

Because it happened, but it isn’t over.

I lost my Gram.  My mom and aunts lost their Mommy.  We lost a woman who remains a piece of each of us.  I’m finding there is a happiness, a peacefulness that comes now in remembering her not through tears and sadness but through warm childhood memories.  It has been over four months, and the questions of why and how, the feelings of guilt, of feeling like I never shed enough tears have lifted.  It has been more than four months, and finally I am feeling something I can start to make sense of.  Now there is this blessing of delayed grief, of resolve, of not feeling so numb.  And it feels so good and so right to remember her and love her and long for her in all the sweet ways a granddaughter should long for her Gram.

I miss her.  I miss that there will never be another Christmas, another crocheted blanket, another tub of cookies, another belly laugh, another smile.  But I am so proud of all the ways she lives on in me, in my son, in every tray of fresh-baked sand tarts I pull from the oven.  She is the daffodil smiling in my garden, the honky tonk to my badonkadonk, the blanket that embraces me, the Christmas spirit that lives on in me.  She is my Gram.

She is our Faye, forever.

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