but i will miss her terribly

Ed note: My dad asked me to write something to read after my grandmother’s funeral today, when we will gather with family and friends and those who she held dear. Nothing I could write could possibly be enough. There are far too many stories, too many memories, too much love to wrangle into words written and read. But this is what I have. 

I don’t mourn for Grandma today. I mourn for me, for all of you, for our children – for all of us who will so desperately miss her presence in our lives. But I don’t mourn for Grandma.

She lived the life that she wanted to live. She watched her children grow into parents and their children grow into parents and her great-grandchildren come into this world and thrive under her watchful eye.

She reveled in our successes and shared our disappointments. No matter what happened, Grandma was there with a kind word, A piece of pistachio cake, another piece of pistachio cake, and then maybe, you know, before you go, just one more piece of pistachio cake. And if you, heaven forbid, said, “No thank you,” she’d say, “What’s a matter? You don’t feel good?”

We loved her as she loved us – warmly, powerfully, unconditionally. Because she had shown us all how.

But don’t be fooled, unconditional love was not blind love. While she was always there to encourage us, that sometimes took the form of, “So don’t do it again.”

She taught us that there were no words more powerful than a single, well-placed raised eyebrow.

She taught us to be prepared. That you never knew when the apocalypse might come and you will need at least 17 cases of toilet paper.

She taught us not just to respect her and those of her generation, but one another. Her greatest joy was our greatest gift – the relationships that we now have with each other because of her example. On one of our last visits, we held each other tight as she said to me and to Katie, “Love each other well, children. Love each other well.” We promised her that we would – and that we could – because of her.

In many ways, it still breaks my heart that I didn’t meet Grandma until I was 11 years old.

Nonetheless, I felt her presence, warm and loving even from afar, growing up. Even when she wasn’t there, she was. Love is like that. Every March 20th, Dad would open a birthday card from her.

And when he did, there she was, undeniably in the room. Not willing, even estranged as they were, to let her son’s birthday pass without acknowledgement, without his mother’s love. All I knew of this mysterious woman then was that she didn’t give up on the people she loved.

Even though I hadn’t met her, I had already decided precisely what she would look like. She would be plump, of course, because grandmas are plump. She’d have soft white hair, because, well, grandmas are old and have white hair. She’d be dressed in a floral house dress and arrive holding out a flowery tray of soft, gooey, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookies.

When she showed up, I could see that I’d gotten one thing right – the cookies. Well, sort of. They were break-your-teeth crisp, but they were chocolate chip.

The flowery tray was instead an efficient Tupperware container and the lady carrying it wore slacks and a sweater. She had a wiry poof of auburn hair and a strong, sturdy figure. She wore a marbled plastic ring that looked like a giant bowling ball on her finger and clip-on plastic earrings to match.

Even while cautious and gentle as she approached the granddaughter she’d never met, she exuded a don’t mess with me attitude. It was clear that the earrings could come off in a flash and the bowling ball ring could do some damage if need be. If one thing was obvious, it was that this wasn’t a woman to trifle with.

I adored her immediately.

Over the years, I would visit her often and she, in turn, would come to us. I would test her patience and she would test my tolerance for a far tighter leash than the one to which I was accustomed at home. And a LOT more food, because, ya know, just one more piece can’t hurt, darling.

And with each visit, and each phone call, and each and every story, I’d grow to respect her as much as I would love her.

A farm in Ohio was not the easiest place for a young Jewish girl to grow up in the 1920s. She told stories of rocks thrown at her back and slurs hurled right to her face.

She talked of her days as a shop girl in New York, an early feminist without the luxury of – nor the need for – a word to describe her very personal brand of activism on Bond’s showroom floor.

And then a bold act of defiance – leaving her husband in the 1940s, petitioning a reluctant judge to grant her a divorce when he didn’t show up, and setting out alone with two children to start a new life.

Despite the trials of her younger days, she laughed easily, at no one more heartily than herself.

I adored her habit of saying things that made people ask “Are you serious?” to which she would respond “No, I’m Jewish.”

She never did not suffer fools, none less than chauvinist or antisemitic fools.

She had a nose for nonsense and a hand that would dismiss it as such rendering any further conversation pointless as it punctuated the word, “Nonsense.”

She taught us to leave nothing to chance. If the drive should take 45 minutes, leave at least 17 hours just in case. If you’re sure that you checked the stove on the way out of the house, check it again.

Last year, Dad called to tell me that he had just spoken with Grandma. “I wanted to let you know,” he said, “that she took a trip down to the funeral home today. She wanted to make arrangements.”

“Oh my God, Daddy,” I said. “Is she okay?”

He laughed. “She’s absolutely fine,” he said. “But she’s Grandma, she doesn’t want to leave anything to chance.”

She would later tell me that she talked to the funeral director – she had some questions. Most saliently, about the color of their standard shrouds. When he told her it was white, she said, “Oh no, white’s not my color. Do you have blue?”

Over the years, Grandma taught me more than I could possibly record or relay. About humility, about strength, about love.

But more than anything, she taught me, purely by example, that femininity and strength need not be mutually exclusive. That fierce, powerful, tenacious love can co-exist with tender, soft, gentle comfort.

That our children are everything – our hearts, our pride, our legacy. That setting and enforcing limits is loving well. That judiciously saying no can be a far greater gift than indiscriminately saying yes.

That compliments given without sincerity discredit the real ones. That family should not be narrowly defined, nor ever, ever abandoned.

That laughing, particularly at ourselves, is life’s very best medicine. That growing old sucks, but that seeing your children have children, and those children have children, and seeing them all love one another is worth it all.

That it’s really important to wear a coat and to love each other well.

I don’t mourn for Grandma today. She lived the life that she wanted to live, and she lived it well. But I will miss her terribly.

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{image is one of favorite pictures of Grandma, flanked by my girls.}

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{image is a photo of the girls, on either side of their Oomah, kissing her cheeks}

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{image is a photo of me and Luau, cheek to cheek with Grandma on our wedding day}

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{image is a photo of Oomah holding Brooke as a baby}

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{image is a photo of Oomah, listening intently to Katie}

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{image is a photo of Katie and Oomah, snuggling in close for a photo}

{image is a photo of Katie holding Oomah while she slept}

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{image above (along with the two below) is a photo of her legacy – cousins who adore each other, who laugh and hug and snuggle and tease and love as powerfully and completely as she did.

And who will come together and remember her today, and always.}

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21 thoughts on “but i will miss her terribly

  1. Sounds like you found the perfect words. A beautiful tribute. Wanted to tell you- I think you left a “real name” in. I know privacy is so important!!! Midway ish- a paragraph about love. Hoping you can be surrounded by love today. And you don’t have to post this- just wanted you to know about the name.

  2. You’re Grandma will be smiling when she hears you read this…What a beautiful testament to a life well lived….and loved.

  3. This was beautiful! You did a wonderful job! I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family!

  4. Beautiful tribute! You always paint such a vivid picture with your words. I can see your memories and feel the love, the pride, and the sorrow attached. I feel an attachment to your family though I’ve never met you. What a gift you have. So sorry for your loss.

  5. That was beautiful! I have tears in my eyes. She would be so proud of you and everything she taught you about love, life and family. Know she is always smiling down on you and your loved ones.

  6. I’m absolutely certain that your grandma, would be proud of you. Those beautiful words come from a beautiful heart. Thank you so much for sharing with us. May God give your family strength as you celebrate her wonderful life. May she rest in peace and may eternal light shine upon her.

  7. Pingback: » but i will miss her terribly

  8. Having just lost my own grandmother on Christmas Eve, this brings me more peace then I could aim to convey. Thank you. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Try and #DFTBA today.

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