Last week, our family was tremendously sad to say goodbye to our beloved GG.
GG passed away quickly and quietly at home, a few days after the kids and I enjoyed our last lunch with her celebrating my birthday. GG left us so quickly that many of us were unable to get to her in time to give a final hug and good-bye. But, as we joined all together as an extended family at her house that evening, the fruits of her long and beautiful life were evident in the strong family bonds and loving faces of the family she raised.
Did you know my grandmother? She is someone to whom I have always been proud to introduce others. As a young child, I knew her as a great gift giver, both in terms of material gifts but also in giving gifts of family time, individualized attention, and affirmation. “Do you think my singing is really beautiful, grandma?” I asked her one day, after demonstrating, with characteristic self-confidence, what I considered to be my vocal prowess. “Oh, definitely,” was Grandma’s unwavering and affirming reply, “you should be a performer.” As I grew older, I was just as likely to ask my grandmother to take me on a desert mountain hike as I was to ask her to host a major life event for me. She hosted countless sleepovers, my high school graduation party, several of my a cappella friends while we were on tour with our singing group in Minnesota, and even hosted T and me for our honeymoon (although she wasn’t home at the time). I came to know and admire Grandma as a woman who was full of energy and adventure, continually engaging ideas of the times, and willing to meet others on their own terms. These traits are easily recognized in many of my grandmother’s children and grandchildren. It is no mystery who modeled them so admiringly for us in the first place.
One wintry spring day in Princeton, NJ, a friend, who would one day become my husband, picked me up at the door of my dormitory to chauffeur me to the airport for spring break. I caught him eying my outfit: a white fitted shirt, a long black skirt, and tall, crimson red, snake skin boots. “You’re going to visit your grandmother?” he asked, eyebrows raised, sure that he had misunderstood me earlier. “You don’t know my grandmother,” I replied. When I got off the plane in Arizona, Grandma Bucky greeted me with her signature, enveloping hug. “Nice boots,” she said.
Grandma showed all of us the beauty of a life well-lived. Of all my wonderful memories with her, and I hold many, I am likely to treasure most my memories of the past three years of weekly lunches that my kids and I have shared with her. My grandma had slowed down, there is no doubt. She was unmistakably elderly, quite frail and often quiet. Yet, in those weekly encounters, my grandmother revealed to me not only how to grow old gracefully but also the beauty and treasure of doing so. My grandmother was so gentle and humble in her demeanor, never complaining, ever thinking of others rather than of herself, peaceful and serene in her countenance and ever welcoming and affirming toward others. I found myself admiring her more profoundly than I ever had. Even now, as I reflect on the attributes she displayed over the last three years, I find myself wanting to embody many of these qualities now, not just when I am older.
|The half-mast flag at lunch|
GG’s funeral day was a beautiful family occasion that highlighted how much she meant to all of us collectively and individually. We will all miss her. I hope that little J-Bear will still, for a long time, call out “GG!” when we pass GG’s condo building. I’ll be sad when she no longer does, as her memories of GG will surely fade. I hope that my three older kids remember their time with GG vividly and fondly throughout their lives, as I hope I will. The sacrifices of many late, post-lunch drives home with over-tired kids, and any other small sacrifice along the way, were worth the blessings of being with and learning from GG over chicken and French fries.
“It’s okay to be sad,” I told my kids on our way to GG’s funeral day.
“It’s also okay to be happy,” E-Bear replied.
And I thought,
‘You learned a lot from you GG, E-Bear.
You just made her so proud.’