My grandma left this world today. It was an ugly day, too--grey sky, cold and rainy with a little snow mixed in. I think leaving here today would have made the leaving seem extra nice.
She was ready, my grandma was. I can remember 10-15 years ago she would say things about how she hoped she wouldn't be alive in another 5-10 years. She was tired, I guess.
She was my last grandparent here on earth. And she was my favorite. I know that's not right, but it's true. I am not trying to say that she was better than my maternal grandparents, but I grew up thousands of miles away from them and less than one mile from her. I knew her. And I did love her husband--a whole lot. But I always felt a little extra love in my heart for my Grandma Sechrist.
She taught me how to play 21. Only, we played 31--with three cards. And we bet with jelly beans. She taught me how to shuffle cards and do the bridge, a skill my own children are desperately trying to master.
When I was a girl, she was the Township Tax Collector--an elected official! She had all these little drawers in her kitchen that housed the tax information papers. These papers had to be filed in number order and I remember helping her sort them to file them. First, in groups by hundreds, then in groups by tens, then by ones. I felt so important helping my grandma with her job!
I've said it before, but it bears repeating: her candy dishes and pretzel jars were bottomless. How were they always full with all the grandkids constantly snitching from them? Magic.
She was a tomboy. She was strong and active and had hairy legs. She said she'd shaved them once and didn't like it, so she never did it again. Ha!
I loved to listen to her tell me about her life when she was younger.
In order to attend high school, she had to catch a ride to the city with a gentleman who drove there for work each day. When she was done with her school day, she would go and wait at his car until he was done work for the day so he could drive her back to her town.
When she was pregnant with her first baby, she didn't have clothes that fit (no Motherhood Maternity at the mall), but she had a whole slew of tablecloths that she had gotten as wedding gifts. So, she made a bunch of maternity skirts out of those tablecloths! My grandpa was off in World War II when she had her baby so she moved back home to her parents' where she said her dad took my aunt everywhere with him. She told her that her dad really doted on my aunt.
She loved ice cream. There was always some in her freezer when I was growing up. Sunday evening meant dinner at grandma's and ice cream for dessert. One day last fall, my sister and I took her to lunch and then ice cream. I kid you not, she sat in the front seat of Amber's car swinging her feet in anticipation of getting her frozen treat! Amber and I had a good chuckle over her glee.
She knew how I love sweet bologna. She always served it at Sunday dinners when I was growing up. And when I went to college, she sent me off each new semester with a fresh stick of it, wrapped in tin foil for the plane ride.
I have tried to be good about going up and visiting her. When I still had kids at home during the day, I'd load up my toddlers and preschoolers so they could go and visit their G.G. (great-grandmother). After she moved into an assisted living facility, I started going up once a month for lunch and shopping dates with her. We'd go to lunch and then hit the Wal-Mart across the street from her facility. I am so glad that I had those days with her. We'd always laugh and tease each other. And I'd always tell her how I loved her.
In the past couple of months, her mind had started to go. One day, she forgot her name. "Well," my dad told her, "It's Esther. Some people call you Esther. Some people call you Sis." Her mind clicked back in. "Well, don't forget G.G." she reminded him. That's the thing: my grandma loved us, her family. She was so very proud of her progeny. She was pleased to have so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Sometimes, for holidays, she'd have a friend stop by just to look at us all. It tickled her.
At the end of the summer, I took my kids to PA one day. We went to Dairy Queen and got a treat for everyone and a banana split to take over to G.G. She was thrilled when we showed up in her room with treats and company! And, of course, had to show the kids off to the staff at Autumn House.
Last Friday, I took my kids up to PA to get another visit in, as the end was looking close. We gathered around and her face lit up as she recognized each member of my family (a nice big smile for my handsome Michael). I had my children sing, "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" to her. She loved it. She wanted them to sing it again so she could join in the singing. When the song ended the second time, she placed her hand over her chest and said, "Thank you. I'll be a sunbeam for Him." She smacked her lips together and I held her cup and straw for her to drink. She sipped a little and then smacked her lips some more. Somehow, I figured out that she was smacking her lips for kisses. She wasn't overly demonstrative with physical affection, so I felt there was significance in her request. Everyone complied.
Today, she wasn't capable of talking or singing. I stroked her hair, whispered my love into her ear and held her hand while she breathed her last breath.
In all honesty, I am happy for her. This earth is not our true home; we are heavenly beings. She has progressed to the next step of her existence and I know she is now free of the pains and sorrows of this world. But I am still here and devastated at the thought of a life without someone so precious to me.