It's been a little over a week since my last living Grandparent; my Gram, Patricia Anne Marshall passed away very unexpectedly. She wasn't sick. She didn't die of old age and she was only in her 70's. I think a lot of people assume that if a Grandparent dies that they passed on from an illness or old age. That is how I always expected it to be with my Gram and since it wasn't it caught us all off guard. It will take several months before the autopsy report is processed and in the meantime we will all have to find peace in the different ways that we need to find it. I'm shocked. I'm overwhelmed with emotion. I wasn't ready to say goodbye. I was sure we would have her with us for many more years. I just can't believe she is gone. With each passing day the reality begins to sink in a little more but, the ache remains like a steady knot in my stomach. At different times of each day I find myself saying softly to myself, "I miss you so much Gram."
My Gram was the only living Grandparent that I had in my life for several years and she is definitely the Grandparent that I've always felt the closest to. No other loss has cut me as deep or as hard as this one. I don't attach easily to people and it takes me a really long time to forge a powerful bond with someone. I've grieved for all of my Grandparents but, this loss is just different. The bond was stronger. The memories vast and wonderful. There is not a piece of my life that doesn't have a part of her in it. She was involved in every special event in my life in some way.
I haven't gotten much sleep in the past several days and that is unusual for me. I'm too restless. I'm having strange dreams. I see her face and hear her voice when I close my eyes and that is not a bad thing at all but, it makes it much harder to fall asleep. I hear her laugh in my ears and all the memories we shared flash repeatedly through my mind. I can't imagine entering this holiday season and not having our chief of holiday affairs here to celebrate with us for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Her house is home base for our family. It's the oasis and retreat for every grandchild on a bad day. We've all found peace while laying by her pool and gazing up at her towering palm trees as they swayed in the California breeze. Jazz music was often playing on her outdoor sound system. Her vast collection of wind chimes would chime away in a wild but, somehow perfect harmony. When you closed your eyes you genuinely felt like you were at a tropical resort. Gram's house is paradise.
We always wondered who would match and what colors we would each get. Even this past Christmas my Gram (and Aunt Pam thank you auntie) made sure to mail not only me, but, my husband and my daughter Christmas jammies to match with the rest of our family back home. I was 28 years old this last Christmas but, I still wanted those jammies so bad because I felt so far away from all of my family in California and when I got them in the mail my heart skipped a beat. Those jammies brought me a little closer to the celebration that I was missing. She never seemed to grow weary of tradition. She never grew weary of spoiling her grand kids.
For nearly 18 years all of the grand kids would spend the night at Gram's house on Christmas Eve and wait for Santa to fly over the house. Christmas morning we would all bound down her creaky stairs to start shaking the oodles of presents with our names on them and guessing what might be inside. She spoiled us rotten. Let me emphasize that....she spoiled us ROTTEN. Her generosity with her family knew no bounds. She was the most giving person I've ever known.
She wasn't just generous at Christmas time. She was generous all the time. She always found special ways to bless everyone around her. She always made sure to have my favorite foods at her house when I visited. She knew I didn't like traditional store bought birthday cakes so she surprised me with an old fashioned root beer float instead. She always remembered to call on my birthday and was so sweet to mail a birthday card and check year after year. Our birthdays were only a few days apart; hers being on April 10th and mine being on the 13th. She loved to treat me to sushi when I visited and we would pig out on her back patio and make a huge mess together. She got us beautiful dresses for Easter and colorful swim suits each Summer when we were kids. Every Christmas she asked each of us for a Christmas list and she went out of her way to get us the majority of the things on our list. She loved to take care of and spoil the people that she loved.
Last night, I spent a little time jotting down the random things that come to mind when I think of my Gram and what she loved. These are the things that represented who she was to me and quite possibly to many people: wind chimes, iris flowers, watering and gardening, rose bushes, feeding scrub jays on her patio, slippers, heated blankets, sparkling soda water, tanning, sunshine, naked (don't ask:), jazz music, warm days, being a nurse, jewelry, IZ and especially his Somewhere Over the Rainbow song, sarcasm, sushi, rainbows, strength, People Magazine, pasta salad, feisty, control oriented, crime shows and counselor to many.
I have countless memories of swimming in her beautiful pool every Summer. When the grand kids were little Gram would order pizzas or bring us push ups in the pool. She would always heat our towels in the drier and have them ready for us when we got out. She even heated towels for me and my girl friends this summer (2012) when we were in the jacuzzi late one night. It seemed that I never got too old for Gram to spoil me. This past June was very special because my little girl learned how to float and paddle for the first time in my Grandma's pool. My Grandma was right beside me rooting my little girl on as she bravely tackled each step in the shallow end. I can still hear her cheers, "yeah, you go Daisy! There you go. Kick those legs."
Just like that, in the blink of an eye any one of us could be gone. Death is hard for the living because we don't want to spend the rest of a life here on Earth without that person who has passed but, death also reminds us of the fragility of life. It's probably never wise to assume that we are going to have all of our loved ones in our life until they are 90. It's probably best to remember that every minute of every day is a gift and we should love more, forgive faster, fight less, play more, pray harder, dance often and laugh lots. Make as many of your moments here on Earth count. Live like every day could be your last and see how much more beautiful this life becomes.
Gram, I miss you terribly. It's hard to be in your home without your presence. It's hard to imagine this upcoming holiday season without your festive celebrations. It's hard to imagine not getting your cheerful comments on Facebook and Instagram anymore. Life will never be the same without you in it but, I will cherish all of the fantastic memories. I will remember what a strong woman you were through life's trials and I will strive to be strong also. I'll love you forever. I'll love you for always. As long as I'm living my Gram you will be.