It's hard to know what to say after that. I could tell you about the life she led and what a great mother and grandmother she was. I could tell you what I loved about her and what I will miss most about her. I could write about how tough she was - a strong-willed woman of Dutch and German decent - and how we joked about that stubbornness when it seemed grandma was hanging on longer than any of us thought she would.
What keeps running through my mind, though, is a picture of grandma's smile. The sound of her voice when she would fuss at me for not wearing my coat in the winter. How she would tell me about the latest happenings in the lives of her housemates at the rest home, and how much she grew to care for them in such a short time. The way her favorite pink blouses set off her white hair and blue eyes. What we both said in our last conversation together, and how she squeezed my children when she told them goodbye.
These are the things I think of. Not so much my childhood memories of summers spent at my grandparents' home - those days that felt like they would last forever and no one would ever leave. Rather, I think of recent days and weeks and the pictures painted on my mind of laughs shared, tears shed, and love grown.
I will forever cherish the time I had grandma all to myself, when the roles were reversed and I could care for her and return the love she gave me all my life. It was a blessing and a privilege to do so much for her. Knowing she had lived a full life and was ready to move on, and that I had done all I could do and said everything I wanted to say, I was able to kiss her on the forehead this morning, tell her one more time how much I love her, and walk away with no regrets. I am rejoicing that grandma is now walking in God's light strong and healthy, and I am sharing that joy with my children in hopes someday they will understand.
As an added bonus to having spent so much time with grandma lately, I have gotten to know some amazing people. From nurses in the hospital to hospice workers and volunteers, residents at the rest home (at least one of which I would like to adopt and will definitely make a point to continue to visit) and especially grandma's caretakers who were with her until the very end. When you are standing watch at your dying loved one's bedside around the clock, it is a beautiful thing to have someone offer a kind shoulder, make extra scrambled eggs for you for breakfast, or put on a fresh pot of coffee at 2 a.m. I watched person after person treat my grandma - and all my family who were there - with dignity and compassion and respect. So today when the tears fall it is not over sadness that grandma is gone; that will come eventually. Today the tears are because I am so overwhelmed by the generosity ... the selflessness. The love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Rest in peace, sweet lady. Until I see you again, rest in loving, beautiful, holy, eternal peace.