Tag Archives: death

Fresh butter, thirsty towels, and Heaven

This past Wednesday marked a year since my Grandma passed away.  It’s been a rough year. A whole year of grieving. We have seen every day, every season, every holiday… without.  It hasn’t been bad.  But it’d be hard to say, whole-heartedly, that it’s been good. It’s been, mostly, bittersweet.  And very different.

I cannot attend a bridal or baby shower, or a wedding, without thinking of my Grandma. She really loved things like this; and, in our family, she was at the center of traditions and fun.  No one will ever fill this void, despite how they try.  I tear as I see other family’s traditions and miss my own.  I was never much for showers, honestly.  Although, I have to say, I think I like them more now. Although they make me a little sad at times, they seem to connect me to this amazing woman I miss so much. I’d like to think that, in my friends, I will be the one who carries tradition.  And, someday, in the family that I will create.

Butter.  My grandma loved butter (and I imagine she still does in Heaven) about as much as Julia Child did.  Maybe more.  And salt.  Whenever I put butter on anything, whether it be bread or pancakes or a little in the brown rice I just made… I think of her.

When Grandma was sick, Mom and I spent three months living in her house, taking care of her and the house.  We brought her to see Deda when he was in the hospital.  Mom bandaged her legs, prepared her meals, helped her arrange the pillows which she needed all around her body so she could sleep comfortably.  I helped get medicines and carry food.  Sometimes, I was just company and someone to talk to.  Often, I helped her get out of bed in the morning and made her tea.  Later, Mom and I would help her take her medicine together; measuring the morphine, double-checking the dose, preparing a spoonful of applesauce or something for after, to cover the terrible taste.  And we would sit with her, comfort her, and watch the Food Network.  And, of course, there were household chores.  My main household responsibility was the laundry.  And Grandma loved when I did laundry. She may have just been glad that I knew HOW to do laundry.  Although Grandma was proud of my academic accomplishments, she was equally happy that I could cook and do things that might fall under a more “domestic” category.  And Grandma loved laundry.  She prided herself on sending Deda to work with the cleanest clothes.  That didn’t stop when he retired shortly after I was born.  I remember many times, coming up the stairs from the basement, carrying a large stack of nightgowns and socks, or towels– big bath towels, fluffy hand towels, thin kitchen towels– the kind my Great-Grandma took from the butcher shop her family had, or that Grandma had gotten in the boxes of Duz detergent.  Grandma loved seeing me carry those stacks of clean, fresh laundry.  She always complemented how neatly they were folded and stacked.  And Grandma simply loved towels.  And sheets.  “Textiles,” she’d call them.  And she loved them all.  Tablecloths.  Cloth napkins. We found many more after she passed away, when we cleaned the attic.  When I had gone away to school, moving into my on-campus apartment for the first time, Grandma had given me brightly-colored bath towels, and some dishtowels and washcloths.  She always had things like that.  Ready. For whoever would need them.  I know I’m not the only one to benefit from her generous spirit– and love of textiles.  When I moved to my apartment last summer, I needed some more towels.  Thanks to Grandma, I still had the ones from my on-campus years. I didn’t need any bath towels.  But I needed more handtowels, and dishtowels.  And a few washcloths.  I bought mostly from Target to save money and to match my bathroom colors.  I treated myself to some on-sale Crate and Barrell kitchen towels that were bright and cheery.  And I bought one pack of thick, white washcloths at Kohls, which I wound up mostly using in the kitchen to clean instead of using them as washcloths.  It was the other night when I was folding these that I thought about Grandma.  She would have loved these towels, I thought.  They are big, for a washcloth.  And thick. And thirsty.  And pure white.  And they look amazing stacked up, the four of them, folded neatly.  No wonder Grandma loved Kohls.  And as I folded, the washcloths, the hand towels, the bath towels from the dorm… I can’t help but think Grandma would love seeing me fold these towels. She always did.

Driving home the other day, I saw the sky the most gorgeous purple I’ve ever seen it.  It was a perfect shade and it looked exactly like what I might imagine Heaven will look like.  I imagine Heaven as full of vibrant, beautiful colors.  This sky reminded me of why, as a child, I hated sunglasses.  I understood that it was bright and I needed to protect my eyes and I was light-sensitive so sunglasses would make it hurt less.  But I hated how it distorted all the colors. I wanted to see the world the way it was– not dimly lit and shaded grey and dull.  Today I read a quote by C.S. Lewis and a discussion about how people who think about Heaven, and the life that will come after this one, live differently from those who think only about this earth and their life here.  And for half a second, it made sense.  While I’ve always acknowledged eternal life, and its importance.  I don’t think much about it, really.  Losing my grandparents makes me think about Heaven, everyday.  It is not just comforting to know they are there.  But comforting that I will see them again.  Heaven makes me think of Grandma, too.  Along with big life events, and butter, and freshly laundered towels.  And thinking of Heaven– is amazing.  For the past year, I have been baffled by death.  I could not wrap my mind around it.  I still can’t.  It’s too big.  But maybe part of it is this:  When we lose people we love, we remember our own short stays on this planet.  And maybe that makes us live a little different.  And maybe, it makes us think of Heaven.  And maybe that makes us live a lot different.  And so God is still using my grandparents to enrich my life, to make me better, to teach me and guide me– just like they did when they were right here on this earth.  


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I have been fired twice in my life. The first time, I was hired for what I thought was a cashier job in the mall, only to spend my first day doing hard sales.  Before I even had a handle of what the store sold, which was mostly novelty and gift items.  I planned to quit when the shift was up. It was a leave-at-lunch kind of job… but I had been sent out to get lunch for my boss, which made that impossible.  Plus, I at least wanted my pay for the day.  I got called over about 3 hours before closing to be fired.  I couldn’t have been happier.

The second time, I was working at a doctor’s office where my mom worked. I had been there for almost a year and a half.  I wasn’t treated particularly well (I had no job description, really… and when my direct manager got a promotion I found myself doing less of my work and more of hers), but I did my work and they seemed flexible with my changing schedule from semester to semester.  Well, seemed.  Not quite two months into this particular semester, a heavy one where I’d had to cut my schedule way back, I received a phone call that I was being let go because I wasn’t completing enough work.  I was upset.  More than that, I was angry.  I had record of the work I had done, and sent a letter to the doctors at the practice explaining to them what I had done. I didn’t care so much that I was fired– but I cared a great deal that my work ethic and character might be on the line.  Out of a decent-sized office, only two people reached out to me at that time.  My favorite doctor, and Mel.  I have kept in some touch with the other workers, and still am a patient at the practice. I began a new job, on campus, a few months later. Which wound up to be my favorite job ever. All things work for the best. But Mel’s card was a great encouragement to me… and it meant the world. She knew I had been fired unfairly, probably one of the few to realize this, and she wrote a beautiful note saying what great things were ahead of me and how that job was just a very, very small part of the life I would have.  She was right and I was far happier without working there– and even happier to know that someone saw who I was. 

Mel passed away last week.  Two days ago, Mom and I attended her memorial service.  She had battled cancer since before I knew her. And when I say battled, I mean battled. Mel gave cancer a run for its money.  After having tumors removed from her brain, she was still planning her return to work in a couple weeks.  It was after this that things took a turn for the worse. Mel was tough stuff with a great sense of humor. She was a protector. Sitting at the service, seeing her family… I still cannot grasp the concept of death.  Even after all the practice I’ve had.

Wednesday marks a year since my grandmother passed away.  I still cannot grasp it.  I still forget at times.  Still feel as though it’s not real.  Still can go back in my head to that day, and the weekend before.  It doesn’t happen as often… but it’s hard to shake when it does.  

Yesterday, we had a baby shower in my family.  My cousin’s wife.  Expecting a girl, their first child, this Spring. It is a reminder of a new season for us. Death is back in 2012 for my family– Life is in 2013, with two babies due in the next two months. A reminder that the bad is passed.  A reminder that even though death is hard to grasp– so is life.  This creation– how impossible that a baby grows and is born.  How miraculous.  As said in RENT, “the opposite of death isn’t life– it’s creation.”  I am still working on this.  Working on letting the emotions seep down to water the seeds that are growing deep down.  I’m waiting to see what will come.  I know that it will be good.  

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(I’ll be loving you) Always

My grandfather, who I affectionately refer to as “Deda,” passed away just about a month ago.  As I’ve already mentioned, Mom and I have been staying with Grandma.  Today would have been their 65th Wedding Anniversary.

The song in the title has been swimming in my head for almost two months.  You see, it’s their song.  My connection with music has always been one I’ve shared with my grandparents, who taught me to dance the foxtrot at age 10 (they tried to teach me the lindy and others, but I didn’t take as well to those unfortunately).  A few years ago, I’d dressed up ’40s style and came to sing to them on their Anniversary.  And of course, I sang “Always.”  (This site has a nice explanation and lyrics of the song.)

I spend a lot of time now remembering; but I know the biggest and most important lesson I’ll learn was the last one they taught me together, summed up in that old familiar song…

It was the lesson I learned when my 92-year-old grandfather, the night before he was rushed to the emergency room, had to take the extra steps– walker in hand and aide behind– to kiss my grandmother goodnight, because he couldn’t let her go to sleep without kissing her.  As he walked into the bedroom, he told us– my mother, the aide and I– that she was his life.

It was the lesson I learned when, on a respirator, unable to speak, he mouthed “I love you” to my Grandma.

It was the lesson I learned when my Grandma, who’s been very sick herself for about a year, forces herself to get dressed and out of the house every day for two weeks straight, and still after, several times a week, to visit Deda in ICU: An old woman, sitting in a wheelchair, near the bedside of an old man, on a respirator, on a feeding tube, IVs scattered about: holding hands.

And even though it was difficult, she’d force herself to stand almost every night, just to look into his eyes, touch his face, brush his hair back with her hand, maybe kiss his shoulder.

For a single 25-year-old, I don’t think there could be a stronger image of what it means to be there for someone “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.”  And I sat there for days and stared at the epitome of “in sickness” and “for worse.”

But my grandparents meant those vows when they said them.  And they meant them every time they danced them as well. “Not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year, but Always.*”

Happy Anniversary, Grandma and Deda, even though this year you’re spending it apart.  And Thank You, for every moment, lesson, and story- big or small.

[The picture is my grandparents’ engagement photo– one of my very favorites of them.]

*Irving Berlin, Always, 1925

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