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.