For anyone who knew my grandmother, knows what kind of woman I am speaking about. She was the epitome of a sacrificial mother and grandmother and the best kind of friend. After losing my dad to cancer when I was 16, my grandmother quickly took the role of helping my mom raise us. From then on out she has become a second mother to me and she had lived with us off and on since I was in the sixth grade. This is not your typical grandparent-grandchild relationship I am describing. Most of my friends only see their grandparents on the holidays or birthdays and rarely have to time to visit with having their own families. My grandmother was part of our immediate family. She was there for everything- the big occasions and the small. The ups and the down. The mountains and the vallies. She was nothing short of perfection and she taught me a lifetime of lessons that I plan to carry with me forever.
Something Grandma and I could always chat about was work. She was a retired hairdresser and had owned 2 shops in her time here on earth. She would come to see me at my salon and would get so excited- like a kid in a candy store. I insisted on coming to the house to cut her hair, but I think she loved the feeling of stepping foot into a salon. It was such a huge part of her for so long that it was almost a nice breeze from the past when she would visit- a time for her to reminise and gossip with me, just like we were co workers. For the last almost three years that I've been a hairdresser, it felt like we were business partners. But the connection we shared went so much further than our commonalities of the salon life.
Grandma was hilarious. Her stories would get anyone within 5 feet of her sitting around her to listen to what she would have to say next. She spoke her mind on numerous occasions and would have us laughing to tears without even realizing how funny she was being. Her countless adventures with her best friend pranking cars and bar hoping were some of my favorite ones to listen to. She had sad stories too...stories of abuse and anger from her previous marriage. She had to get through hair school to find a way out of a marriage that was hell for her. She knew she had to have a steady income to raise two kids on her own. And she did it. The strength she displayed then and more recently during her sickness is something I admired most about her.
She was diagnosed with lung cancer in April '08. Soon after, she decided against any kind of treatment, seeing as how she was a heart patient and diabetic. She wanted quality of life and felt chemo and radiation treatments would do nothing but hold her down and keep her from living. So she began the battle with nothing but pain medication and pure determination to fight it, as long as the Lord would allow her to. At first, there wasn't an immediate difference in her, but the last year, she became weaker and eventually it got to the point where my mom had to start working from home to take care of her. I am off Mondays and Tuesdays so it was a no brainer for me to step up and help mom out as much as possible with taking her to the doctor and to run errands for her. Little did I know, in all these times I thought I was helping her, she would be helping me. Shaping me and teaching me and sculpting me in our times together. Showing me how to love and how to live in a God-honoring way. Always telling me she was on my side and my biggest supporter. We would laugh and talk on our many dates. Our adventures led us to many places- Chilli's, Culver's, Penn Station, the movies, Graeters, the grocery, the nail salon, Cracker Barrel...wherever we would go and whatever we had to do, we had so much fun. Those times with her are times I will never forget and will always be grateful for.
As I try to prepare myself for the visitation and funeral, I know that it will be extremely difficult to deal with. I have spent so much time with her in the last year, that it's hard to picture my life without her. The reality of it is that she's with the Lord and she is out of pain- knowing that brings peace in this storm. She struggled and fought for so long and I know that it was her time to go home, but selfishly, I wanted her to stay. She's the only grandmother I had and I feel such a big chunk of my heart is missing. Seeing our friends and loved ones will be overwhelming- answering all the questions I don't want to and trying to be strong for my mom when I don't know if I can, but the I will find my strength in the Lord and I will rest in the fact that she is walking the streets of gold with our Jesus.
Grandma, I will always miss you and will always be grateful to you for all the things you did when you didn't have to. You made life sweeter and my memories with you are something I will hang onto forever. I will tell your stories and I will think of you when I order a scoop of ice cream from Graeter's. I will never forget how selfless you were in selling me your car and I still have the angel hanging from the mirror that was there before. I know you are with me and I know you are watching over me. Happy first Mother's Day in heaven and many more to come. I love you so much.
Grandma and I dancing at my March '09 wedding