Thank you everyone for your heartfelt condolences, the effect of a few kind words in a time of difficulty can't be underestimated, especially when I'm feeling so isolated from my family. I know how it can be to feel completely helpless when someone has experienced tragedy or loss, but often just being there and caring, even if it's just text on a screen, truly helps. I think it's remarkable how much we've experienced of each other's lives here over the past 7 years and even though I may have been a bit distant in the past year you're all in my heart and I think about you far more than you probably realize (which is my fault for not saying so more often). <3
Grandma Vivian, age 10
She had to deal with tragedy at a young age when at 10 years old her mother died of tuberculosis, fortunately for her she had a loving father who remarried to a woman who my grandma happily called "mother". I wish I had met my great-grandfather; he was known for his thick Scottish accent and quick wit, my grandma would always recall his great sense of humour and charming smile. She met my grandfather when he was an airforce pilot in WWII, when he returned from the war they decided to homestead in Alaska with their first baby, my grandmother heavily pregnant, and no money. They did this for no other reason than for love of adventure and pushing their personal boundaries. She had to contend with the freezing cold, pack-dirt floors, and only a well for water. She would shake her head and tut when she would tell me stories of those days, but I could always see in her eyes that she was proud of herself for doing it and as a result became stronger for it. Many years later they moved away from Alaska, but it always remained in her heart and she would revisit annually until she was too unwell to do so. Her and my grandfather divorced before I was born and she remarried to another wonderful man who I also call "grandpa" to this day.
Many of my happiest childhood memories were with her. I vividly recall the hot and dry Eastern Washington summers alleviated by her homemade iced tea (mine with lemon and 1 teaspoon sugar), sitting on her patio overlooking the forest watching the deer and feeding the squirrels with peanuts, her large terraced vegetable garden lush with rhubarb, tomatoes, raspberries, and the sweetest peas in the pod I have ever eaten (pod and all in the mouth). In the evenings she liked her brandy and soda and it became habit for her to give me her brandy-soaked cherry, before bed I would curl up on pillows at the foot of her chair and eat ice cream while we watched films. She had the most beautiful porcelain skin, even when aged it was luminous. She always wore silver hummingbird earrings.
I never knew her to not be in pain, my whole life she had crippling arthritis and I often recalled her bedridden crying with agony. The last few times I saw her her hands were permanently twisted and nearly useless to her. She never complained, she went on functioning as well as she could.
On one of my last visits we sat down together and went through her detailed family tree and photo albums. We talked about her memories growing up and the more unusual parts of the family history (such as several relatives being circus performers and my ancestor and her daughter being accused of witchcraft and sentenced to hang; her husband said he would hang in their place, thus saving their lives and as a result enabling mine!) I am so grateful that we did this when we did. Her health has been on a decline in the past few years, but she was able to muster the strength to go to my wedding which meant a great deal to her and me. She went into a depression as her health gradually failed her, according to my mother the only times she would perk up was at news of me. I last wrote her a postcard from Venice saying how much I looked forward to telling her all about it and showing her the photographs. Now my only solace is that she at least received the postcard. She loved Italian red wine and I intended to take her some on my next trip.
When I received the news last week that they were taking her to the hospital I tried calling her, but my family said to wait to talk to her until she was settled in the hospital. Going against my deepest instincts to insist on talking to her there and then I agreed to wait. I began packing a suitcase and searching for a plane ticket back home 3 weeks earlier than planned, when I received the call I had been dreading. She passed away in the hospital I was born in. She left behind her 6 sons and daughters and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. My biggest regret is not keeping in better touch and not being there more for her since I moved to London. I am trying to not tear myself up with guilt over it, but it's difficult to contend with these thoughts of lost time. I believe death can be a force for change and reflection and each time I have lost someone it has taught me about myself and life, this time even more so. I will do better than I have and remain strong for my mother, I will spend more time with her as she is ill herself and I will visit America more as once a year is simply not enough. It is becoming increasingly difficult to balance what is good for my life and where I should be for my family, I still don't have any answers. I just have to remind myself that life is short and you never know what will happen so I make sure that everyone I love knows it.
The night I received the news my father sent me this email and made this video which I must have watched hundreds of times now, it is impossible to not smile while watching it and serves as a reminder to enjoy life:
date Jun 8, 2007 6:14 PM
oh... hun... my heart's with you...
one of the strongest memories
in Vivians kitchen
were on the way
my heart hurts right now...
i love you <3!
see you soon...
that video is priceless
(are you one of the kids?)
i think that italian wine you were going to bring her will make for a nice personal ceremony... to drink in her honor, enjoyed in a place she would love to see as well, and savour the memories of her life here...
"To take wine into your mouth is to savor a droplet of the river of human history."
thank you. :)
I'm not in the video, but my dad had the music so he found the video to match. He said the little girl reminded him of me when I was that age (a complete goofball. :)
you are right, that is a good idea. I will share the wine with my grandfather.
Really sorry to read your news. I missed out on saying goodbye to my grandad, so I know it's difficult. It does sound like your grandmother led a very full and colourful life though and she certainly couldn't have asked for a more loving and affectionate granddaughter.
this post is filled with so much love and longing it makes my heeart ache.
There are so many thing I would like to tell you, so many reasons why this post has touched me deeply, but I type and delete them because they all seem trite and useless as soon as I see them written.
So I'm just sending a huge hug and I hope it stops hurting soon.
thank you for your heartfelt words, Sara, I'm sorry it took so long for me to reply but I haven't been able to handle looking at this post for weeks. I leave for America soon where I'll be attending the service straight away, hopefully after that I can start to put it behind me.
so many reasons why this post has touched me deeply