My grandmother passed away on Friday night. She went very quietly and peacefully, they tell me.
I haven't seen her since July, so my head tells me there's no reason for me to miss her any more now than before. But I do.
It was my grandma who taught me to sew. I really wanted to learn, but once my mom had taught me the running stitch and my dad taught me the overcast stitch, they had exhausted their knowledge and passed me off to Grandma. I stayed with her and Grandpa for a week and made a nightgown with paw prints all over it. I guess I was about twelve.
During that time, my aunt dropped off my two-year-old cousin for the afternoon. (He is in high school now!) I took it upon myself to keep him entertained. Grandma laughed at me, saying I couldn't expect to keep up with a two-year-old, but I was convinced I could and spent all afternoon chasing him around the house. At eight p.m., my aunt picked up her son, and five minutes later I was sound asleep on the couch. Grandma managed to carry me into the bedroom, took off my shoes, and gently tucked me in, all without waking me up.
Six years later, she gave me the sewing machine I still have. I remember us tinkering with it together, trying to figure out how to get it threaded.
A different year, when I think I was about eight or nine, she asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I said that all I wanted was hair three feet long, like she had said my aunt had used to have. That must have been a real stumper, but on my birthday she gave me a box of fancy shampoo, conditioner, and combs. I was thrilled.
I never was unusually close to Grandma, but as I think of her, I believe she's the grandparent I take after the most. She liked to talk, to tell stories. And her favorite topic for those stories was family. I loved to listen as she told us all stories of when my dad and uncle were boys, or of my aunt growing up (she was much younger), or of the adventures of various aunts and uncles I didn't know. (I do not know anyone on that side beyond my grandparents; the J. family isn't so big on family reunions as the other side, I guess.)
And yet Grandma didn't talk all that much about herself. I don't know what her childhood was like or even how many brothers and sisters she had. I wish I had listened to more of her stories. I wish I had more of her to hold onto besides a sewing machine, a special lasagna recipe, and all too few memories.
I'm hoping those who knew her better than I will fill me in on some of the details. As time goes by, we'll trade stories to increase each of our hoard of memories.
And yet it will never be the same. I miss my grandma.
I believe that the strong rejection we all feel toward death is one of many signs that we were not meant to be separated from our loved ones forever. I believe we will meet again in heaven. Today is All Saints' Day; tomorrow is All Souls. Living and dead, we form a "great cloud of witnesses," and although we can't yet speak face to face, we are united in Christ.
I believe all this. And yet it doesn't change the fact that I'm sad and wish I hadn't had to lose her so soon.