Dear Grandma Helen,
Grandma, you have longed passed from this earth. I hope truly that you are with the heavenly angels. When you died, I was a fourth grader—just ten years old. I remember the mid-afternoon telephone call and how my mother’s news of your passing left me numb and full of sadness. Oh, how I cried for your suffering and at your passing. At the time, I never wondered about where you were. I just knew that you were in heaven. How you traveled there; I had no clue.
But now I wonder if voices called out to you. Maybe your mother or your father? I wonder if you sensed fading away or being transported into the light. Or, if you were simply enveloped by the light and a brilliance which is said to be “beyond earthly comprehension.”
I’ve only been to your gravesite a few times since your death. The last time I stopped by your cemetery was with Grandma Lois. On that day, we agreed that a road trip down memory lane would be great fun. My maternal grandmother and I drove past all of the familiar landmarks on our way to your “neck of the woods”—past the dark and deep Millston Lake, through wooded lands, hills, and the central Wisconsin countryside. We found your headstone after a little searching and found your resting place, exactly as it has remained for all of these years. With Grandpa now resting by your side, twenty years had passed. Oh, how I wish we could freeze time—for you and your love would still be with me now if I could wish for it to be so.
After your passing, we’d go frequently to see Grandpa, but our visits just weren’t the same. As you can imagine, your home became unkempt and dirty. Grandpa would visit with Dad, while Mom would keep us kids occupied. The men spoke of the land, neighbors, crops, the season, and of your extended family. But, after you left, there was truly an emptiness about the place. There were no more lovely flowers in the gardens, hikes through the woods, fishing trips to the creek, Avon deliveries, shopping excursions to the local dime store, family meals to prepare, or family celebrations to be had.
I just turned fifty this year and memories of you are most pronounced in the spring and summer seasons, when I enjoy finding time in the garden and reconnecting with nature. This is a gift I inherited from you and my Grandma Lois, I am sure. You both had those lovely old farm houses with the vegetable and flower gardens nearby. When my thoughts return to you, I miss the love-filled days with grandparents, cousins, laughter, and family meals. I will remember these days always—filled with sunshine and warmth. Somehow, I have forgotten the fall and winter visits and the cold weather. Sunshine and warmth best describe the days spent and memories of you.
Traveling to your home, my father would hit those hills just right to take our breath away as we laughed and enjoyed the thrill of it all. The four of us kids would always scream, “Dad, do it again!” It seemed that he, too, was excited about the hills and the journey home to see you! I miss what used to be a weekend journey: all six of us jam-packed in the car, the sound of the gravel hitting the undercarriage of the car, the winding roads, the beautiful Wisconsin countryside, the lake in Millston where we used to go to swim, and the crazy old lady who would shake her cane as we passed by the cemetery on our way back to Grandma Lois’ house. After awhile, we didn’t see her anymore either.
What I didn’t realize at the time was just how special these times were. It is now nearly forty years later and families today may see each other once a year. These times are not so simple, as families navigate their way through issues of depression, drug and alcohol addictions, and the stressors involved with chasing the American Dream. The transient pursuit of money has forced families apart. American culture is filled with selfishness and greed. There are no more weekend jaunts to reconnect with family and to maintain closeness. Alone and separated from their families, many adults and their children now seek to understand the real meaning of anything.
Grandma, the fact that you were an only child whose only dreams were to marry someday and to have a “house full of children” was admirable. You had eight healthy children who adored and admired you. Of Irish descent, your principles and faith served you and your family well. You kept your children and your extended family “tight.” I understand the incredible value of this now, as I look about to see more of what the world has become.
Grandma Helen, as Mother’s Day nears, I want to say, “Thank you for all of your gifts. In honor of you, I will continuously strive to demonstrate my love and affection towards my family and those who mean the world to me! Your memory serves as an inspiration. I am blessed for having known you, your love and your family.”
Yesterday, I traveled to KU to visit my daughter, Elizabeth. As I’m sure you know, she is my oldest daughter and has always taken after “our side of the family.” I will admit that in so many ways, she looks just like I did as a little girl, a teenager and now as a young woman. It was Mom’s Day at her sorority. We celebrated a nice luncheon with other moms and daughters. We took legacy pictures (Liz is a legacy!) and did a bit of window shopping on Massachusetts Street. Afterwards, Liz, her roommate Sami, Sami’s Mom (Patty), and I returned to the Alpha Chi Omega house and we decided simply to cuddle up on the couch with pillows, blankets and each other! Liz worked on Kristin’s graduation scrapbook and we enjoyed the movie, Juno, together. We all dozed off at one point or another. We were together, feeling love, and secure with each other.
Patty and I enjoyed this precious time with our daughters and the girls relished in our presence and unconditional love. Afterwards, I helped Elizabeth to take inventory of a t-shirt order for an upcoming event. Elizabeth designed the t-shirts which said, “I Love My Little (sister)” and “I Love My Big (sister).” She is a great leader in her sorority and she is an incredible vessel of love to her God-given sisters, Kristin and Meghan. You would be very proud of Liz and her little sisters. It was a perfect afternoon! And, the drive home, through the Kansas countryside, brought me closer to memories of you.
If the temperatures warm today, I will go to the gardening center to buy flowers for the porch and the deck. You will be with me (in spirit) as I walk through the gardening center, select my flowers and plant them for the season. I will pause to look at the gladiolas in memory of you!
With Love and Gratitude,
Your Beloved, Sophie