On Saturday, January 21 the world lost a wonderful woman. The matriarch of my Dad’s family, my beloved grandma, Lillian White passed away unexpectedly. Her loss shocked me. Dylan and I were at the Minor Hockey Gala when Grandma passed, and my mom got ahold of me there. On receiving the news it was a struggle to not cry, and holding back the tears had me feeling nauseous. The grief was so sudden and strong.
Grandma was predeceased by her beloved husband of 50 years, Don. I learned at her funeral that she married Grandpa when she was nineteen, and it has been nineteen years since Grandpa passed away. Strange how life works sometimes; I guess after fifty years of marriage, nineteen years without him must have been more than enough.
Grandma & Grandpa
While I could console myself with any number of things, including that she is with Grandpa again, I cannot dismiss or diminish how I feel.
I am so sad.
Yes, she lived a long life, and was in her own home until the day she died. Yes, her mind was still sharp and her body was, aside from a few aches and pains, healthy. Yes, the suddenness of her loss was a good way for her to go. Yes, she is with Grandpa again. All these things are true.
And so is this: I am really going to miss her presence in my life.
I loved stopping by her house for a “quick” (usually 2-3 hour) coffee. I regret that the busyness of life kept me from stopping more often, but I will always treasure the memories from the visits I did get. The last time I stopped in, January 1, I can still remember the look on Grandma’s face when I opened the door; surprise and delight. “Why hello!” she greeted me. “Would you like a coffee?” Stepping through the door into her kitchen always made me feel both loved and welcome. Hers was a home of comfort and hospitality. The coffee was always on, the cookie jar was always full, a deck of cards was always handy, and the conversation was always good. During her eulogy my cousin Tim also mentioned how the coffee was always on, and how welcomed and loved everyone would feel in her home. Those are such universal truths that we all picked up on them.
Grandma had a way of sharing the comings and goings of various family members without gossiping. We shared our lives with her, and she lovingly shared our stories with the other family members that would warm her kitchen chairs. If conversation was sparse, or the mood struck Grandma or her visitors, the cards would come out. Once the cards were out, all was fair in love and war–whether it was Pass the Ace, Blind 31, Canasta, or Uno–remember, a card laid is a card played! Grandma was a natural teacher, and she could school even the best card player! Then, that laugh, and “shall we play again?”
When I think of Grandma, I am flooded with a wealth of images, sounds and feelings all at once:
Her smile. Her voice. Her laugh. Her children (14!). Her vegetable and flower gardens. Her crafts. Her singing or humming a song.
Cards, coffee and cookies.
Love, warmth, and acceptance.
A genuine, sincere, and humble heart.
A tribute to Grandma, in pen. Drawing people is not one of my artistic strengths, but creating this was incredibly therapeutic.
One day we were sitting around her table having coffee and she said to my dad, “I’m sorry we couldn’t give you more growing up.” Well, Dad would not have any of that! Her children knew love, they were taught morals and values, and they had fun. What the family lacked in finance was more than made up for in the way Grandpa and Grandma poured into their children.
I have had a few people tease me that with my five children it looks like I am trying to catch up to Grandma! While I cannot imagine bearing and raising fourteen children, being compared to my grandma is an honour I could only hope to earn. Grandma had a true Mother’s heart. She worked hard and sacrificed for her children, and she did it (so far as I saw) with no complaint. Being a mother to fourteen, a grandma to 32, a great-grandma to 44, and a great-great grandma to 2 was something I believe she considered an honour.
If more people saw our children in such a way, our world would be a much less broken place. I will always remember Grandma’s reaction when I told Grandma I was pregnant with my fourth child, Heath.
“A big family! I think that’s good! People say they don’t have time for more kids, I don’t get it! I raised 14, there was usually 9 living in the house at the same time, and I had to haul my own water. Don’t have time? Ha! People just make themselves too busy.”
Having a large family means there may not be time and money for some of the luxuries smaller families enjoy. Expensive vacations, certain sports, high-end vehicles, and brand-name clothes are things that may need to be laid aside. But you know what, I am okay with that. Watching my Dad, aunts, and uncles visit after grandma’s funeral; seeing the love and bond they still have, is so up lifting. What they lacked in “stuff” the family more than made up for with love and memories. Not every sibling is close, but every sibling has someone they connect with closely. Grandma and Grandpa gave their children a gift more precious than gold.
Children are a blessing, and I think that is how she saw them as well. If I look like my Grandma in that regard, what an honour. My heart’s desire would be to mature to a place where I can be completely unruffled by the joyous (or frustrated) screams of my little ones; to grow into a mom who finds time for fun, laughter and love in the midst of the busyness of life. That would be the mark of a true mother. That would be the mark of my grandma.
I think Grandma probably never had a job for pay, or not for long if she did, but looking at my family I see her life’s work. Grandpa and Grandma left behind a legacy; over ninety direct descendants. How absolutely incredible!
Grandma’s passing closes out a chapter of my life I did not expect to leave behind so soon. When Grandpa died, the family farm was sold and the connection of the family shifted. Some traditions ceased. Grandma’s passing will change the family dynamics again, but I hope and pray the family stays close. I pray relationships can be rekindled, because life is too short to not share it with those we love. As families grow it is understandable that we cannot always connect as often as we would like. Life gets busy, and we all have obligations; but I hope the family can make my grandparents proud by showing that the love and connectivity they sowed into us were not attached to them only, but to the entire family.
That would truly be honouring their legacy.
A pair of love-birds, what a reunion it must have been!
PS: Thank-you Aunty Donna for sharing these photos on your Facebook.