This morning, May 18, 2016, Heaven got a new angel and my Grandma Barb was finally reunited with my Grandpa.
It’s nearly impossible for me to imagine a world without my Grandma Barb. Almost every aspect of my childhood is attached to her in some way, either directly or indirectly. I guess what that means is that I’ll never have to imagine a world where she isn’t there, because she is so much a part of me.
Ironically, when I think of my Grandma, many of my earliest memories of her revolve around graveyards and funeral homes. That may seem like a morbid thing to say, but nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not really sure why, but Grandma and I spent a lot of time together at the funeral home. We went a lot, and I have vivid memories of looking at caskets and flower arrangements, and of touring around the large, empty rooms. It was never a big deal that dead people were there. They were just people. I remember asking a lot of questions about death, and it was a subject that she never avoided. She explained death very matter-of-factly to me, and I understood it at a very early age.
I vividly remember visiting graveyards with Grandma to place flowers on the head stones. I honestly don’t remember if they were graves of people we knew. I assume that Grandma knew them in some way. To me, it was just another adventure with my Grandma. It didn’t matter that the adventure took place in a cemetery. Grandma loved to tell me the story of one particular time that we were placing flowers at the graveyard. We had several yet to do, and it suddenly started raining. Grandma told me to say a quick prayer to “the Man upstairs” to hold off the rain just until we were finished. With childlike faith, I did exactly that. Apparently, the clouds miraculously rolled away and the sun came out long enough for us to finish. It began raining again the moment we got in the car. From that day on, Grandma believed I had a direct line to God, and she often asked me to say a quick prayer to “the Man upstairs” for one thing or another. It wasn’t until her later years that Grandma realized that I wasn’t the only one with a direct line to God. She ultimately found her own.
These trips to funeral homes and cemeteries may seem like strange places to take a very small child, but it was never odd or scary to me. Grandma was always up front about death. She told me that it was nothing more than a continuation of life. Those we love who go before us are never really gone, and death is certainly not something to fear. Her words resonate with me, now that I’m grappling with her passing.
Throughout my life, my Grandma Barb has been one of my biggest supporters. She told me from the time I was young that I would do big things. She never doubted my ability to do anything I set my mind to. Her faith in me was unshakable. She was a spitfire of a woman who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, but who also knew how to listen. She was my life-long cheerleader, and the one who always told me to follow my dreams and not to settle for anything less. She was my shopping mall chauffeur during my teenage years, and the fun house where all of my friends wanted to spend the night. Sadly, if she still had all of the money that she spent buying hairspray for me, she would have been a rich woman.
A lot of people believed that my Grandma spoiled me, and that may very well be true. Personally, I don’t consider it spoiling. She loved me fiercely, and wasn’t ashamed to show it in whatever way she saw fit. She stood in line for hours one Christmas to get me a Cabbage Patch doll. A lot of my friends didn’t get one that year, but I did, because she was determined to make it happen. That may not seem like a big deal, but it showed me at a young age that she was willing to go above and beyond in order to make me happy. In my mind, that is a very big deal.
A grandmother is an important figure in a little girl’s life, and I was blessed to have one of the very best. She taught me about respect, about forgiveness, and about patience, but I think it’s the little things that I will hold closely in my heart when I think of her. Because of my grandma, I learned that lobster isn’t only for special occasions, it’s never a good idea to run away to the river on the back of your friend’s bike, and that if a little girl smiles just right, grandma will do just about anything for her. I’ll love you forever, Grandma.