Monday, May 26, 2014

Remembering Nana

A few days ago, Craig's grandmother, his Nana, passed away.  She'd been quite ill for a while.  I think we had the first of a handful of "last visits" late last fall or early winter, and each one after that was always wrought with the question or whether this would be the last time we'd see her.  The last time the kids and I saw her was earlier in the spring, sometime between St. Patrick's Day and Easter.  Craig was fortunate enough to hear of her worsened condition while on his way to Knighthawks practice in Canada last Wednesday, and he turned around and headed right to her bedside.  She passed sometime before the next morning.  She was the last living grandparent between the two of us, and consequently, the last great-grandparent the kids had. 

I only have real memories of one of my great-grandparents, my dad's mother's mother.  She lived until I was 19, though the last six or so years were pretty crappy for her.  Up until that point, though, she was sharp and funny and I have great memories of visiting her house.  She always had cookies available, and I loved playing with a baby doll she had in her spare bedroom.  I actually missed her funeral because I was away at college and my parents were out of town, and no one remembered to call me until it was all over.  Beyond that...I'm pretty sure I met one other great-grandmother, but I don't remember meeting any others.

Jacob was lucky enough to have two great-grandparents alive for a decent chunk of his life.  My grandma lived until he was three, and he still seems to have some vague memories of her.  I am sure they will fade with time, but I am happy he got to know her.  I think he will remember Nana longer.  Carter, of course, will not, but I remember thinking back when I was pregnant how I just wanted Nana to live long enough to meet him.  She's been through so many illnesses over the years--lots of dehydration scares, heart problems, congestive heart failure, an intestinal blockage, etc.--and I just wanted her to be able enjoy him, and to get a picture of her holding him, just so he had that years down the road.

In the end, she lived to be 94, and last night I went through all of my pictures to see if there were any we should print to add to the boards at the funeral home.  I found over 35 pictures in my files from the past seven years or so.  Most are with the kids.  And I won't lie--I took many of them with the specific knowledge that she wouldn't be around for much longer and I wanted our kids to have as many pictures with her as possible (without making me look too crazy for constantly snapping them).  And now, just as I figured, I treasure every one of them.  I hope someday they do, too.

She was a tough-as-nails lady.  In the time I knew her, she wasn't your typical warm fuzzy grandma.  In fact, for a while I wasn't really sure how she felt about me, but by the end I knew that if nothing else she loved the kids and appreciated any time that we were all able to spend with her.  In that way she reminded me of my own grandfather.  He may not have been a warm fuzzy kind of guy, but if you looked closely you could see a certain look of pride and joy whenever his grandkids were grabbing his attention.  Nana was much the same.  She went through a lot in her 94 years, but was still very sharp right up until the end.  She loved watching the kids whenever we were able to visit.  Pink was her favorite color, which is why we're all making an effort to incorporate it into our wardrobes this weekend. 

It's hard to get overly emotional right now, partly because she lived a long, full life; partly because my attention is divided by tending to two busy kids; and partly because I know she's comfortable and at peace now.  But she will definitely be missed.  Family gatherings won't be the same, and I won't have the joy of counting up which birthday it would be for her when November comes around again.  There will be one less person having tea after Thanksgiving dinner, one less person to chat with at the kitchen table during parties, and one less person smiling at my adorable children.  I can't say that I have one standout memory of her (which, admittedly, is a bit of a bummer).  The closest I probably have is Christmas Eve two years ago when we ended up spending a couple hours with her at her apartment complex, because her daughter (Craig's aunt) was a little late in coming to get her for a visit.  We had already had a nice visit with her to give her her Christmas present and chat for a while, but then we got the "bonus" time during her extended wait.  I don't even remember much of what we talked about, but I remember it being a really nice visit.  I felt like we really made a difference in her day.

But what I do take away are the little moments.  The after dinner chats, the times she held my babies for the first time, the times they made her smile, the times her feisty personality stood out from her otherwise docile, grandmotherly appearance.  She was often a woman of few words, but when she used them, you better believe she had a reason. 

When I lost my last biological grandmother, Nana became the only grandparent I could claim.  By marriage, yes, but it was better than nothing.  I hadn't known her that long, but obviously she'd had a huge impact in the life of the man I love.  That alone made her presence so precious, and it took on a new dimension when we added to her collection of great-grandchildren. But losing my grandmother was a solemn reminder that time is limited, and once your grandparents are gone, there is no one else like them that can fill that specific role.  I felt like having a grandmother by marriage was a bonus, or a second chance, so to speak, to appreciate that special role.  And now, she's gone.  Things just won't be the same.  She was loved by so many people, and we will miss her dearly.

Here are a few of the pictures I will hold so near and dear:

Our wedding - The closeup of this picture was actually the one used in her obituary and the funeral program.  I must admit, that was nice.

Holding a month-old Jacob for the first time.  Oh, the chicken legs!

I love this picture of her.  I took this at a family gathering when Jacob was a baby because he had a couple drool-safe photo albums that needed filling.  I took pictures of family members to fill them, and this was her picture.  I have one album for each side of the family, and the last pages of both will remain the great-grandmothers, despite their passing.

Jacob was almost two in this picture, and I always liked how Nana seemed to entertained by whatever Jacob was doing.
Ahhh, the picture I longed to get from the time I found out I was pregnant with Carter.  I wanted to make sure that I got a matching picture to the one I took of her with baby Jacob, and I felt a clear sense of peace as I walked away from taking this one.  He was one day older in this picture than Jacob was in his.


This may be my favorite of the bunch.  Carter is adorable, and Nana is loving every minute of it.  This...this is the stuff I am sad won't happen anymore.
Tomorrow is the funeral after two days of visitation.  I passed off Carter to my parents tonight since I think a long morning of quiet time may not be ideal for my active little baby.  I missed part of my own grandmother's funeral when Jacob acted up, and I'd rather not repeat that experience.  I'm not quite sure how Jacob will handle tomorrow's events, but I think it's important for him to be there and start learning how we say goodbye to the people we love.  It won't be easy for any of us, but she's in a better place and we were truly blessed to have this time with her.  Rest in peace, Nana.  We love you.

(And I hope Heaven has some amazing bowling and Bingo games!  And kitties...lots of kitties.)

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