Earlier this week, I lost my Grandmother. She passed without pain, in her sleep. My cousin Summer, who works at the nursing home that only recently accepted her into their care, held her hand until the ambulance arrived at the building. My family and I had gone to visit her only last month, and seeing how quiet and tired she was, a long goodbye was then in order. But that doesn’t make it any easier to lose a loved one. I’ve had friends pass, and several Great-grandparents that I was very fond of, but this was the first of this “tier” of family. I consider myself extremely lucky to have had all four grandparents well into my 30s and to have had my two children know all of them.
My parents asked me to speak at Grandmother’s funeral service, and when I finally sat down to write something, the words flew out onto the computer. I rehearsed them a few times, so I wouldn’t forget anything, but when the moment came to deliver the speech, I could only hold it together until the end of the first paragraph. It was so hard thinking about her being gone, because she loved us all so much. I wanted to share what I said that day, partly so I never forget. Love you, Grandmother.
I remember has a little kid, driving up in the family car past that old yellow bookstore. It was the same scene. A summer day. Fending my brother off from the neighboring seat. Cradling my precious Walkman in my lap. Turning into the neighborhood, knowing that we could finally leap out of the car and into the carport. Up the three brick steps to the storm door, which always creaked with the same memorable steel and glass wane, and looking up into the smiling face of Mary Goodson.
But she was always Grandmother to me. A woman whose height was quickly matched by my own when my teen years came about. Her Perfectly shaped nails, proper slacks, sweater buttoned just so. And those curls. Curls in her hair that I always envied, having stick straight locks since I was six years old.
Usually, a trip to Grandmother’s was a vacation celebration or occasion for some of the best food that I could ever hope to eat. Her sweet potato casserole remains, to this day, an unmatched recipe, which, along with her other Thanksgiving side dishes, will be handed down to my kids for them to make for future generations.
I remember her getting ready in the morning, smoothing that pale yellow Clinique lotion on her face, spritzing on the Happy cologne that I adopted as my own as soon as I was old enough to wear it. After that, I remember her teaching me to make clothes. To sew. To attach buttons, cross stitch, use a machine and to hand embroider. It was these basic and decorative skills that I took along with me in life, leading me to earn my MFA in costume design. Now, I teach students those same skills and have a list of clients. I still have the apron Grandmother and I made together, and all the little clothes for my teddy bear and Barbies. Some of the clothes she made for me as a baby, live on in Ellie’s closet.
But what I remember most is that Grandmother was always so loving. I don’t ever remember asking her a question and being brushed aside. There was never a time I asked to help in the kitchen and being sent to play. I learned to clean the silver, stir the beans, and set the table (heck, I even made chores for setting the table and she hung them over the fridge for thirty years). I was so happy spending time with her and learning something new. Now, as a mother of two, frazzled and busier than I can bear to be, I see the incredible value of the love and time she shared with me. So that’s what I want you to take from her. Take the time to see someone else.
Every day this week, do something nice for someone else, in remembrance of Mary. Send a meal to someone. Call a friend who needs it. Pay for the coffee for someone behind you. Donate to a charity. Teach someone a skill. Spend time with someone you love. Leave a legacy that you would be proud of. After all, I know that I’m not the only one with a story like this with Mary in it. She touched us all and made us feel so important, not only in her eyes but also our own.