While working in San Francisco I got a call from a cousin that I was expecting but not looking forward to, telling me that my grandmother had passed away. She'd taken a quick turn for the worse in the past week or so, suffering a major stroke and fighting pneumonia and a relapse of cancer, the latter which she'd survived once already 30 years earlier. My mom was enroute from Alaska to McMinville, and I'd been planning a visit myself in a few days hoping for one last chance to say goodbye.
I stayed in the Portland area along with my mom at her youngest brother's house. We spent much of the visit packing up my grandma's stuff, moving her out of the home we'd moved her into not that long ago. It was a strange feeling to be surrounded by all her stuff filled with memories of the past, realizing it was the last time I'd be surrounded by all her photo collections and all the things that I'd associated with her for as long as I can remember. She was my last living grandparent, and the one I'd gotten to know the best by virtue of being an adult while she was alive. For years I'd been calling her on the telephone once every week or two and visiting once or twice a year, as often as I could pass through Oregon. I try and not think back on the weeks I didn't call when I should have, happy that I got to know her as well as I did.
Outside the Hillside Retirement Community where my grandmother passed away, standing with my mom and all my aunts and uncles.
Julia, Corina and I talked a lot of our fond memories of visiting grandma and grandpa when we were all little kids. We'd all share a room upstairs, waking up early in the morning on Saturday to watch cartoons in the livingroom downstairs. Our grandparent's small backyard seemed massive when we were little, playing croquet and other games on the lawn. It doesn't seem all that long ago, and yet it was a life time away.
Our extended family, grandma's children and grandchildren, would all get together for the holidays, feasts on Thanksgiving and on Christmas. Much of those visits would find me playing with my cousins Eric and Jeffrey, as we were all the same age. Their sister Colleen was much younger in those days, and Jeffrey has children of his own. Where does the time go?
Born September 25'th, 1917, she lived a long full life, passing away on March 20'th, 2007, 89 years old. I count myself fortunate to have spent the time I did talking with her over the years, listening to the stories she'd tell me over the phone. On bad days I'd hear the same stories I'd heard dozens of times before, but on the more frequent good days she was always interested to hear what was going on in my life and to share tales that my stories would remind her of. It was always a treat when she'd tell me a story about something that had happened in her life that I'd never heard before, learning more about who she was and where she'd been.
The graveside ceremony was held on the other side of the flowering trees. My grandmother's remains are now in the wall at the top of the first set of stairs, with my grandfather's remains. The ceremony was attended by only a handful of close family members, followed by a full funeral at her church in McMinville, Oregon. The church was completely full with additional chairs placed alongside all the pews, lots of her friends coming to pay their last respects.
In Memory Of
This placard was displayed in the common area of Hillside where my grandmother passed away. She was a very special lady to me, and evidently to a lot of other people too based on the stories at her funeral. I'm happy I got to know her as well as I did, but I'll miss her. Already there's been a few things that have happened in my life that I've wanted to call to tell her about, only now realizing how much I've enjoyed our regular phone calls.