My grammy passed away thursday morning on May 7th. I was in Portland at the time and arranged for Ryan and I to take a redeye out of Seattle after our camping trip in San Juan. Travels often have their detours and this trip was no exception. After 15 hours of travelling, we finally made it to West Salem Illinois –population of I’m sure only a few hundred. My grandmother was raised there, the youngest of 13 children and then moved back to retire there after living in Michigan.
My grandmother was a woman of many talents. She loved genealogy, tracing our family history back eons ago. Our family came to America on the Mayflower and I am related to King Henry the VIII (great name to claim!) I learned to never ask a question about our heritage unless I was prepared to sit and listen for over an hour for the proper response. She had a competitive heart (I wonder where mine came from…) in cards, chinese checkers, and just about anything if you could win. If any of you know my mother, her endless energy and creativity was a gift from my grammy. Grammy never stopped. She was always doing something, whether it was getting her hands dirty in her garden, painting china, quilting heirlooms, knitting, crocheting afghans, researching our history, gaming, collecting, or bird-watching she was always active. She had an intense love and appreciation for nature. She had collected and nurtured an extensive collection of day lillies which continue to thrive in homes around Illinois, Indiana, and Virginia. Her hands were worn from days spent out in the garden. Her nails dirty from digging up and planting. Sunflowers were my favorite growing up in the back 40 at their house. I remember when my grandparents would come visit us as a child and I would wake up to them at the kitchen table, large mug of coffee in hand and their binoculars out. She could name just about any bird you could find. She taught me how to bind off my first scarf. By then, she had developed macular degeneration and could barely see. I remember her fingers running over my knitting, feeling every purl and being able to guide me despite not being able to see. I remember growing up and getting facials from my grammy. Always rub your skin upwards, never downwards. She had such beautiful wrinkles. She was a wonderful woman who lived a rich life.
The ceremony was very nice and it was wonderful to see my family for a couple days. Thankfully, it had been her time and at 91 years old, she passed peacefully. It was a sad realization that I no longer have any living grandparents. Of course any death is sad and carries with it grief but I found myself more celebrating her life and her many gifts she had passed onto me. She called us her specialers and showered us with “sugar” (her kisses).
Really, she was the special one, for letting each of us grow up with a grammy so generous in her talents and so willing to love.
Her obituary is found here- Renee Smith.