Updated: May 19, 2020
Grandma was an amazing quilter, gifting many quilts to her family for special occasions (baby showers, high school graduations, weddings, etc.) Family milestones were so important to her.
When she had all the family covered (literally), Grandma donated several quilts for church fundraisers.
This "Double Wedding Ring" Quilt was a wedding gift to us almost 28 years ago and has been a cherished reminder of Grandma's presence in each home we've lived in during our marriage.
This beloved quilt has brightened our guest room the past few years and I've loved telling the story of Grandma's handiwork as we've welcomed guests into our home.
Grandma served her family faithfully and tenaciously, doing things her own particular way. Her hands were always busy - - - preparing meals, gardening, playing cards, crocheting, quilting, and writing letters.
"...and make it your ambition to lead a quiet life...and work with your hands."
I Thessalonians 4:11-12
Grandma was my first and steadiest pen pal throughout my childhood. Despite the distance between us, she maintained her connection with me through her chatty letters about the weather, travels with Grandpa, and family updates. She had the knack for asking just the right questions to compel me to send a letter back to her. She always responded to my scrawled missives, no matter how trivial the topics might be.
Grandma and I shared our last correspondence this past week when she wrote a note for my graduating senior. She had told me on the phone she wasn't sure what to write and wasn't sure that she could write anything legibly. But, ever faithful, she did. When I opened her envelope, I was impacted by how Grandma's handwriting still elicited those childhood connections she had cultivated so well with me.
And now I have this last handwritten treasure for my son's graduation keepsake.
Grandma lived a feisty 101 years, the last 20 without Grandpa by her side. She forged ahead and rallied with incredible independence, but oh, how she missed him!
She was fond of saying "he was a gentleman AND a gentle man."
When she moved into an Assisted Living Center last year after her 100th birthday, I was touched to see that she had chosen to take the frame I had given her that was engraved with this favorite phrase.
Grandma & Grandpa loved each other well, living a simple life dedicated to work, community and family.
The past couple months have been especially hard on Grandma because of the Covid-19 restrictions. During her isolation we had many phone calls in which she sounded bewildered by what was going on in the world, incredulous that this was happening and that she was still here to witness a pandemic.
Although she was no longer in her own home, I still pictured Grandma on her corded phone and sitting on her "phone chair" during our chats.
Sharp as a tack, Grandma always recognized my voice when I called and immediately started launching questions. Grandma was always prepared with questions to keep conversations dancing along. (She might have missed her calling as a professional interviewer!) At times when Grandma's conversation veered toward negative topics, I distracted her with tales of our ducklings hatching, turtles finding their way into our strawberry patch, and the boys' latest activities. I loved to hear her chuckle about silly, ordinary things in our daily lives.
Continuing our pen pal exchange, I sent her dimes to play Bingo and she kept me updated on her winnings. I texted back and forth with a staff member at the Center to keep Grandma entertained with our recent photos so she'd have a fresh topic of conversation. She loved talking about her family and could still describe all the threads of the extended family relationships.
I'm so grateful I was able to squeeze in a visit with Grandma just 2 weeks before the Covid-19 shut down in March. Although she had slowed down, Grandma was still raring to play cards and pepper us with her rapid-fire questions.
I had taken along the quilt Grandma had made for me as a "going to college" gift and used on my college dorm bed. It's been decades since she's seen it in person. I told her stories of the picnics, soccer games, and movies that this blanket has seen me through.
As I wrapped the quilt around both of us for a cheesy photo, Grandma leaned her frail frame into mine and her fingers fidgeted with her own stitchwork from so many years ago. I knew then that this was potentially our last visit together and I shed a few tears as I walked back to my car after saying goodbye.
But I wrapped that quilt around me as a buffer against the cold wind, knowing that Grandma's love would encircle me always - - - just as her quilts have covered us all in her warmth for years.
Grandma was my last living grandparent. She was a constant presence in my life throughout all the changes and challenges I faced. I knew I could count on her to answer my phone calls and letters, always ready to connect.
She embraced us fully when we came to visit, eager to catch up and make new memories.
My sweet Grandma passed away yesterday morning, joining her Gentleman at last. Our hearts ache already, missing her bright-eyed wit and feisty spirit, but we know that she was more than ready to go.