AUGUST 6, 2009 9:01PM

I Hereby Resolve to Write to You, Especially When I Die

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Grandma Side Glance

 

 

That’s what my grandma wrote to her sister, Beth, five years, five months, and twenty days before her death.

 

I hereby resolve (almost) to write to you, Harry and Jack more often, and especially when I die.

 

These words are characteristic of her black sense of humor. She savored language and possessed an understated Wodehousian wit that could make everyone in the room burst into laughter.

 

Yet my grandma was also a consummate perfectionist/procrastinator. She wrote all of her life but rarely finished anything to her satisfaction. She also put off writing letters and browbeat herself over the guilt.

 

This is a guilt I shared, especially after my grandma departed without my getting a chance to respond to her last letter, dated three weeks before her death. I received my mom’s phone call about her stroke at ten o’clock on Sunday night, September 23. I’d had her letter sitting on my desk at work with a post-it reminding me to call her, which I was planning to do on Monday.

 

What I didn’t know was that my husband, Michael, and I would end up spending our last visit with my grandma in a hospital room in the middle of the night, before Monday morning even broke. I talked to her for hours, holding her hand, brushing the silver strands from her smooth brow as the coma pulled her into a deeper and gentler peace.

 

For months afterward, I chastised myself for waiting too long to call her. Even worse, I’d put off sending a birthday present I knew she was going to love. I did manage to send her a copy of Grandmothers Counsel the World: Women Elders Offer Their Vision for Our Planet in time for her birthday on June 17. I’d even had Agnes Baker Pilgrim, one of the grandmothers featured in the book, inscribe it for my grandma. I made the mistake of thinking she was 83, so Granny Aggie sent her blessings for her eighty-third birthday. I joked with my grandma about it and said she could save it for next year.

 

With that gift, I promised another that hadn’t yet arrived. I told her I would send it separately later. My grandma, a diehard Jeeves and Wooster fan, had never enjoyed the pleasure of watching the BBC series starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie—at least as far as I know. I’d been sending her Wodehouse audiobooks over the years, and she was always extremely particular about who played Jeeves. I’m pretty sure Martin Jarvis was her favorite. I was positive she would believe Stephen Fry is literally Jeeves incarnate.

 

So Michael and I got her the boxed set of Jeeves and Wooster, but we didn’t send it right away. I wanted to wait until the postcards I was making for an upcoming exhibit were done so I could include one of those. And then, once those were finally ready to send, I got so caught up in the preparations for the opening reception I was also catering that I hadn’t found a moment to actually write an accompanying letter. I’d been working past midnight nearly every night for the three months leading up to the exhibition I was doing with the two women in my writers’ group. At last, all of the details were in place for the September 27 opening reception. I thought I could finally call my grandma and send her package that week.

 

But then the phone call came. “Grandma had a stroke,” my mom cried. “They don’t think she’ll make it through the night.” Of course, she did. She was always stronger than most people gave her credit for, including herself. It was Tuesday morning, September 25, 2007, when she finally danced the light fantastic out of this world.

 

 

Grandma Serious

 

 

Even though she was eighty-two, I had some ridiculous notion that she’d be around for at least another decade or two. She was so independent and sharp-minded, living in her own home and tending her beloved garden, making the last part of her life quite possibly the happiest. I figured she would be around to see the rough cut of the documentary I filmed when we visited her in August 2004. Michael and I had been working slavishly on the post-production all summer, with Michael composing a score so hauntingly beautiful I couldn’t wait for my grandma to hear it. But she didn’t get a chance to do that. Nor did she see the hours of interview footage I shot with her in the subsequent years, intended as fodder for a more historical documentary Michael and I still hope to complete someday.

 

I saw my grandma for the last time in early July. My uncle Steve had flown her out to Long Beach to visit for the first time in years. After my grandma’s return flight arrived, my step-father picked her up. He called me spontaneously to see if I wanted to join them for lunch before my grandma headed home. Thank God, I did, and we spent a long lunch at the coffeeshop across the street. It was one of the few times I’d seen her without bringing along the videocamera. Of course, I remember regretting not having recorded the funny anecdotes she was telling. I remember one part about her sister, Betty, dating an Australian sailor, and she joked about him saying he was “diving for pearls” while cooing on the couch with her sister.

 

Grandma Pull QuoteThat summer, my friend Patricia had decided to interview my grandma for a book she was writing about women in retirement. I wanted to have a high-quality recording of the interview, so I lent Patricia our digital recorder. A tad technophobic, Patricia worried about failing to record properly. She wrote down my directions on a napkin. As I was explaining it to her, I asked if she would be using her standard tape recorder as a backup. She said no; she needed to stay focused on one machine at a time.

 

At that moment, I had a sinking premonition. “Are you sure about this?” I asked Patricia. “Maybe you should just stick with your tape recorder since you’re more comfortable with it.” She assured me it was fine, not to worry.

 

But I did worry. Not because of Patricia, but because of the unreliability of technology and my feeling of powerlessness to prevent equipment failure remotely. About twenty minutes before Patricia was scheduled to meet my grandma in her garden for the interview, I called my grandma to make sure she had backup batteries. She said she did, and that was the last time I talked with her on the phone.

 

When Patricia returned, I learned the rechargeable batteries had indeed died. In the interest of professionalism, however, she didn't tell my grandma but instead took copious notes during the interview. So my best efforts to stave off failure had failed. Patricia had found my grandma’s story so fascinating, she bought a set of batteries and returned the next day for a followup interview. When I picked up the recorder from Patricia, I turned it on. “No song,” the display read. Which meant the recorder had failed to capture the second interview, as well.

 

I think part of me didn’t have the heart to tell my grandma about the hapless recordings, and I suspect that’s one big reason I didn’t call her right away. Which turned out to be not at all.

 

And so all of these regrets compounded into a behemoth guilt when my grandma made her final departure. The grief, the shock, the insomniac exhaustion in the months that followed were bad enough. But the guilt. The regret. Those were the most painful parts of the process for me. The unsent birthday gift. The unrecorded interview. The unmade phone call. The unwritten letter. 

 

 

Grandma Coy

 

 

Several months later, I found a letter she had written us exactly six months before her passing. She began, “I feel so guilty! Guilty GUILTY!” Then she went on to explain why she had been feeling so guilty: “I have been trying to write to thank you for sending the amazing package . . .”

 

She was feeling guilty about not sending us a thank-you letter for our Christmas presents three months before! I remembered how Michael and I had told her how she had absolutely no reason to feel guilty, how we completely understood and suffered the same strain of perfectionistic procrastination ourselves.

 

That’s when I realized: Of course she understood about all of the undones I’d been agonizing over for months. She was the exact same way herself! The last thing she would want me to be feeling was guilt. This was a grace so profound, so perfect in its precision, I was finally able to shed the weight of regret I’d been shouldering for months and just simply, achingly, grieve.

 

I hereby resolve (almost) to write to you . . . especially when I die.

 

And she did. Indeed, she continues to. The letter I quoted at the beginning only arrived last month. My uncle Bobby has been gradually sending me my grandma’s old computer files (written on a PC she used for seventeen years (!), relying on floppy disks after the 40-mb drive filled up). Bobby has also been sending me her autobiographical vignettes and children’s stories. So with every new fragment, I get to know more of her tender compassion, her thoughtfulness, and—most especially—her wicked sense of humor.

 

And now, you can, too. I think she would be especially thrilled to know she’s making good on her promise to “write to you . . . especially when I die.”

 

 

Grandma Hooded Talking

 

 

March 26? 2007

 

Dear Mike & Melissa,

 

I feel so guilty! Guilty GUILTY! I have been trying to write to thank you for sending the amazing package, but each time I write, I read what I wrote, and think “That’s not funny. You expect me to write funny. Maybe tomorrow I can write funny.”

 

So, I’ll just say “thank you.” And don’t tell me my letters are hilarious or anything, or I can’t write at all. It’s OK to say “I enjoyed your letter. It’s such a nice old-fashioned way to communicate. Not like email.” Grandma can actually still write with her fingers. Wow! With a pen!

 

As far as that goes, Melissa can write funny. I remember one of the things she (you) wrote in high school that was tarabo(a?)ngingly (spelling—I gave Bobby your stuff to read and haven’t seen it since) funny. And Michael (you) and Gary were always doing excruciatingly funny things.

 

It’s nice to have humor still in this world, such as it is. Things always start out with a tarabang for me in the morning, when I first smile at myself in the mirror. No teeth, usually, hair all weird, eyes squinty. I start the day laughing. I like that.

 

Unfortunately, I can’t play the Jeeves tapes now because the round stringy thing that makes the tape go around, broke. Some day I may get it fixed. At least I can play CD’s.

 

When I read your interview (Melissa) with the writer (forgot his name—Bobby possesses the magazine), I thought, “How can that brilliant writer (Melissa) be descended from me?” Amazing.

 

Thanks again, and sorry for making you wait so long to hear. The head librarian (Sandy) was really happy when she got the CD’s and gave me hugs. I love our library. Hope we get to keep it.

 

The End,

 

Grandma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

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Nice piece--Thanks for reminding us all what is important. I think grandparents and others who part from us still write us when they die; just in a different form. Best- Create
Lovely piece--I am delighted to discover you.
A toast in the best bubbly to Wodehousian wit! Welcome to this outpost of the Drones Club. And welcome to your wondrous grandma!
I think I need to write to my grandma without delay. Thanks for this - just beautiful!
What a charming story about a charming woman. We should all start the day laughing. Maybe that's the key to longevity.
I almost passed this piece up because I feared the title, LG ~ Glad I didn't.

Grandmothers are special, as is this lovely tribute.


Rated
BR
I've lost all four of my grandparents and my father, and I've had no shortage of guilt for things left undone and unsaid. That's why this part:

"The last thing she would want me to be feeling was guilt. This was a grace so profound, so perfect in its precision, I was finally able to shed the weight of regret I’d been shouldering for months and just simply, achingly, grieve."

seemed so beautiful to me. Am I weeping or is it a speck of dust in my eye? It must have just been some dust, yeah, that's all it is.
My grandmothers were strong.
They followed plows and bent to toil.
They moved through fields sowing seed.
They touched earth and grain grew.
They were full of sturdiness and singing.
My grandmothers were strong.

My grandmothers are full of memories
Smelling of soap and onions and wet clay
With veins rolling roughly over quick hands
They have many clean words to say.
My grandmothers were strong.
Why am I not as they? ~~Margaret Walker~~
"This was a grace so profound, so perfect in its precision..." What an elegant and moving phrase, and, from what you tell of your grandmother, how perfectly true. This was a beautiful essay; I enjoyed every part and loved the pictures as well.
Very nice. We hope to get to know her even better.......
As everyone else has already said, this is beautiful. And I'm so glad you've promised to share more of your grandmother with us! I'll be eagerly awaiting the next installment! Rated. D
A beautiful post. All my grandparents have passed; I hope my grandchildren honor me as you do your grandmother. rAted!
You are Melissa's grandmother??? How wonderful to discover you on OS - a grandmother writing about her grandmother and, it seems, her granddaughter as well. Life does indeed go on.
@create12:

“Nice piece--Thanks for reminding us all what is important.”

Thank you, create12. I see we both joined today, and I’m honored to be your first comment! I enjoyed your Death of a Salesman piece. Glad you’re not giving up on your dreams.

“I think grandparents and others who part from us still write us when they die; just in a different form.”

Indeed, you may be right.

Best to you, as well,

Melissa
@Redstocking Grandma:

“Lovely piece--I am delighted to discover you.”

Thank you, Redstocking Grandma! I wish my grandma could be here to greet you in person. I know she would respect how you put your feminism into practice and would share your passion for literature. I can’t wait to begin posting about her experiences as the first woman electrician in the Western Pipe and Steel Shipyard during World War II. So many wonderful stories to tell.

—Melissa
@Eva T. Made Vaudeville:

“A toast in the best bubbly to Wodehousian wit! Welcome to this outpost of the Drones Club. And welcome to your wondrous grandma!”

Cheers, Eva! I appreciate the toast, and I’m sure my grandma would be delighted to play a game of Cribbage with you at Blandings Castle. Someday, perhaps . . .

—Melissa
we always end up disappointing someone in life
I'm glad you realized that she wouldn't want you to feel too badly
@High Lonesome:

“I love it!”

So glad to hear it! I love your work, too, High Lonesome. Especially this beautiful piece.

—Melissa


@Owl_Says_Who:

“I think I need to write to my grandma without delay. Thanks for this - just beautiful!”

If I could inspire one person to connect with one grandparent before it’s too late, this endeavor will be worth it! Would love to hear more about your grandma in a future post. Most importantly, have her record her stories, her memories, in whatever way she can—video, audio, writing. I cannot tell you how precious that legacy has been for me.

—Melissa
@Steve:

“What a charming story about a charming woman.”

She would be blushing now :-)

“We should all start the day laughing. Maybe that's the key to longevity.”

I think you may indeed be right, in which case your satirical gems are contributing to the longevity of many OSers!

—Melissa
@Blue Roses:

“I almost passed this piece up because I feared the title, LG ~ Glad I didn't.”

I’m so glad you didn’t, too! I was really struggling with how to be up front about the sadness of the situation, while still maintaining a degree of humor and lightheartedness appropriate for my grandma. She would be far more honored by laughter than by tears.

“Grandmothers are special, as is this lovely tribute.”

Thank you, Blue Roses. I still adore your mother’s 1945 letter. She and my grandma were contemporaries. In a smaller world, they might’ve been friends.

“My grandmothers were strong.”

I collect poems, and I cannot believe I hadn’t read this one by Margaret Walker! This is wonderful and will definitely be going into my files. Thank you for sharing it. My grandmother was most definitely strong—and a passionate gardener, so she would especially appreciate the line, “They touched earth and grain grew.”

—Melissa
@nanatehay:

“I've lost all four of my grandparents and my father, and I've had no shortage of guilt for things left undone and unsaid.”

Oh, nanatehay, I am so dreadfully sorry to hear that. All we can do is let those loved ones who remain know how much we cherish them.

“That's why this part . . . seemed so beautiful to me.”

This is one of the most meaningful responses I could have hoped for—if this post does nothing but help alleviate the guilt of one suffering soul, I will be profoundly grateful.

“Am I weeping or is it a speck of dust in my eye? It must have just been some dust, yeah, that's all it is.”

You, too?! Swine speck of dust!

—Melissa
@Annette:

“‘This was a grace so profound, so perfect in its precision...’ What an elegant and moving phrase, and, from what you tell of your grandmother, how perfectly true.”

It wasn’t until I realized my grandma would actually be upset if she knew how guilty I was feeling that I was finally able to begin letting it go. I remember her once telling my mom she didn’t want her to weep when she was gone—then qualified with a little laugh and said, “Well, maybe a little.” She was not afraid of death. She was at peace with her life and was happy to stay as long as allowed, but she also said she was “ready to go at any time.” Knowing she felt that way gave me a deep sense of solace when the time did come for her, at last, to go.

“This was a beautiful essay; I enjoyed every part and loved the pictures as well.”

Thank you, Annette. I treasure this comment, as well as your kind words at The Yellow Starlings.

—Melissa
@Yarn Over:

“As everyone else has already said, this is beautiful.”

Thank you, Yarn Over, and I’m delighted to welcome you!

“And I'm so glad you've promised to share more of your grandmother with us! I'll be eagerly awaiting the next installment!”

I appreciate the encouragement, and I’ve already begun working on the next post :-)

—Melissa
@Mr. Mustard:

“A beautiful post. All my grandparents have passed; I hope my grandchildren honor me as you do your grandmother.”

Dear Mr. Mustard, your words always touch the heart (when they’re not busy tickling the mind!).

You have given your grandchildren a gift I could only dream of: a legacy of beautifully written pieces available for them to plumb electronically. One of my biggest laments is that my grandma never got an opportunity to go online. The hard drive of her vintage 286 would not have been capable of loading even one web page! I often think how amazing it would have been if we could’ve been communicating by email all those years. I am so much better at keeping up with email, there never would’ve been a lapse in communication to begin with. And there are so many questions I could’ve asked, and she could’ve answered. But I can’t complain. I have hours of wonderful footage of her sharing her stories, as well as a feature-length documentary of one afternoon we spent with her in summer 2004. I’ll probably get around to posting the preview here later, as well as other video clips when time allows.

—Melissa
@Hawley:

“You are Melissa's grandmother??? How wonderful to discover you on OS - a grandmother writing about her grandmother and, it seems, her granddaughter as well. Life does indeed go on.”

I’m so sorry for any confusion I may have caused, Hawley. I wish I could say this was written by my grandmother about her grandmother, but alas, it is me writing about mine. But you are right about one thing: “Life does indeed go on.”

Hugs,

Melissa
@Kathy:

“we always end up disappointing someone in life
I'm glad you realized that she wouldn't want you to feel too badly”


Thank you for this bit of poetic wisdom, Kathy. It’s lovely to see you here, and I appreciate your thoughtful comment.

—Melissa
I love this for many reasons and look forward to reading more.
Thanks for sharing.
I thought I liked the avatar picture. Then I saw the third one. What a wonderful impish expression!

Thank you for a tarabang start to the day. Hoping for many more!
An amazing idea - what a way to celebrate the life of such a spirited woman. I love the pieces of her that you shared. Just enough to understand the joy she held and shared. This makes me want to work harder to preserve the relationship my kids have with my mom. I love you both - and Grandma!
What a thoughtful way to celebrate your grandmother. A beautiful and heart wrenching/heart warming post. Guilt does seem to be chaser for the shot of grief after a loved one passes. I've had these same feelings before as well.

"The last thing she would want me to be feeling was guilt. This was a grace so profound, so perfect in its precision, I was finally able to shed the weight of regret I’d been shouldering for months and just simply, achingly, grieve."

I really like this :)

"I start the day laughing, eyes squinty, hair all weird, usually, no teeth, when I first smile at myself in the mirror"

I look forward to these conversations.

peece,
dj
Charming and touching. Welcome.
I loved this! I love your Grandma!
What an incredible read about Grandma Margaret. She surely was a lady with lots of spunk & a real zest for life. I love that she “… believed Stephen Fry is literally Jeeves incarnate." I have that same believe… and can only hope he comes and manages my life.

I look forward to more words of wisdom from your remarkable grandma…

- rated
ps: the next to last photo is priceless & tells a lot about her
@ladyfarmerjed:

“I love this for many reasons and look forward to reading more.”

I’m delighted to hear that!

“Thanks for sharing.”

And thank you, ladyfarmerjed, for taking the time to leave such a sweet comment.

—Melissa
@AtHomePilgrim:

“I thought I liked the avatar picture. Then I saw the third one. What a wonderful impish expression!”

:-) That’s a good word for her: “impish.” She certainly had a mischievous sense of humor and a tomboy playfulness.

“Thank you for a tarabang start to the day. Hoping for many more!”

I’m glad you brought this up, as I meant to clarify at some point the correct spelling of that term: “interrobang”—which is used for the punctuation mark that combines the question mark and exclamation point: ‘‽’ She got the term from a fictional piece I wrote for a series on typography a few years ago. I like my grandma’s “tarabang” so much, I may start using that instead!

—Melissa
@Melissa:

“An amazing idea - what a way to celebrate the life of such a spirited woman.”

Thank you, Melissa. I’ve been wanting to do it for a while and am so glad I finally did.

“I love the pieces of her that you shared. Just enough to understand the joy she held and shared.”

That’s such a beautiful and accurate way of putting it: “the joy she held and shared.” After she departed, the first thing everyone talked about was how funny and kind she was. She truly did have a joyful spirit, despite an arduous life that involved raising three children on her own in the fifties while working full-time, all for such a pittance they barely had enough money for food. But that’s another post, really.

“This makes me want to work harder to preserve the relationship my kids have with my mom.”

That’s wonderful news, and I so hope you do! I would love to read a future piece by you about your mother—perhaps even reflecting on the nature of this special relationship with your kids.

“I love you both - and Grandma!”

You are such a dear friend, Melissa. Michael and I love you, too, and I know my grandma does, as well.

—Melissa
Simply loved this. As a lucky 41-year-old girl with a living, vital, perky, robust, healthy-other-than-the-deafness-thing grandma of 92, I also keep meaning to get around to taping her.

It's time to make that happen.

Thank you for the kick in the ass.

This was gorgeous.
@David:

“What a thoughtful way to celebrate your grandmother.”

Lovely to see you here, David, and thank you for your moving comment.

“A beautiful and heart wrenching/heart warming post. Guilt does seem to be chaser for the shot of grief after a loved one passes. I've had these same feelings before as well.”

It’s been agonizing enough losing my grandma, but I can’t fathom the shock of losing your mother at such an early age. I do hope you’ve processed through the guilt and come to a place of peace with your grief.

“‘The last thing she would want me to be feeling was guilt. This was a grace so profound, so perfect in its precision, I was finally able to shed the weight of regret I’d been shouldering for months and just simply, achingly, grieve.’ I really like this :)”

It would mean so much to me if this grace could be contagious and you could begin to experience that gift, as well, David.

“I look forward to these conversations.”

Glad to hear it!

—Melissa
@Lea:

“Charming and touching. Welcome.”

Thank you, Lea! I appreciate the gracious welcome.

—Melissa


@Faith:

“I loved this! I love your Grandma!”

That’s very sweet of you, Faith. I can’t tell you how much all of this warmth and affirmation would’ve meant to her. Thanks for coming by.

—Melissa
@gmgaston:

“What an incredible read about Grandma Margaret. She surely was a lady with lots of spunk & a real zest for life.”

Thank you, gmgaston. You are absolutely right: she most definitely possessed “lots of spunk & a real zest for life.”

“I love that she ‘… believed Stephen Fry is literally Jeeves incarnate. I have that same believe…’”

I wish she had gotten a chance to believe that, but because we didn’t send the gift in time, she never did. Michael and I do indeed believe that, though, so we’re definitely in agreement with you!

“and can only hope he comes and manages my life.”

Hahaha! How wonderful that would be.

“I look forward to more words of wisdom from your remarkable grandma…”

I appreciate that, gmgaston.

“ps: the next to last photo is priceless & tells a lot about her”

These images are actually frames taken from the documentary footage I shot of her in 2004, so they capture a wonderful range of emotion. She was so delightfully unselfconscious, partly because I tricked her into thinking it was just a still camera at first :-)

—Melissa
@Verbal:

“Simply loved this. . . . This was gorgeous.”

Thanks, Verbal!

“As a lucky 41-year-old girl with a living, vital, perky, robust, healthy-other-than-the-deafness-thing grandma of 92, I also keep meaning to get around to taping her. It's time to make that happen. Thank you for the kick in the ass.”

That’s fabulous to hear! This is one of the unexpected blessings to come out of this post. I am so thrilled to hear this is inspiring people to reconnect with their loved ones and to document all of their wonderful stories before it is too late. I hope you will be sharing the fruits of these recordings at OS. Your grandma sounds like a delightful human being.

—Melissa
This is exactly what I needed to read today. Touching, comforting and inspiring. Thank you. I (sincerely) needed a good cry:)

In other news: Count me in as one very interested in your documentary. If you do not post about its release then I hope you consider pm-ing those of us who would love to see it.

Cheers!
@dharmabummer:

“This is exactly what I needed to read today. Touching, comforting and inspiring. Thank you. I (sincerely) needed a good cry:)”

I’m so grateful this could offer exactly what you needed today, dharmabummer. I’m glad you had a good, healing sort of cry :-)

“In other news: Count me in as one very interested in your documentary. If you do not post about its release then I hope you consider pm-ing those of us who would love to see it.”

As I mentioned in one of my comments above, the preview is available here if you want to check it out. The documentary was pretty much finished in early January. Three days after we burned a master DVD, our hard drive went kaput. It was one of the new Seagate drives with faulty firmware (a defect for which they quoted us $1,700 for data recovery!). We’d lost about two months’ worth of post-production work on the documentary, so that caused us to put the project on hold while we focused on new ones for several months. We’re faced with either having to do battle with Seagate (which I’m certainly prepared to do, but the idea of our data being inaccessible was so depressing, I needed to put it on the back-burner for a while) or recreating two months’ worth of work. Further complicating matters, our old computer died a couple of months ago, and we’re still making the transition over. Once all our software and files are back in place, we’ll be able to resume work on it. But in the meantime, we continue to attend to the myriad other projects weighing down on us.

Thanks for your interest, dharmabummer, and I will certainly post news of its development on this blog once there’s something to share.

—Melissa
Dear Melissa,
I just wanted to tell you that last night I had a dream about my grandmother for the first time since her passing. (and it's been a few years) She was much younger and very happy. I thank you for that because I think your article made me want to connect with her. So thanks for that- Create12
I'm here, I read, rated. I'm sick, sick, sick so I can't think of anything to say right now other than I know how you feel. I've done it so many times and resolved to never regret again, but then it creeps in, doesn't it.
oh god, what a gorgeous piece. thank you for this. i have no idea what a tarabang is but i will treasure that term forever. i'm so glad that you started this Grandma blog. i had awful grandmothers so i LOVE hearing about the good ones. what a spirit she had and has, from the beyond. and how phenomenally alike you two are and were! and, of course, i see that the workaholism has deep deep roots. are any of these videos online? i'd love to see the documentary. i'd love to see any of it. and you with your postcard exhibition and michael craeting the music for the doc. you two are magic. of course, being me, i misread "exhibition i was doing with the two women" and read instead, i was doing the two women. interesting, i thought. this has not previously been mentioned. :)

the lesson in all this and i love knowing that you've learned it, is to stay caught up. to not procrastinate when it comes to people because life is short and crazy and ya just nevah know. you had so much time and love between you, m., and that's the nut of it. but because of richard and my other losses, i try to stay caught up with eveyrone i love. to tell them i love them and to not put off anything. you two enjoy being up to the gills with work so that's your THANG. i get it. jsut remember about catching up with people, especially older ones. love love love and huge gratitude
By the way, your grandmom looks incredibly like my mother 20 years from now.
Love the title, love your grandma and I love the way she signed her letter to you: The End, Grandma. Very poignant, indeed, especially in retrospect.
I love the idea of honoring your grandmother this way. I had wonderful grandparents and great-grandparents and I miss them every day - especially my granddad.
Your grandmother's pictures are priceless. She looks like someone I would have enjoyed very much.
Can't wait for the next installment about our "community grandma."
Rated!
My mom's parents are still alive, although I have lost both grandparents on my dad's side. Before I moved out to Saudi I spent some of my savings to visit my grandparents, she's 89 and he is 93. I can't fathom the world without either of them. I don't know if I'd have the strength to make sure they live on though. You are doing something amazing. Continue it. Rated.
What wonderful pictures - so full of character. It is good to be reminded that it's the little things that make a difference. You also have me wanting to check out "Jeeves and Wooster" - never heard of it, but i love Hugh Laurie. And the whole wake up laughing thing - what great spirit!
What a beautiful post. My Aunt Kattie, my godmother, was more of a grandmother to me than my actual grandmothers, and she just died suddenly one day 18 years ago.

The most aching moment came when I turned the page of my calendar book the following week, where I'd written a note to myself to "call Kattie."

We never forget these wonderful, loving, loveable characters in our lives. I still really really really miss her.

The fact that you found your grandmother's unsent letter to you, after she said she'd write to you after she died, made me gasp and smile.

Thanks for sharing this story with us.
@create12:

“I just wanted to tell you that last night I had a dream about my grandmother for the first time since her passing. (and it's been a few years) She was much younger and very happy. I thank you for that because I think your article made me want to connect with her.”

What an extraordinary experience, and I’m both humbled and honored to think this piece in some way contributed to that wonderful connection for you. I remember longing to dream about my grandma for months after her departure, and when I finally did, it actually turned out to be very distressing because she was ignoring me (I’m sure my tremendous guilt at the time had much to do with that). It was so uncharacteristic of her, and I woke up feeling horrible. But then, not long after, I had another dream, and this time, we had a wonderful conversation and it was a deeply healing experience.

—Melissa
@ApacheSavage:

“I'm here, I read, rated. I'm sick, sick, sick so I can't think of anything to say right now other than I know how you feel. I've done it so many times and resolved to never regret again, but then it creeps in, doesn't it.”

I’m so sorry you’re not feeling well, Apache, and how kind of you to take the time to comment despite that! Thank you for your commiseration about regrets—“creeps in” is a very good term for it. So insidious.

“By the way, your grandmom looks incredibly like my mother 20 years from now.”

Wow, that must’ve been slightly eerie to see that familiarity in my grandma! I wonder if when she was younger, she looked anything like this picture taken of my grandma in 1945. Would be interesting to hear what your mom thinks if she looks at these images and has the same sense of recognition.

Take care,

Melissa
@Theodora:

“oh god, what a gorgeous piece. thank you for this.”

Thank you, Theodora!

“i have no idea what a tarabang is but i will treasure that term forever.”

As I mentioned above in my response to AtHomePilgrim, the correct spelling is actually “interrobang,” and it refers to a punctuation mark that combines the question mark and exclamation point: ‘‽’ My grandma made up her own version of the word, “tarabang,” which I actually have come to prefer :-)

“i'm so glad that you started this Grandma blog. i had awful grandmothers so i LOVE hearing about the good ones.”

I’m deeply saddened to hear about your grandmothers, and I do hope this glimpse of a good one offers you some healing for the hurts you suffered. I remember thinking while growing up that she wasn’t very grandmotherly at all—she didn’t wear horn-rimmed glasses or have bowls of candy or get all gushy over me. She was no-nonsense and was more likely to be found playing with power tools than a knitting needle. I really came to admire her unconventional, artistic independence as I grew older, and it also meant the compliments she did offer were always honest and heartfelt.

“what a spirit she had and has, from the beyond. and how phenomenally alike you two are and were!”

I’m touched by the comparison, Theodora. Thank you.

“and, of course, i see that the workaholism has deep deep roots. are any of these videos online? i'd love to see the documentary. i'd love to see any of it.”

I’ve referenced her birthday post several times because it includes a preview of Finding Their Way Home, but I think I’m going to have to post that afresh at this blog since I’ve been receiving so many requests. Perhaps in the next post.

“the lesson in all this and i love knowing that you've learned it, is to stay caught up. to not procrastinate when it comes to people because life is short and crazy and ya just nevah know.”

You are so right, Theodora, and I’m glad to know others have taken that lesson away from this, as well.

—Melissa
@Unbreakable:

“Love the title, love your grandma”

So glad to hear that, Unbreakable, and welcome!

“and I love the way she signed her letter to you: The End, Grandma. Very poignant, indeed, especially in retrospect.”

Yes, I thought of that as I was typing her handwritten letter for this post. I won’t say I was able to type her words without crying, but my grandma’s gift is she left far more laughter behind than tears.

“I love the idea of honoring your grandmother this way. I had wonderful grandparents and great-grandparents and I miss them every day - especially my granddad.”

Would love to hear more about them—perhaps in a future post?

“Your grandmother's pictures are priceless. She looks like someone I would have enjoyed very much.”

I’m looking forward to sharing videos of her, as well. So much character and creative spunk. I remember one time encouraging her to get a new computer so she could finally connect to the Internet (she was talking about it in the months before her departure but hadn’t yet gotten around to it). I told her about geriatric1927 and said she should start her own video blog. We were so sad she didn’t get a chance to do that, but we’re incredibly grateful for the hours of footage we do have of her, so we’ll share bits and pieces here as we’re able.

“Can't wait for the next installment about our ‘community grandma.’”

What a moving and inspiring thought! She would consider the role a profound honor, while being a little embarrassed by the attention :-)

—Melissa
@GJI Penguin:

“My mom's parents are still alive, although I have lost both grandparents on my dad's side. Before I moved out to Saudi I spent some of my savings to visit my grandparents, she's 89 and he is 93. I can't fathom the world without either of them.”

It sounds like you have wonderful grandparents, and they are indeed blessed to have such a loving grandson.

“I don't know if I'd have the strength to make sure they live on though. You are doing something amazing. Continue it. Rated.”

Thank you for the inspiring encouragement, GJI Penguin. When my grandma passed away nearly two years ago, Michael and I were in the midst of intense post-production work on a documentary featuring her as the central figure. So, oddly enough, we felt like we had been spending so much time with her, even though we hadn’t talked to her for a couple of months. As soon as she departed, we feared we would never be able to work on it again. Because of that, we actually dove back in sooner than we thought we could (a couple of weeks after, I think), because we feared if we didn’t, we would never be able to go back. It was painfully raw at first, but the more we worked on it, the more we felt like we were getting an unspeakably profound opportunity to spend time with her. She was making us laugh and think and feel all over again. The more time we “spent” with her, the less painful it was to watch her on video. Now that more time has passed, I find myself cherishing each new fragment of her writing and life that I discover, and I’m able to appreciate it without the cloud of immediate grief hanging over me. While you may not think you will have the strength to do it, you may also find it’s one of the most healing journeys you could undertake. Regardless, I would be honored to read more about them in the present tense if you decide to write about them at your blog.

—Melissa
@Teresa:

“What wonderful pictures - so full of character.”

Thank you, Teresa! You are right about her being full of character. So glad that came through.

“It is good to be reminded that it's the little things that make a difference.”

Indeed, you’re right. I’ve always been drawn to the subject of the ordinary, the little things that connect us to one another through their very everydayness.

“You also have me wanting to check out "Jeeves and Wooster" - never heard of it, but i love Hugh Laurie.”

Hugh Laurie is great in there, but Stephen Fry most definitely steals the show! (As is appropriate for the character of Jeeves :-) Hope you enjoy the series.

“And the whole wake up laughing thing - what great spirit!”

Yes, that paragraph just jumped out at me when I read it. It’s a poignant reflection on the state of the world, while also revealing the secret of her happiness: the ability to laugh at herself and find humor in the simplest moments.

—Melissa
@Mary Ann:

“What a beautiful post. My Aunt Kattie, my godmother, was more of a grandmother to me than my actual grandmothers, and she just died suddenly one day 18 years ago.”

Your Aunt Kattie sounds wonderful. That must have been a devastating shock to lose her so suddenly. I’m so sorry, Mary Ann.

“The most aching moment came when I turned the page of my calendar book the following week, where I'd written a note to myself to ‘call Kattie.’”

This is so heartbreakingly familiar! Aren’t those unfulfilled intentions the most painful of all? It reminds me of a story a friend of mine told me after hearing about my guilt over my grandma. After her mother died, she was at her mom’s house packing up some of her things, and a package came in the mail for her mother. It was the present she had sent the week before for her mother’s birthday! Gifts in arrears, which only intensified her guilty grief.

“We never forget these wonderful, loving, loveable characters in our lives. I still really really really miss her.”

I wholeheartedly agree and absolutely understand how you feel.

“The fact that you found your grandmother's unsent letter to you, after she said she'd write to you after she died, made me gasp and smile.”

I’m sorry if I caused any confusion with that. She (thankfully!) did manage to send the letter, which was dated six months before her death. I had forgotten what she had written in there, however, until I found it months later, so the words took on fresh significance in hindsight.

“Thanks for sharing this story with us.”

Thank you for reading and taking the time to leave such a beautiful comment, Mary Ann.

—Melissa
Reading this, is just like hearing my own thoughts. I was lucky enough to be with my mum when she died, but she never read anything I wrote, she was too far gone into childhood.
It's beautiful.

Maggie
@Maggie:

“Reading this, is just like hearing my own thoughts.”

I have a great deal of respect for the way you think and express those thoughts, so that means a lot to me.

“I was lucky enough to be with my mum when she died”

Wow, Maggie. What an extraordinary experience that must have been. And how comforting for her to know her loving daughter was by her side.

“but she never read anything I wrote”

I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to share your tender and eloquent writing with her.

“she was too far gone into childhood.”

So it sounds like she suffered from Alzheimer’s or dementia. I have dear friends who have lost their parents to Alzheimer’s or similar diseases, and it can be incredibly painful for the loved ones to witness. On the other hand, the individuals suffering it seem in some ways to experience a form of grace, returning to memories of childhood like you mention here. Charles Pierce’s Hard to Forget is one of the more moving memoirs of such a journey that I’ve read.

“It's beautiful.”

Thank you, Maggie. It’s lovely to see you here.

—Melissa
@Penrose:

“What a wonderful grandma you have. This is a splendid piece of writing -- tender, touching -- your love for her shines through.”

And what a wonderful and touching comment! Thank you, Penrose, and welcome.

—Melissa
The love between you and your Grandmother spills from the page like a torrent. What a painful, gracious joy it is when a heart breaks open and releases all the tender moments that have bound us together through the years. Thank you for sharing the sweet nectar of this beautiful, perfect connection.
Tarabang. Now that is a keeper. So glad to have discovered your blog. Rated for tarabang.
Very heart warming and your grandma sounds like a gem! This makes me miss my grandma and I wish she could still be here. No reason for you to feel guilt, she knew you loved her with all your heart!

The world is a good place when it starts out with a tarabang morning, with or without teeth. Thanks for this great tribute and I will be waiting for the next chapter about grandma.
That is one strong piece. That's all. The photos enhance it nicely.
:) very nice Melissa! I would have loved to have met your Grandma.
This was so great on so many levels. Thanks for it. I would have most certainly enjoyed your Grandma, I can tell.
@Brinna:

“The love between you and your Grandmother spills from the page like a torrent. What a painful, gracious joy it is when a heart breaks open and releases all the tender moments that have bound us together through the years. Thank you for sharing the sweet nectar of this beautiful, perfect connection.”

Your comment is utterly poetic, Brinna, and touches me deeply. Thank you for being here and for fighting bravely on behalf of the suffering.

—Melissa
@scupper:

“Tarabang. Now that is a keeper. So glad to have discovered your blog. Rated for tarabang.”

scupper, you are like the Tooth Fairy. You sneak into our blogs in the middle of the night and deposit little gifts for us to find in the morning. It’s always an honor and a delight to find a kind packet of words from you under our pillow.

—Melissa
@Just Pamela:

“Very heart warming and your grandma sounds like a gem! This makes me miss my grandma and I wish she could still be here.”

Thank you, Pamela, and I know exactly how you feel. Especially today, after reading Monte’s beautiful post, “Permission to Die.” The memory of those twilight hours is painfully fresh for me right now.

“No reason for you to feel guilt, she knew you loved her with all your heart!”

You’re making me cry, Pamela! The fact that this caresses my heart in such a tender spot makes me realize I haven’t quite let go of the guilt as I had hoped. Thank you for this gracious reminder.

“The world is a good place when it starts out with a tarabang morning, with or without teeth.”

:-)

“Thanks for this great tribute and I will be waiting for the next chapter about grandma.”

I appreciate the inspiration, Pamela, and can’t wait till I can find time to work on the next chapter!

—Melissa
@OEsheepdog:

“awesome”

Thanks, OEsheepdog! Happy to see you here.

—Melissa
@Beth:

“That is one strong piece. That's all.”

That means a lot coming from the woman who wrote this beautiful wallop of a post. Thank you for being here and for contributing a verse to the conversation.

“ The photos enhance it nicely.”

As I mentioned in a response to someone else’s comment, those are actually stills from the documentary I shot of her. This keeps coming up, so I’ll have to get around to posting the preview here, perhaps in the next post.

—Melissa
@Julie:

“:) very nice Melissa!”

Always heartwarming to see your smiling face, Julie. The OS community suffers when you are absent, but I am proud of you for focusing so diligently on your studies. I am even prouder and more amazed at your ability to resist the siren call of OS for extended periods of time!

“I would have loved to have met your Grandma.”

You’re exactly the sort of person she would have loved to meet. My hope is that, the more I share of her life and writing here, the more you will come to feel you have met her, or at least the parts of her I was blessed enough to encounter.

—Melissa
@Dr.Spudman 44:

“This was so great on so many levels. Thanks for it.”

Thank you, Dr.Spudman!

“I would have most certainly enjoyed your Grandma, I can tell.”

I hope you will get to enjoy her, at least the echoes and shadows of her presence as I attempt to capture them here.

—Melissa
now that we know, many of us would hold your granny in our memories, in our minds, through this piece, words are so powerful, and her spirit would roam the world proud and free - 'professional' to spontaneity - I wd remember this henceforth. hugs.
your granny knew how to use a computer? wow! mine wrote scripts and got together neighborhood children to host plays - that is how I learned most of our epics and myths.

she looks like such a pillar of strength in this photo, one you wd naturally turn to ask for advice...
@Rolling:

“now that we know, many of us would hold your granny in our memories, in our minds, through this piece, words are so powerful, and her spirit would roam the world proud and free - 'professional' to spontaneity - I wd remember this henceforth. hugs.”

Oh, Rolling, that is beautiful. Hugs back you, dear Nabina.

“your granny knew how to use a computer? wow! mine wrote scripts and got together neighborhood children to host plays - that is how I learned most of our epics and myths.”

Your grandma sounds amazing! Now I see where you get your spark of creativity and romantic soul. I would love to read more about her in a future post :-)

“she looks like such a pillar of strength in this photo, one you wd naturally turn to ask for advice...”

She was a pillar of strength, although she never thought of herself as such. She had a self-deprecating humor and often joked about her debilitating shyness as a child. She always compared herself unfavorably to her three brothers, all of whom she considered geniuses and who went on to become engineers. She adored them and as a tomboy preferred playing with them to her younger sister, whom she didn’t really come to appreciate until later in life. Her gifts were in language and art, and I encouraged her to recognize those gifts as of no less value than scientific intelligence. I got her to agree with me on that point, happily :-)

—Melissa
Oh lovely. What a wonderful gift you're sharing with us. My Grandma Poplin was the only grandparent who died while I lived out of state and couldn't get back. I always felt guilty for not seeing her/talking to her one more time but she sends me messages ALL THE TIME and it's always connected in someway to a grandma date (most often her birth date) or a grandma. My Grandma Whitley (the one who kept me the 1st 2 years of my life) was born on June 12. I'm rambling...missing my grandmas too. Thank you!
@Harvey:

“I liked this. A lot!”

Thank you, Harvey, and welcome to OS! Looking forward to reading your work.

—Melissa
@Robin:

“Oh lovely. What a wonderful gift you're sharing with us.”

Your presence here is a gift, Robin. Wonderful to see you.

“My Grandma Poplin was the only grandparent who died while I lived out of state and couldn't get back. I always felt guilty for not seeing her/talking to her one more time but she sends me messages ALL THE TIME and it's always connected in someway to a grandma date (most often her birth date) or a grandma. My Grandma Whitley (the one who kept me the 1st 2 years of my life) was born on June 12. I'm rambling...missing my grandmas too. Thank you!”

Not rambling—delightful! I would love to read more about Grandma Poplin and Grandma Whitley. They both sound like inspiring souls.

—Melissa
@Sao:

“Your Grandma sounds just wonderful. I'm so glad you shared this.”

And I’m so glad you commented! I only had to look at your bio to know you are a kindred spirit. As you will see clearly from my future writings (the next piece in particular, which I started working on last night), the ordinary is a topic profoundly dear to my heart.

“I also related to the perfectionist/procrastinator cycle so well and the guilt that goes along with it.”

It is a difficult bind, is it not? I think that’s one reason I’m drawn to OS. It encourages me to write more regularly (when I’m not distracted by reading/rating/commenting!), but not only that, to share a piece even though it may absolutely perfect. That’s the blessing of publishing in pixels. They can always be rearranged later if need be.

“This is a wonderful project you're embarking on. Looking forward to more.”

And I’m excited about exploring your writing, as well! Thanks again for stopping by and letting me know you were here.

—Melissa
Love Grandma...Thank you for the welcome to OS and thank you for writing so beautifully about real life. You are officially one of my favs...anticipating more...;)
@imposter:

“Love Grandma...Thank you for the welcome to OS and thank you for writing so beautifully about real life.”

Delighted to see you here, imposter!

“You are officially one of my favs...anticipating more...;)”

Thanks for your enthusiasm! I’ll try not to keep you in suspense too much longer :-)

—Melissa
How great it is to get a gift like this.
And how kind of you to share it with all of us.
Hi, Melissa, beautiful work of writing. A work of love.

It seems that guilt buttons are genetic in your family. I am loaded with them but think I am largely first generation in that department.

Sometimes writing something like this post of yours can allow you to later step back and see that the guilt is unfounded and really messes with your head and your memories.

I believe this post shows that you are starting to come to grips with that. We all think that others are the ones who feel the sting of our self guilt, and while that can be the case occasionally, it seldom is.

We pile all the guilt on ourselves. And, yet, your wonderful grandma was as concerned about her perceived sense of neglecting you as you were about your perceived sense of neglecting her.

I think you will sort all that out in time, and if you work at it, much sooner than later. What I would hold on to is that neither of you were guilty of anything, unless you call deep love something to feel guilty about. I don't.

She loved you dearly, and showed it countless times through the years, and that feeling was mutual and reciprocated.

We cannot measure relationships by one forgotten action or one postponed decision as if that were the highlight of years of rich, loving and beloved interactions between us. Life is not like that.

Life and the love it can produce is the product of days, weeks, months, years of events. It builds and grows and cannot be described in sound bites, or even long recorded or filmed interviews.

Love is the essence of your relationship to your beloved grand mother. Hold to that and do no be distracted by single events or alleged slights or postponed gestures. Hold the love. It is what held the two of you together. And, most importantly now, it is what holds the two of you together now.

Blessings, peace, and agape love,

Monte
@Tijo:

“How great it is to get a gift like this. And how kind of you to share it with all of us.”

Tijo, it’s lovely to see you here, and I’m grateful for your sweet words.

—Melissa
@Monte:

“Hi, Melissa, beautiful work of writing. A work of love.”

I have the highest respect for your beautiful writing, Monte, and your loving work, so these words are exceptionally meaningful coming from you.

“It seems that guilt buttons are genetic in your family. I am loaded with them but think I am largely first generation in that department.”

Oh, yes, and the guilt seems intimately related to the perfectionism/procrastination gene. My mother experiences it, too. Most of the people on the maternal side of my family are artistic, creative, eccentric sorts—whether that creativity takes the form of language and arts (like with my grandma, mom, and me) or science (like her brothers and my Uncle Bobby). But I think there’s also a slightly autistic strain in there, too, which leads to hypersensitivity as well as creativity. Somehow, all of those tendencies seem interrelated. The desire for perfection causes one to procrastinate, which then triggers a sense of guilt. And yet there’s also an underlying workaholism, which Michael and I both experience, where we’re working constantly on the project(s) at hand, so it’s not like we’re really procrastinating, but because you can’t do everything simultaneously, you feel guilty about all of the things you’re neglecting.

That’s one reason OS has been such dangerous territory for me! I am compelled to read, rate, and comment on so many wonderful pieces, which then distracts me from my creative work, but when I switch into that mode, I feel guilty about all of the posts I’m getting behind on and all of the friends we’re failing to respond to as quickly as we’d like. It’s that tension between my internal and external callings—and finding balance between those two has been the primary challenge of OS. If I ignore my creative work too long, my soul withers, but I also cherish the profound connections we’ve made with kindreds like yourself.

“Sometimes writing something like this post of yours can allow you to later step back and see that the guilt is unfounded and really messes with your head and your memories.”

Yes, definitely. During the first year of grieving, I wrote a series of poems about my grandma that I’ll gradually share in this context, as well. Interestingly, I had been spontaneously inspired to start a poem about my grandma three weeks before her passing, which became incorporated into this series. I found that writing poetry was one of the most healing experiences for me. That was also the case when my ex-almost–step-father, Tom, died thirteen years ago. The extraordinary grace in his situation was that after a year and a half of procrastinating, I finally got around to writing Tom a letter, which he received just days before his death. That was a breathtaking gift. But I was still haunted by grief and wasn’t able to come to a sense of peace until I wrote a poem about him and what I had witnessed of his life and his departure.

“I believe this post shows that you are starting to come to grips with that. We all think that others are the ones who feel the sting of our self guilt, and while that can be the case occasionally, it seldom is.”

You are so wise, Monte, and thank you for this reminder.

“We pile all the guilt on ourselves. And, yet, your wonderful grandma was as concerned about her perceived sense of neglecting you as you were about your perceived sense of neglecting her.”

Yes, and it was that recognition of myself in her words that freed me to view it more objectively, knowing how I responded to that guilt in her. I never wanted her to feel guilty and felt badly that she had! And I realized she must feel the same way about me. Guilt is such a self-perpetuating cycle! Only grace can shatter that cycle of bondage.

“I think you will sort all that out in time, and if you work at it, much sooner than later.”

I feel that I already have, to a certain extent, and that I can only continue to do so as I write about her in this blog and share her writings, which have so many lessons for me, as well.

“What I would hold on to is that neither of you were guilty of anything, unless you call deep love something to feel guilty about. I don't. She loved you dearly, and showed it countless times through the years, and that feeling was mutual and reciprocated.”

Monte, you’re making me cry! Thank you, my brother.

“We cannot measure relationships by one forgotten action or one postponed decision as if that were the highlight of years of rich, loving and beloved interactions between us. Life is not like that. Life and the love it can produce is the product of days, weeks, months, years of events. It builds and grows and cannot be described in sound bites, or even long recorded or filmed interviews.”

You are so profoundly right, and beautifully so.

“Love is the essence of your relationship to your beloved grand mother. Hold to that and do no be distracted by single events or alleged slights or postponed gestures. Hold the love. It is what held the two of you together. And, most importantly now, it is what holds the two of you together now.”

I’m crying again, Monte! But the tears are a joyous balm and draw me yet closer to my grandma.

Thank you for the gift of your loving words, Monte, and for your dear friendship,

Melissa
I´ve read this post for the second time, with weepy eyes by now. It´s the combination of phrases, feelings and image: those pictures have captured your Grandma´s soul.
You have got me thinking about the irrefutable definiteness of death, and the utter relativity of that definiteness. Your grandma is smiling to us, she is sharing with us right now; and she´s gone although she´s not gone -and this post proves it. If this is not magic, I don´t know what it is...
It´s been a pleasure to read about grandma; thanks for the beautiful writing.
Kisses,
Marcela
@Marcela:

Wonderful to see you here, Marcela!

“I´ve read this post for the second time”

Wow. I’m honored!

“with weepy eyes by now. It´s the combination of phrases, feelings and image: those pictures have captured your Grandma´s soul.”

Thank you, Marcela. It moves me to hear how moved you were by this piece. To know that I conveyed at least an inkling of my grandma’s essence means so much to me. There are so many more dimensions to her life and her spirit that I hope to capture in the coming chapters.

“You have got me thinking about the irrefutable definiteness of death, and the utter relativity of that definiteness. Your grandma is smiling to us, she is sharing with us right now; and she´s gone although she´s not gone -and this post proves it. If this is not magic, I don´t know what it is...”

You’re bringing tears to my eyes! I guess it’s only fair :-) But what an enchanting meditation on the nature of death, and life, and afterlife . . .

“It´s been a pleasure to read about grandma; thanks for the beautiful writing.”

And thank you for the beautiful comment, Marcela.

Besos,

Melissa
Of all the people I have lost, I miss my grandmother the most.
Truly lovely piece about your grandma. She was right, it is great to have humor in the world. I think we need more of it.
Unfortunately when we lose someone we love, we think about all the things that went undone and unsaid. Don't feel guilty, hold on to the memories and the things you have of hers, like the letter. It is really cool that they are getting her writings off the computer. I bet they are nice to read.
Hugs
Oh I forgot to say I loved the photos of her, they are so adorable.
@littlewillie:

“Of all the people I have lost, I miss my grandmother the most.”

Oh, littlewillie, that short, dear statement speaks worlds—about the magnitude of your loss, about the preciousness of your relationship with your grandmother, about the tenderness of your soul. Thank you for being here and sharing a window into your heart.

—Melissa
@fireeyes24:

“Truly lovely piece about your grandma.”

Thank you, fireeyes.

“She was right, it is great to have humor in the world. I think we need more of it.”

Amen! Humor is one of the best antidotes to despair, cynicism, and just all-around misery.

“Unfortunately when we lose someone we love, we think about all the things that went undone and unsaid. Don't feel guilty, hold on to the memories and the things you have of hers, like the letter.”

You are so right, fireeyes. Every new reminder to release the guilt and focus on the blessings is a gift, as it compels me to re-examine my heart once again, chipping away at any remnants of that insidiously stubborn regret.

“It is really cool that they are getting her writings off the computer. I bet they are nice to read.”

Yes! It truly is a form of grace, as I continue learning more about my grandma with each new piece. It’s rather nervewracking knowing there are still so many unsent documents when the data is locked away on antiquated hardware and floppies, but I am grateful for each new batch Bobby sends. Some of them make me cry, but almost all of them make me laugh at one point or another. She truly is one of the funniest people I’ve known.

“Oh I forgot to say I loved the photos of her, they are so adorable.”

:-) Just wait until you see her in the videos!

—Melissa
Wow! What a fantastic tribute for an incredibly special lady. I would love to have known your grandma, Melissa - I can imagine how terribly you must miss her wit and energy, and I share your regret that she never got to see Stephen Fry as Jeeves. I am also a perfectionistic procrastinator, and this post is a great reminder not to wait for the perfect moment to let our loved ones know how much we cherish them. Enjoyed this thoroughly, and look forward to hearing more from Grandma.
As a grandma myself who was lucky enough to have known all my grandmas AND great-grandmas, I thank you for this lovely post. Your grandma was so cool & funny & real & as I grow older it is so good to see someone tackling aging with joy & laughter! This is a great idea for a post! Especially wonderful is that last gift from your grandmother -- that letter proclaiming her own guilt over not getting a thank-you note written sooner, wanting it to be "funny."
@dustbowldiva:

“Wow! What a fantastic tribute for an incredibly special lady.”

Lovely to see you, dustbowldiva, and thank you for the kind words. I am so glad to see others are already seeing how special my grandma is when I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface!

“I would love to have known your grandma, Melissa”

And she would loved to have known you. As I’ve told others here, my hope is that you will eventually feel that you do know her, the more time you spend with her through this blog.

“I can imagine how terribly you must miss her wit and energy, and I share your regret that she never got to see Stephen Fry as Jeeves.”

So true, dustbowldiva, and thank you for your touching empathy.

“I am also a perfectionistic procrastinator, and this post is a great reminder not to wait for the perfect moment to let our loved ones know how much we cherish them.”

That is one of the best things that has come out of this project for me—if readers come away encouraged to connect with those they love before it’s too late, I feel this will have served an important role in others’ lives.

“Enjoyed this thoroughly, and look forward to hearing more from Grandma.”

So happy you enjoyed it, and you will be hearing more very soon :-)

—Melissa
@suzie:

“As a grandma myself who was lucky enough to have known all my grandmas AND great-grandmas”

Wow, what an extraordinary gift! My Grandma Alice died of lung cancer when I was only a few years old, so I only recall meeting her once. It’s one of my earliest memories and all I can remember is being at her bedside in the hospital. I’ve heard wonderful things about her and was always saddened that I never got to know her better. I lost my maternal grandfather about a decade ago, but we had some warning about his condition in advance, so that helped prepare us for the departure. My Grandpa Jack is a dear human being whom I need to call! (Know that I love you, Grandpa Jack, if you get a chance to read this :-)

“I thank you for this lovely post. Your grandma was so cool & funny & real & as I grow older it is so good to see someone tackling aging with joy & laughter!”

It’s so wonderful to know how good a sense you got of my grandma! She would be proud to serve as an inspiration to others as they enter their later years, which she often told me were among her happiest. I remember her saying on her eightieth birthday that she felt better than she had in years!

“This is a great idea for a post! Especially wonderful is that last gift from your grandmother -- that letter proclaiming her own guilt over not getting a thank-you note written sooner, wanting it to be ‘funny.’”

Thanks, Suzie! Yes, I’m so grateful I discovered that letter as soon as I did. The rest of her letters are hidden away in boxes and files that I need to begin combing, but I had made a copy of that particular letter to share at a conference presentation I was giving called “No Room of One’s Own: Perfectionism, Procrastination, and Other Obstacles to the Creative Process.” I didn’t end up having time to share the letter, but I found it in the conference folder when I was cleaning out my office about a year later. I couldn’t have hoped for a more perfect gift.

—Melissa
@Traveller:

Oh my! I just noticed I had missed posting this response to your comment, which I wrote back on August 7 but apparently forgot to paste into the browser. Sorry for the accidental omission!

“Very nice.”

Thanks, Traveller!

“We hope to get to know her even better.......”

You will indeed, even as I continue getting to know her better with each new exploration of her writings and life.

—Melissa
It is such a (mixed) blessing to have the letters and private writings of your loved one after they die. My son left a blog that we didn't know about and scribbled notes in his room. I learned things about him I wish I had known before he died, and things that I'm not sure that I wanted to know!

He didn't write about guilt, but he was only 16. The moms and grandmothers and those left behind are the ones that feel guilty for so much that we have no control over. Here's one of my favorite quotes about grief:

"Nothing can make up for the absence of someone, whom we love, and it would be wrong to try to find a substitute; we must simply hold out and see it through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time it is a great consolation, for the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bonds between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; God doesn't fill it, but on the contrary, keeps it empty and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain"--Dietrich Bonhoeffer
@Ann Nunnally:

“It is such a (mixed) blessing to have the letters and private writings of your loved one after they die. My son left a blog that we didn't know about and scribbled notes in his room. I learned things about him I wish I had known before he died, and things that I'm not sure that I wanted to know!”

Wow, Ann. That sounds extraordinary. I hope you will someday be able to turn those writings into something you’re willing to share with others. He sounds like he was a very creative person to have been writing at such a young age. I’m profoundly sorry for your loss and grateful you shared a window into your son’s life here.

“He didn't write about guilt, but he was only 16. The moms and grandmothers and those left behind are the ones that feel guilty for so much that we have no control over.”

So painfully true, and I do pray you can come to sincerely relinquish that guilt and accept the truth you have spoken here: that you do indeed have no control over tragedy. It’s difficult enough losing my grandmother—I can’t fathom what you must be experiencing with the shock of losing your son at such a dear age.

“Here's one of my favorite quotes about grief: ‘Nothing can make up for the absence of someone, whom we love, and it would be wrong to try to find a substitute; we must simply hold out and see it through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time it is a great consolation, for the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bonds between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; God doesn't fill it, but on the contrary, keeps it empty and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain.’”

I love Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and yet I had never read that beautiful quote. Thank you so much for sharing those wise words and your insights into grief.

—Melissa
Melissa,

this post brings up so many memories for me. Five years ago my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and it was his second cancer diagnosis. For some reason I had the impression that having beaten it once, he was like a superhero who couldn't be toppled. I couldn't imagine him not beating it...or at least not taking a long time to die. He was diagnosed in April or May and he died in August. It happened so quickly I too had so many regrets, because although I'd seen him a couple of times during the summer, I'd also been really busy ("busy") and I had it in my mind that in September I was going to hang out with him for long stretches while he got better, and just in case that was all the time we would have together. That it happened so fast came as a great shock to me, although I'm glad he didn't go through more pain (he died at home instead of in a hospital...which is what he would have chosen). But I think of that summer and how much denial I was in, and I realize how much I still miss him and always will. This is very cool project and I'm going to keep reading the series. You aren't alone in feeling regret about what could have been, but I love your moment of grace. I love the humor of both you and your grandmother. Thank-you for sharing it with us.
@doloresflores:

I’m delighted to see you here, Dolores! Welcome, and thanks for your lovely comment. What a thrilling surprise to find a comment on an earlier post, tucked away waiting patiently to be discovered.

“this post brings up so many memories for me. Five years ago my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and it was his second cancer diagnosis. For some reason I had the impression that having beaten it once, he was like a superhero who couldn't be toppled. I couldn't imagine him not beating it...or at least not taking a long time to die. He was diagnosed in April or May and he died in August. It happened so quickly I too had so many regrets, because although I'd seen him a couple of times during the summer, I'd also been really busy ("busy") and I had it in my mind that in September I was going to hang out with him for long stretches while he got better, and just in case that was all the time we would have together. That it happened so fast came as a great shock to me, although I'm glad he didn't go through more pain (he died at home instead of in a hospital...which is what he would have chosen). But I think of that summer and how much denial I was in, and I realize how much I still miss him and always will.”

This is an amazingly poignant story, Dolores, and I hope you will flesh it into a full-fledged post someday. I would love to read more about your grandfather. Please do me a favor and wash away those regrets. Your grandfather would not want you saddled with him. Focus on celebrating the joyful memories of the times you did share together.

Your note about dying at home instead of at the hospital reminded me of one of my favorite poems by Wendell Berry, which I’ll paste below.

“This is very cool project and I'm going to keep reading the series. You aren't alone in feeling regret about what could have been, but I love your moment of grace. I love the humor of both you and your grandmother. Thank-you for sharing it with us.”

And thank you for your enthusiastic participation!

—Melissa


“Three Elegiac Poems”
by Wendell Berry

I
Let him escape hospital and doctor,
the manners and odors of strange places,
the dispassionate skills of experts.

Let him go free of tubes and needles,
public corridors, the surgical white
of life dwindled to poor pain.

Foreseeing the possibility of life without
possibility of joy, let him give it up.

Let him die in one of the old rooms
of his living, no stranger near him.

Let him go in peace out of the bodies
of his life—
flesh and marriage and household.

From the wide vision of his own windows
let him go out of sight; and the final

time and light of his life’s place be
last seen before his eyes’ slow
opening in the earth.

Let him go like one familiar with the way
into the wooded and tracked and
furrowed hill, his body.

II
I stand at the cistern in front of the old barn
in the darkness, in the dead of winter,
the night strangely warm, the wind blowing,
rattling an unlatched door.
I draw the cold water up out of the ground, and drink.

At the house the light is still waiting.
An old man I’ve loved all my life is dying
in his bed there. He is going
slowly down from himself.
In final obedience to his life, he follows
his body out of our knowing.
Only his hands, quiet on the sheet, keep
a painful resemblance to what they no longer are.


III
He goes free of the earth.
The sun of his last day sets
clear in the sweetness of his liberty.

The earth recovers from his dying,
the hallow of his life remaining
in all his death leaves.

Radiances know him. Grown lighter
than breath, he is set free
in our remembering. Grown brighter

than vision, he goes dark
into the life of the hill
that holds his peace.

He’s hidden among all that is,
and cannot be lost.