Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My Ma

Ma, my grandmother, has died. As many of you readers already know. As many of you have not known. She died, passed on, arrived, Sunday evening. After a very long, and very painful, decline. I am not good at grief. I don't know if anyone is. My reaction, my public reaction, is to make light of my sorrow, of my loss, because expressing what I actually feel is too hard. Expressing even a little of what I feel brings tears, and so I put on a cold face, and uncaring attitude, I go on. It is too big, this gaping hole, to be expressed in words. So we gloss over. We say the correct thing. We nod and feel sympathetic. But loss is there, and it is private, and it is hugely personal, and it never truly goes away, even if we find a way to make that hole a part of our life, and to feel it less painfully. Even if it can be filled in with memories, and with love. And the worry and concern for those left behind, those who must feel the loss even more acutely can never be quenched.

It is hard to express who she was, who she was to me, who she was to others.
She was my grandmother
She could hear a cryptic crossword clue, go out to the kitchen to fix a pot of tea, and come back with the answer.
She could sit, for hours, and just enjoy being.
She knew all the names of all the wild flowers that could be found near the cottage.
She always knew just where one might find a secret growth of wild blueberries or raspberries.
She lent me her copy of Pride and Prejudice when I was thirteen, and her classics of American Theatre when I was fourteen. Or was it when I was twelve, and when I was thirteen.
She taught me and my cousin to waltz in the cottage living room.
And to play honeymoon bridge on back porch.
She introduced us to Fred and Ginger.
She could make the perfect summertime roast.
And the best rhubarb jam - recipe, add more sugar.
She taught us to love adventure.
And to love travel.
She was our calming influence.

She was an inspiration. A prairie girl, who in the 1930s, went to University. She moved to Toronto, by herself, to find a career. And, in the war took a posting in Bermuda. There, she was introduced to my grandfather, who happened to be a fellow Canadian, and a Naval Captain. There, they fell in love. And there, they were married just weeks before V.E. Day. And there, they spent many a lovely vacation in their retirement.

She could calm anger and excitement with a word and a raised eyebrow.
She could restore calm with a gentle phrase.
She could manage us all.

Never the centre of attention, but always there. Always listening. Always a presence.

Elegant. Dignified.

Interested. Peaceful.

When she was older, and participated less in activities, she could still beat anyone at bridge. And did.

A great reader.
A musician.
A lover of culture.
A wiz at crosswords and quizzes.

A person who spent her life giving, and caring, and taking care of people. Who spent her last years being cared for, beautifully, and wonderfully, by her husband of almost 62 years. The love of that care is something to be marveled at.

On Saturday, when I saw her for the last time. Frail, and fading at the hospital. Hardly able to stay awake. And we were leaving. I squeezed her hand, and wished her a good nap. And she opened her eyes, and she smiled. And that is how I will remember that last moment. And for that I will always be grateful.


Deranged Squirrel said...

That is a beautiful tribute, it made me teary. It sounds like she was an amazing woman.

Maggie said...

Oh, Jenn, I'm so sorry for the loss of your grandmother. My grandma passed away about 5 years ago, and she was such a big part of my life that it was very hard to deal with.

I think you might like what's on my journal today. It'll make you smile and see the circle of life. *hugs*

ru said...

i like to think that your ma is now doing a crossword on her feet while my granddad chases her around trying to kick her in the bum and m's grampy shakes his head and turns up the tv a little bit more to drown them out. we love you.

False Prophet said...

I also find myself at a loss for words. I remember watching my grandfather waste away over the course of just a few months from illness, and not really knowing how to handle it. I still don't know. But I'm touched by your words. My deepest condolences.

kidletsmum said...

I am so sorry. You wrote a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. She sounds like an amazing woman.
Long distance hugs from me to you.

librariana said...

I'm so sorry to hear about the death of your grandmother! My grandparents died about 16 years ago but you always remember those last moments with them. She will always be a big part of your life! You will always remember her and feel fuzzies when you do something that reminds you of her. (I always feel my grandmother over my shoulder when I am cooking or baking.)

MadJenny said...

Thank you to all of you for your very kind words and thoughts. The funeral was yesterday. It was lovely and very personal, my uncle (her son-in-law) was the minister and my father and his siblings all took part in speaking or reading. Dramatically, it also started to rain just as we arrived at the cemetary, and began to pour just as the prayers were ending. By the time we were back at the cars it had basically stopped raining. I think she would have appreciated the drama and atmospheric elegance of that. You couldn't have had more perfect timing if it had been a film set.

Thank you again for all your support.