My Grandma died today.
We found out she had developed cancer at the end of February at which time it was thought she had 6 months to a year. But then, only a month later, she took a drastic turn for the worse and for the last 3 weeks or so has been living in a hospice in Regina surrounded by family who wanted nothing more than for her suffering to stop.
Today, it finally did. And I am so, SO sad. And so, SO relieved.
Grandma… is amazing. She just turned 90 in November and we threw a big party for her in Regina. I’m so happy she had that party and all those people surrounding her with love before she went downhill. One of the greatest experiences of that weekend was sitting in her living room watching her and my Dad play music together. She was so happy, always so happy, to play the piano. Especially when she had someone to play with or teach. She had perfect piano fingers and I’ve been told that when I was born she was happy to see that it looked like I had them too. Unfortunately, I never had the patience to learn when she tried to teach me but I always LOVED her piano.
I got to spend some really great quality time with her last summer when I went to Saskatchewan for jen’s wedding. It was so nice to hang out with her, just the two of us, for the first time a long time. We sat at her kitchen table and talked about… everything. We went to visit my Grandpa’s grave in Weyburn. We looked through her current journal which documented everything she deemed important to her and her family from 1979 to the week before (including a note about my visit to her that weekend).
When Grandma found out Josh and I were moving to Vancouver she was SO EXCITED. She and Grandpa had lived here during WWII when Grandpa took a job building planes. They rented part of a house in Kitsilano and when Grandpa had to go to California for his job she stayed at the house and continued going to work, taking the streetcar, to the Bank of Montreal on Hastings and Main everyday. Even then it wasn’t a great area (she often had to step over drunk sailors on her way into the building in the morning and the women had to go for lunch in groups for safety) but she really enjoyed her job. And she loved Vancouver. We had many conversations about this town and how she spent her time, what she remembered, what’s changed. After the war they moved back to Saskatchewan, but she always hoped she would be able to come back here.
Growing up I got to spend a lot of time with Grandma and Grandpa since they lived in Lethbridge, just two hours from us in Calgary. More Christmases were spent there than not, along with countless weekends, and other holiday visits. My room was always the TV room connected to the back deck on the pull out couch next to the bookshelf full of family photo albums. She was meticulous with her albums. Whenever we arrived she could always be counted on to meet us at the door with a big smile and a hug and question about how hungry we were (“Do you want a ham bun? Everything’s in the fridge!”). The house was cozy and homey and perfectly suited to them.
When Grandpa died 5 years ago, Grandma decided it was time to move back to Saskatchewan which was the absolute right decision. It’s where most of her family and friends live, including my uncle and three cousins and their families, all of which are just minutes away from her condo. Even though she didn’t have Grandpa anymore she had love in her life every single day. It didn’t really surprise any of us when she decided she wanted to buy a condo instead of moving into a partial assisted living situation. This woman… independence defined. And such a perfect grandmother. When you picture what a Grandma should look like… she was it. Small and cute and smiling with her perfectly curled hair and always put together in nice sweaters and slacks, puttering around her kitchen (“You want a ham bun?”). Always honest (sometimes too honest when you’re a teenager with bad skin and a little extra weight), never afraid to tell you what she thought (she didn’t always think highly of my choice of boyfriends but I got a whispered “You did good!” accompanied with a fervent arm squeeze when she met Josh the first time) and never really caring what anyone thought of her.
To know my Grandma was to love her. Impossible not to. I had her in my life for almost 30 years and I’m going to miss her unbelievably. But at the same time I’m so happy that she isn’t suffering anymore and she can hang out with Grandpa again. It was time.
Bye Grandma. I love you.