My father's grandmother, Gram, was my first best friend. She was also our next door neighbor from the time I was two until my family moved when I was in the second grade. She made me feel like I was the most important person in the world... she called me her "Biggy Biggy Sweetheart", taught me how to tie my shoes, read to me until I am sure her eyes crossed, fed me massive amounts of her "special chocolate sauce" (and never once scolded me when the sugar high set in)...basically spoiled me rotten.
When my family outgrew our house and needed to move, my parents begged Gram to move with us...but she was stubborn and independent, and insisted on leaving the south and moving back to her hometown of Philadelphia where she would "not be a bother". Gram died when I was nineteen, and I only saw her a handful of times after she moved, but I received many letters in her beautiful (if almost unreadable) script, checking on her Biggy Biggy Sweetheart...still making me feel like the most important person in the world.
It wasn't until I was older and she was gone that I learned more about her life. I learned that she gave birth to triplets (one of them being my grandfather) before there was any such thing as fertility drugs. I learned she lost her husband early and tragically. I learned she had a stroke and had to re-learn almost everything before I was even born. And I learned that she lost her first child, a son, when he was very young.
I've thought of my Gram often since Rip died. I think about the life she led, how much strength and determination she had and how much I admired her...when I was little and loved her only for the love she gave me...when I got older and learned who she was...and now, when I am learning who I am. I understand now just how incredible she was to have made it through all of those obstacles and still be the amazing, graceful woman that she was, someone who lived every day she was given to the fullest even when she had every reason not to.
I do not doubt that she was at peace when her time came, I imagine that she felt, as I imagine that I will feel, that her work on earth was done...it was time for her to go see her little boy again.
I have little doubt that she is with him and she is with Rip now, taking care of him just like she did me, making him her Biggy Biggy Sweetheart and spoiling him rotten. All of them encouraging me to live this life as gracefully as a I can until the day I come to join them.