Saturday was sunny and we were outside playing, away from my phone. When I finally checked it I saw I had a missed call and a voicemail from my mom. Listening to her voice, I knew something was wrong, so I called right back and sure enough- “Grandma passed away.”
Sometimes it feels like there is pressure in these situations to have the right thing to say immediately. As someone who processes emotion through writing, moments like this make me question my abilities because sometimes words don’t come. But sometimes I just need to take a minute and let the feelings wash over me without worrying if I have the right words to convey them, so that’s what I’ve been doing. Just letting myself feel.
My Grandma Betty was a firecracker. Her loving and feisty nature undoubtedly aided her longevity, along with vodka and chocolate as she often told us. She had a special ability to make me feel like I was the most important person in the world, but I know she had that same effect on more people than just me. Still, when we would visit, a genuine smile would light up her face. Her blue eyes would twinkle when we asked how she was doing and she’d always smile and tell us she was great.
Was she always feeling great? Surely not, but she always was happy when family was nearby.
Her lesson to me here was not to grin and fake it, but that no matter the circumstances, to let the people you love know you love them. And she did this so well.
I could tell you funny stories about how I caught her cheating while teaching me gin rummy as a child, only to not realize she was doing so in my favor. I could recall her generosity that was evident from the time I was little, as she always took us shopping for clothes on every visit and we never had a birthday or holiday pass without receiving a card with a bill tucked inside of it. I could describe the happy memories we have of snowy Christmases in Green Bay and the epic family vacations to the Rockies she treated us to.
There are countless memories I could share but as I type them out, my eyes are filling with tears. They come from sadness, of course, but also from gratitude.
I’m grateful to have had so many years to spend with my Grandma Betty. I’m glad I got to listen to her tell stories about my Grandpa Jake and what life was like when she was a young mom. I’m glad I got to still know her well once I became a mom myself, because I could understand on a deeper level the sparkle of pride in her eyes that I would see when she talked about my dad and my Aunt Pat.
She was a spirited woman who never met a stranger and she loved her people well. I will miss her so much, but know she had a strong faith, lived 99 incredible years, and was ready, as she often joked with me about how surely God must have forgotten her along the way. But he did not, and neither will I.
I love you, Grandma Betty, and will do my best to carry on your spunk, as will your great granddaughter and namesake, Kaitlyn Elizabeth, who already shows plenty of your fiery grit.
I’ll always cheer for the Packers (Go, Pack, Go!) and have a giant Swiss cheese at my Christmas table. Thank you for all the wonderful memories. Until we meet again…