Last week, my wife's grandmother passed away peacefully. She was 90 years old and had been in poor health leading up, so her passing was not a surprise. She will be greatly missed by many. She was married to her husband for many years (he passed in 2004), and together they raised eight children, which I can't even imagine. I was proud to have gotten to know her for the years that I've been with my wife. She's going to be very, very missed.
After hearing the news, it hit me that with her passing, my wife and I are now without any living grandparents. That's something that really stops and gives you pause. Even though I lost my last remaining grandparent several years ago, there was always her grandma to talk about, think about, and know was there as part of that generation.
I thought I'd take a moment to briefly give tribute to all ten of our grandparents, and write a couple of sentences about each. We have ten, because I have an extra set of grandparents via my step-mom.
I'll write them in the order that they left this world.
- My grandpa, mother's side (1913-1986) – I was surprised when I looked up the date as I'd always had it in my head that I was a little bit younger, but I guess I was 11 or 12. Wow. His death was completely unexpected, as he had a massive heart attack (on a day I was supposed to see him). My memories are faint, but I remember he was a happy man, loving, and always quick with a story. He had a very easy way to bring a smile to the face of those around him.
- My grandma, step-mom's side (1919 – 1992) – Even though I was ten when my dad and step-mom married, my grandma made sure that I was part of the family and treated no differently than any other grandchild. She always loved having the family over for ‘supper' on Sunday. She was very caring, kind, and she believed family was important above most else. She unexpectedly had a heart attack and passed away a couple of days later.
- My grandpa, dad's side (1909 – 1993) – My grandpa was a man of few words, but he left a lasting impression. I miss all of my grandparents, but if I had the opportunity to pick one to have one last conversation with, it'd be him. He was known for his amazing hugs, and I try to give hugs like he does. He died unexpectedly after complications from a stomach ailment.
- My grandma, mother's side (1915-1998) – My grandma was a very strong willed and opinionated woman. It caused some divide in the family before I was able to catch on, but in spite of her opinions, she always protected me from them and only showed me love. She loved to cook and loved to show her love by cooking. She was fiercely independent, and even when her health started to fail, she insisted on taking care of herself and cooking for herself. She passed away after continuing heart complications.
- My grandpa, step-mom's side (1912-2002) – Most of my memories of him are from when my grandma was still alive as he suffered from some memory issues and the like for the last years of his life. He was a farmer, and had a very strong work principle. Like my grandma, he was always there for his family and though he had a more gruff nature, he was very caring and wanted to see success and happiness to those he cared most about. He passed away after failing health.
- My wife's grandpa, mother's side (1915-2002) – He passed away before I met my wife, but from the stories I heard, he absolutely loved his daughter, his granddaughters, and his wife, and got a sparkle in his eye whenever he saw any of them, no matter at what age. He took his family (his wife and my mother-in-law) from Germany during the war, leaving his country and everything they had behind, to start a new life in America. I believe his passing was rather unexpected after a brief illness.
- My wife's grandpa, dad's side (1921-2004) – He passed away shortly after my wife and I first started dating. I never met him during his healthy years, but I know that his wife and his kids were ‘lost' after he passed. With eight kids, it'd be easy for family to drift apart, but he was the glue that bonded that family together, and I know his passing, after failing health, was a blow to the family.
- My wife's grandma, mom's side (1915-2005) – I was able to know both of my wife's grandmother's, and I have very fond memories of her. She always brought a smile to my face in the various times I was able to spend with her, and she loved to hear about what was going on in people's lives around her, to share in their happiness. My wife and mother-in-law said that she was lost without her husband, so I think her passing after a brief illness was simply her will to be re-united with the man she loved.
- My grandma, dad's side (1914-2009) – It's amazing to me that my grandma lived for sixteen years following the death of my grandpa. Though she rarely spoke of her grief, you could always see that she missed him dearly. I was so happy to have had her at our wedding (and dance with her) as well as to see the joy that she got for the one great-grandchild that she able to know. She slowed down a little year after year, but until the end her mind was as sharp as ever. She was diagnosed with cancer and passed away several weeks later.
- My wife's grandma, dad's side (1923-2013) – I've been blessed to know her for the years that I've been with my wife. She had a sharp sense of humor that always made her seem less than her age. She always loved seeing the family together and even in her late 80's, got joy out of playing with her young great-grandchildren. She passed away peacefully.
- Honorary mention – My great-aunt, dad's side (1918-2001) – My great-aunt never had kids, but she adopted some of us as her grandkids, and so when she passed, it was like losing a grandmother. She was fiercely protective of family, and anytime there was a riff, she would do whatever it took to mend it, believing that family should stick together always. She passed on after a battle with lung cancer.
The central theme between all of the 11 individuals above is love. They all shared love and the importance of family was key across the board.
While it's sad to mourn the final passing of that ‘generation' of our family, the legacy that each of them has given us lives on. We have memories. We have ideals. We have beliefs. And, most importantly, we have love.
And I can't forget, too, that now there is a new generation of grandparents. My kids now have our parents, and they will have years to form memories and learn the kind of love that only a grandparent is capable of giving. Some of the happiest moments I have in the short time I've been a father have centered around the bond that our kids have formed with each of their grandparents. It's amazing and I'm in awe of it. And someday, God willing, I can look forward to that relationship.
So, now it has happened that all of our grandparent's have left this world and moved to the next. But, they all still live with us, in our hearts. That brings me comfort.