Today I lost my maternal grandmother. And although it was not a total surprise (she was 87 and had been having small strokes for about six months), it still shocks and hurts and brings tears.
As I think most families are, my extended family is a little bit dysfunctional – you know, this branch of the family tree isn’t speaking to this one, and so on. Which left me to wonder if my grandmother’s brother had been called. So I called him.
It’s not every day that you have to tell someone their sibling died, let alone your 85 year old great uncle. How do you lead up to that news when the person on the phone is so excited to hear your voice? Of all the terrible phone calls today, from my cousin calling to tell me the news, to calling second cousins to tell them the news, this is the one I couldn’t keep the tears back. (The tears are returning as I write this).
Today’s events caused me to reflect on the permanent loss in my life.
- At 3, my paternal grandfather succumbed to cancer. I was oblivious.
- At 14, my great aunt dies. I thought I was supposed to be sad.
- At 16, my friend dies in a car accident. I was shocked.
- At 22, my dad dies suddenly from a massive heart attack. I am devastated – my heart feels like it rips into a million pieces.
- At 24, my maternal grandmother dies at the ripe age of 96 (she still had all her marbles). I am numb.
- At 35, my cousin loses her mom to cancer. I am filled with sadness for her loss.
- At 36, my uncle lost his 12 year battle with two different types of cancer. I have mixed feelings – part relief he was no longer in pain, part sadness that he was gone, and a mountain of sadness for my cousins.
- Less than 3 months later, my maternal grandmother dies. I am worried I am going to lose my grandfather too. But I am also filled with memories.
There are many different types of loss: loss of friendship, loss of love, but none is as final as death, at least in the physical sense. In other types of loss, there is a way back – none are truly final. The person still exists on this planet. One may mourn the loss of the friendship or love, but in my mind at least, slim hope exists that they may reappear in my life (or I feel relief they are gone). And over time, I always come to realize that they will not but somehow having the option lets in acceptance and resignation. Death does not allow that hope. But in the face of loss, I can remember my treasured people. Live for a moment in the beautiful memories.
And so, here is my tribute to my grandmother’s, Joan Moore, memory.
Born in Vancouver in the 1920’s, my grandmother grew up in a suburb where her playmates were the likes of Arthur Erickson. Her father was a doctor. She has brothers. Her family has waterfront property at Deer Lake in Burnaby BC. Eventually they make Deer Lake their permanent home. She meets William “Dinty” Moore on her walk home from the closest tram stop – he whistles at her from a construction site. They finally meet – he lives across the lake at what is now the Hart House Restaurant. He courts her, paddling across the lake in his canoe to see her. It is a fairy tale love story. He builds a house on the lake for her. They have four daughters, some flying squirrels, numerous dogs, cats and other animals their girls rescue. She drinks sherry before lunch and gin and tonics before dinner. Wine with dinner, of course.
She taught me how to: make pie crust, feed ducks and geese from my hand, pick up ducklings, use a slingshot, make huckleberry pie.
She always swam in the lake with a swimming cap – it was covered in flowers.
She wore an apron in the kitchen. She smoked cigarettes on the back porch with a book in her hand. She read constantly. She listened to opera and CBC. She had white hair as long as I can remember.
Breakfast was at 7, lunch at noon, dinner at 5:30.
She gave me my first glass of wine (white) at 14. She made blackberry liqueur. She loved chocolate covered ginger from Purdy’s. She always made dessert. She made the best gingersnaps – crispy but still chewy.
She put salt on everything, even oatmeal!
She collected miniature tea cups. She liked things the way she liked them.
She had adventures. She paddled the Bowron Lakes with her family many times. She and her family spent countless summers at Campbell River (we still go there). She knew many many people.
She is loved. She is missed.