Tribute to My Grandmother

This is a heartfelt tribute to the woman I call NaNa. It’s the story of our enduring love and my healing after loss. I hope our story inspires you to reminisce about your loved ones and share a few tears and giggles along the way. (Image Above: She’s the adorable little thing in the middle row, second from the right.)

February 3rd is the day I lost the closest thing to a mother I’ve ever known. I miss her today as much as I did the moment she left this world. There are times I’d give anything to talk with her, cry to her and share space with her.

During her final days with us, she maintained her unwavering selflessness. We said our goodbyes, I told her she’ll always be a part of me, I’ll miss her like crazy, and she could go when she was ready.

And so she stayed a while longer.

Julie's Grandmother - 1925

Our last days together were full of heart-hugging mini miracles. My sixteen-month-old baby would receive a big “Hello, Darlin!” from his NaNa. When he arrived for a visit and her welcome was absent, he leaned in at different angles so she could see him better. When her reaction was void, he took his little hand and stroked her arm, as if he knew she needed his touch.

After another unresponsive day, I combed her hair and told her she looked beautiful. Imagine my surprise when she arose and asked for her lipstick. She always made me laugh at the most inappropriate times.

Then, there was that rainy night. I slipped into my car, bone-weary with emotion, bellowing a desperate, barbaric shrill. I begged for a sign her suffering would soon end and her transition to peace would come.

When I composed myself enough to drive home, I cranked the ignition and froze. I had been listening to talk radio when I arrived that day. But it was Elton John’s Circle of Life piping from the speakers as I left.

NaNa 1926

The next day, her kidneys shut down and her breathing became laborious. But that generous heart kept beating. Her breathing would calm when I spoke, so I never shut up.

I was beside her bed that Friday night and still talking. Sharing stories with her gave me the connection I needed. Repeating the stories over and over was assurance I’d never forget them.

It reminded me of the many times she flew in for a visit and we stayed up all night gossiping like good Christian girls.

We shared everything. We even bought two identical gifts for birthdays and holidays. We’d see each other wearing the gift we’d given and want it back. Hence our motto: Indian givers buy two.

She loved baking cupcakes with green coconut icing. She adorned them with jelly beans for my Easter-ish birthday.

NaNa 1928

She bathed me in a minnow-ridden horse trough when, as a toddler, I fell face first into a cow patty. 

We awoke on Christmas to a smoke-filled house. We scorched the turkey and giggled all the way to Honey Baked Ham. 

During the millennium, she insisted that I drive from Los Angeles to Oklahoma to celebrate. She, her girlfriends and I sipped bottomless margaritas until the wee hours. They mixed them with their favorite ingredient, ‘triple sex’.

I cried and giggled as my stories droned on. I thanked her for keeping me alive during my darkest times. And I asked her to commit yet one more selfless act. I asked her to accept comfort and peace and to let go, for me.

As I held her hand and kissed her forehead, she removed her ever-so-stylish foot from the door and crossed to the other side. 

Besides having my children, it was the most precious experience of my life.

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

—Thomas Campbell

I can count on one hand the people who impressed and altered my life like her. How fortunate I was to have someone love me more and more each day no matter my faults. Someone who formed my moral compass, shaping the woman I am today.

I never knew life without her infectious laughter, comforting wisdom, and gentle touch. I’m grateful my boys will always know her joy, insight, and embrace because she instilled them in me.

I love and miss you every day, NaNa. I rest easy knowing you’ll have everything and everyone accessorized by the time we get there. And please don’t forget, Darlin’, buy two.

Give your loved ones a huge hug today. Share stories. Make memories. Love. ‘Cause when it’s all said and done, it’s truly all we’ve got. 

Grief, I’ve learned, is love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All the unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is love with no place to go.

—Jamie Anderson

Sidenote: I grew up in a Native American town in Oklahoma. I hold the Native American culture close to my heart. The use of ‘Indian giver’ within this article is not meant to be derogatory or hurtful toward anyone. —Especially Native Americans. Early Native Americans believed gifts were a trade with an equal return. Colonists thought this was uncouth and impolite. The native practice got a bad reputation. It was then that ‘Indian Giver’ became a playground insult. —Twisted misconceptions. *sigh*

As always, thank you for being here and sharing the articles you appreciate most. If you have questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, email, or reach out via Instagram. My mind and inbox are always open.


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