past their prime by you.

I said goodbye to my grandmother this week.  She is still here, but not for long.  She had a massive stroke, and they have removed her IVs.  So it is only a matter of time.  I visited her, and stroked her face and hair as she lay there sleeping.  And I whispered in her ear that I loved her and goodbye.   On the long ride home I kept thinking about the point of life…..what is the point if we are just reduced to our basic functions at the end, and then we are gone, and then everyone who knew us is gone, and then the cycle of generations moves on.  I became frustrated because I wanted to reach out and touch the woman she was; the young girl, the young woman, the bride, the new mom, the farm wife, the grandmother, but all my thoughts of her are intertwined with me.  Intertwined with what I know of her, not what she thought or felt.

My mind is yelling “Where is it?”  “Where is the vessel that contains the HER of her?”  Where is the vessel that I can immerse myself in, and understand her mind and heart as she traveled through her life.  A vessel like the big claw-foot bathtub that as a child I inched my way into.  Into the steaming hot water that she drew up for me.  Inching my way in while my head was wreathed in the smell of Dove soap.  Soaking and playing in the tub while hearing the clatter of her in the kitchen frying the hamburgers that my grandfather requested almost every night.   Then drying off and getting dressed.  Screwing off the lid of her Raining Violets gelee, and dabbing a bit behind my ears and in the crease of my elbow.  Grabbing the comb and padding out to the living room where she would gently ease the knots out of my freshly shampooed hair and lightly draw the comb through my hair bringing goosebumps of delight to my neck. 

And again I’m brought back to my piece of her that is tatooed with the raised heiroglyphics of my memories.   When I’m gathered with my family at her funeral I’m going to look for the other fragments.  I’m going to immerse myself in photos, and I’m going to listen intently to the conversations around me.  Then I’m going to gather up those pieces as well and form my own vessel.  It will be cracked, and there will be pieces missing, but I will carry it with me, and I think it will be a worthy container for my beloved grandmother.   And we will each become the vessels of her life.

24 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh, my. I am so sad to hear that you are going through this grieving. When a dear friend grieves, you can feel the grief deep down inside too.

    This is not an original thought, but you were looking for the vessel that your Grandmother will inhabit. You are one of them. You are already the repository of so many wonderful memories of her. What she was, lives in you…and your’s.

    I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers, Jackie.


  2. simplyblogged says:

    So sorry to hear this. Have you thought of writing her history? You could do it in the form of a blog and get family members involved and the bind it in a book. We have my husbands grandparents history in a book and my son read it in the second grade, both books. If you are like me you want your children to know these great people and learn from them. I am so grateful for those books.

  3. Larrisa says:

    Oh sweetie, I understand. My Grandma passed away two years ago she was my touch stone in so many ways. It’s always the little things that remind me of her and all that she meant\means to me. The point of it all – I don’t know except she still resides within my heart and memories and in all that she taught me.

  4. melinda says:

    …wistful yet happy tears are descending down my face. Such beautiful words…
    Jackie I’m sorry.
    But I rejoice for you that these are your beautiful memories of a woman who so obviously instilled a part of herself in you.
    It is a mystery, how we only ever are able to understand varied “parts” of anyone, even the ones who mean the most. But perhaps also one of the miracles, that a single person can be some many things, similar and varied, to so many people?
    I guess we can only hope for a similar legacy?
    …and still sitting here, blown away by your gift of expressing thes compicated emotions. wow.

  5. Bev says:

    There is a wonderful song by Garth Brooks called “The Vessel”. I will sail my vessel until the river runs dry…your wonderful thoughts of your grandmother remind me of that.
    Find comfort in your memories and the grace.

  6. Patricia says:

    Jackie, I’m feeling such a mixed bag of emotions at the moment. Your words have stunned me. To have such clarity about what your grandmother means TO YOU is far more than most of can say, and to have expressed this meaning with such eloquence is beyond most of us. I fell to pieces when my grandmother died two years ago, and I am still searching for that meaning and clarity that you already have. My grandmother has inspired so much of my writing, and I think the main reason is that I have come to realize how much like her I am. Jan’s words are so true, that you are in part her vessel, and all of the events and feelings of her life do have meaning and will live through you and the rest of your family in some form.

    You and your family are in my thoughts.

  7. simpledaisy says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss…I lost my Grandpa 5 years ago and there is never a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and miss him~
    You and your family are in my thoughts.
    Take care~

  8. Ayama says:

    I am feeling for you and understand your feelings. My gran went in a similar way. One day she was her vibrant self and the next the body that housed that dear woman shut itself down. So glad like you I could whisper I love you and good bye (which I couldn’t for my other grandparents). She lives on in my memories, inherited traits and habits I have continued.

    You and yours are in my thoughts. Take care

  9. MichelleB says:

    I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. Your post was so eloquent and really made me think.

  10. Diane says:

    What a beautiful post.

  11. Leslie says:

    Jackie, you have such wonderful memories of your grandmother, and there is so much joy in those. I’m sorry for what you’re going through right now, and I hope the celebration of her life when family is gathered together will give you many more lovely memories to tuck away.

  12. Ellen says:

    I’m very sorry to hear about this. I remember seeing my own grandmother in that state before she died – I was glad to have known her as much as I did. I wish however, I had gotten to know her more and more. Life is so fragile, really. We are here for a short time and for a particular purpose. Cherish the memories and pass those onto your children. Write down those quirks, those family gatherings, the funny words, the quotes, the habits of her so you don’t forget. (My grandmother ALWAYS used Dove soap too and (we use it now) every time I smell it I think of her. Scent is a very powerful memory booster!)

  13. beautiful post, and a wonderful tribute to your grandmother. it was really hard for me to read, as it reminded me of my grandfather, who has been gone for over a year and a half. his death is still hard to think about. but i had the honor of being with him when he died, and it was the most amazing yet devastating thing.

    thinking of you.

  14. Kim says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother…I’ll be thinking of you and your family…hope all the prayers and thoughts from everyone helps a bit in easing your pain. Your post is so beautiful and deep…thank you for sharing your memories with us.

  15. threesneakybugs says:

    Oh sweetheart! I’m so sorry. I can tell that you were close with her and have wonderful memories already gathered. This was wonderfuly written. I’m so happy that you got to have so many years to know her and have those good memories to hang on to. I’m happy too that you got a chance to say goodbye. I’m sending you the biggest hug ever right now.

  16. Martha says:

    Dear Jackie, my heart goes out to you!
    You have lots of love and memories to hold on to. I could relate to the comment about gathering pieces of information and adding them to your memory/heart.
    This is a beautiful tribute to your grandmother and your love for her.

  17. apple cyder says:

    What a beautiful post. I love how you have shared some of your memories of your grandmother. And since I am spending so much time right now with my kids and my mom, it is making me wonder what kind of memories the kids are currently making about their grandma. It is also getting me to think about the memories I have of mine–they were two remarkable and very different women.

    I am sorry for your loss. Love (and baby kisses) from our family to yours.


  18. wow jackie…. what a gorgeous tribute to your grandmom….

    I’m so sorry for this valley in your life, and please know I will be bringing you and your family before the One who can help us heal ….. xoxo

  19. amyrks says:

    So sorry about your grandmother

  20. such lovely, lovely words….filled with such love and meaning. the pictures you painted were so real….it’s amazing how smell can take us back….the dove soap, the hamburgers frying.
    i can’t smell my grandmother’s perfume without it taking me right back to her….
    you and your family are in my prayers.
    take care

  21. batspit says:

    this is wonderful writing, awesome on top of awesome and i want to see this in a mag one day- you’re beautiful writing is a vessel all its own.

  22. Kara says:

    Jackie – I’m so sorry to hear of your loss and my heart goes out to you and your family. Her beautiful spirit will live on through your stories and memories. I recently attended a Life Celebration Party (in place of a funeral) for a good friend’s mother. They told stories of how she started seeing loved ones that went before her, right before she passed. I also just read 90 Minutes in Heaven, which is a true story. It changed my perspective on death. I hope you find comfort in knowing that she will be in a better place. Love ya!

  23. I’m sorry. I imagine that it helps to have had the chance to say goodbye, but the only time that I did have that chance, it felt too early to say it, which I regret now. Cherish your memories.

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