A Full Life, And A Long Goodbye

Yesterday, I lost my grandmother. 

While my heart is heavy, and the tears flowed until I felt numb I have to believe that she is finally reunited with my grandfather who passed away nearly 11 years ago. In stark contrast to his sudden passing, Grandma held on to life until the very last moments. Forever strong-willed and determined to do things her way, she passed away on her own timetable with my mother by her side.

Born October 25, 1922, Grandma would have been 91 years old next week. She had a good long life. She often told me that she never dreamed she would be alive long enough to meet her grandchildren, and she was thrilled to get to know both of my girls.

grandma 2

Grandma was an only child, and she often remarked how she wished she had siblings. She loved to watch my girls play together, and it was a blessing to have her be part of their lives. She came to every birthday party, and we saw her weekly at family dinner night. She really knew my family. I still remember her father even though he passed when I was in Kindergarten, so I hope my daughter will also always remember her great-grandma.

Like many young couples of their generation, my grandparents were married soon after my grandfather returned from the war. They had two children — my mother and my aunt. They both loved the water and sailing. When I was young I stayed with them for two summers learning to sail. An experience I cherish.

More than anything else my grandparents loved to travel. Although she had not traveled since my grandfather’s passing, her home is filled with nick-knacks and photos — visual memories collected from around the world. Someday I hope my husband and I can travel the way my grandparents did.


Grandmothers are awesome, and mine was especially so.

My grandma’s signature dish was chicken paprikash. She used to make it with handmade spaetzles, and I regret never making it with her. I have her recipe (somewhere), but as much as I loved it as a girl — I wish I made it with her, just once. I do remember that she always told me not to do my hair until the spaetzles were done, otherwise it would surely fall. 

Grandma loved to play cards, especially Gin Rummy, and she taught me to play sitting around the kitchen table during those summers I stayed with my grandparents. I haven’t played rummy in decades, but she also taught me how to play Solitaire. And thanks to computers that is a skill I haven’t lost. 

A talented artist, my grandmother once created a bust of my grandfather — something I still marvel at. Her artistic skills were passed along to my aunt who became an architect, but I am afraid my own drawings are mere stick figures.  Although I attribute my love for crafts to the only artistic skills she passed along to me.

grandma us

A graduate of William and Mary, Grandma spoke fondly of her time in school and her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta. Following in her path, my mother, aunt, sister and I all pledged KAT at the University of Florida. A generational connection that was as important to her as it is to me. 

Like most children, to me Grandma was larger than life. She was always there with a hug, a smile and a sweet (she loved chocolate!). So seeing her frail frame lying in a hospital bed was heart breaking. Getting old just plain sucks. 

This was Grandma a just a few months ago at the 4th of July – 90 years old and still just a big kid. This is how I choose to remember her, not the shadow I said goodbye to this week.


This day has been coming for a long time now, but that doesn’t make the heartache any less.

Grandma, we miss you fiercely.

Say hi to grandpa for us, we miss him too.

19 thoughts on “A Full Life, And A Long Goodbye”

  1. What a great story of your grandmother. I knew your grandmother as a shrewd person who knew exactly what she wanted and when :). I share your sympathy of a great lady and wonderful person.

  2. I am very sorry for your loss.But i also want to thank you for sharing that wonderful story it brought back such great memories of my own grandparents

  3. Jen,
    I am so sorry for your loss… Having grandparents is such a blessing and the way that they love grandchildren is hard to put into words. Sending you a big hug and praying for you and your family as you grieve.

  4. Jen, so sorry for the loss of your grandmother, what an amazing tribute to her you gave shared. You should be so proud of the time you shared with her. Be assured you will make spaetzle with your grandmother, she will be with you every step of the way.

  5. Wow! What a great story Jen! I am so sorry for your loss, but what a blessing to have had your grandma in your life for so long. What an even bigger blessing that she got to know your girls. I’ll keep you and your family in my prayers during this difficult time.

  6. Oh Jen, I’m so sorry for your loss! I lost my maternal grandmother three years ago. It’s so hard to say goodbye to someone who played such an important part of your life! Sending you big hugs! xoxo

  7. Your love for your grandma shines throughout this beautiful tribute to her. I know it’s never easy to loose someone who was such a big part of your life. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  8. Jen….what beautiful memories you will always carry with you. I too, have such incredibly fond memories of my Grandma’s, both of whom, helped shape who I am today. I can see your’s certainly did the same. In love~

  9. Jenny, your grandmother was an extraordinary woman. She didn’t have an understanding of words like “I can’t” or impossible.” She pounded on the glass ceiling way before many others. She accomplished anything she set out to do and she tought her daughters to do the same. Those daughters tought their daughters and now, you are doing the same as well! “Dottie” was a force to be reckoned with, yet she possessed one of the biggest hearts ever known to me. I will always remember the family picnics, sailing, skiing and Christmas brunch after church every year when I was young. Your grandparents were close friends with my parents and they were “Aunt” and “Uncle” to me and my brother; we were family.

    God bless you and the rest of the family during this sad time. I love you all. xoxo

  10. So sorry for your loss Jen. She sounds like a special woman who left her mark on her family to carry on. Thinking of you. In time your memories will bring you peace and not tears. {hugs}


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