My grandmother used more aphorisms than anyone I knew. They weren’t famous sayings and they might not have been her words to begin with, but they became hers. As annoying as it was to walk into the kitchen, bleary-eyed, after a night of twenty-something binge-drinking, and have her say, “You can’t soar with the eagles if you hoot with the owls,” it was the truth. And more importantly, those pithy sayings are so much of what I have that keeps her alive in my heart.
Gram (Honey to nearly everyone else) had exactly the right qualities to make her the quintessential matriarch of our family. She joked. She professed faith. She embodied patience. She shared kindness. She practiced compassion. She was opinionated. She was wise. She was always around. She counseled. She listened. She partied. She ate well. She cooked better. She taught. She learned. She golfed. She loved. And she loved. And she loved. And she loved.
My grandmother had an ineffable quality about her. Then, on Saturday night after her funeral, while sitting with my aunt who was consoling my sister, my aunt named it. “She was ageless.”
As my Uncle Tony wrote, she was stronger than we could believe, and unbeatable. It never occurred to me, even as I saw her aging with each visit home, that she would some day die. I knew it in my head, but I didn’t understand it in my gut.
Well, as our good friend Frank said a couple times over the weekend while we were grieving together, “We are born to die.” I don’t include these words from the 91-year-old who still drives himself around to be grim or morose, but more as an epiphany. Before my grandmother’s death, I didn’t understand quite what that meant.
It now means to me, what will I do to leave my legacy? My grandmother left five children, nine grandchildren, and nineteen great-grandchildren. She left us with the happiest of memories. She left us all with an unquenchable taste for vodka. And most importantly she left us with the knowledge and wisdom of what it means to lead by example, be content, live by faith, and die with grace.