Wednesday, February 08, 2006


My mom's mom died yesterday morning. She was known as "Memaw" to just about everybody, except her kids, who, being from the North, called her "Ma". She'd had emphysema for several years, and was slowly becoming senile. She went to the ER with very low blood oxygen levels on Tuesday morning, then slipped into a coma and never woke up. My mom flew up there (Marine City, Michigan) Tuesday night and was able to see her before she died.

My Memaw lived in Marine City in a little community called Cherry Beach, right on the St. Clair River. From Memaw's house you can look down the street and see the river and, across it, Canada. We used to go up there for a couple of weeks every summer (that's Halle in the picture), and the beach and the river are very closely connected with Memaw in my mind.

I remember the gin club that included Memaw, my mom, and her Aunt Jane (Memaw's sister), who lives two blocks over from Memaw. They didn't play gin, though--they drank gin, and played Scrabble. I remember games of Liverpool Rum with the family gathered around the table in Memaw's back room. I remember the poodle skirt she sewed for me when I was in the third grade--I adored it. I remember once when I was really young my Grandmother (who died about a year and a half ago) and Memaw were together at my house and Memaw said something along the lines of "Oh, shit!" Grandmother, having been born and bred in the Bible Belt, was horrified and said sternly "Shirley!" (Grandmother was among those who did NOT call her Memaw.) Memaw replied, "Well, it's a lot better than some other things I could have said."

I remember my senior year of high school when Memaw came to stay with us for the winter (lots of Michiganders go south for the winter). She noticed that I made a peanut butter and honey sandwich every morning for breakfast. One morning I walked into the kitchen and she had already made my sandwich. She made it every day after that, till she went home. That same year Memaw made a lovely waist-length cream-colored cloak to go with the red dress I wore to my first formal dance.

I remember walking with her in Florida, crossing the street from the Falcon Lodge to the beach, and I was just as tall as she was. I remember in later years, as I grew and she "shrank", that I became a very little bit taller than her. I remember road trips in her van, from her house to Toronto; to Niagara Falls; to London, Ontario; to Virginia. I remember breakfasts in her kitchen, dinners in her dining room. I remember one Christmas at her house we found a whole bunch of old glass balls and cleaned them up to put on the tree. It was a good Christmas, even if, for the first time in 40 years, it didn't snow anywhere in the Lower Peninsula.

I remember her nightgowns and I remember her reading in bed. I remember the jar of Oreos in her kitchen and her morning ritual of peanut butter toast. I remember she used to order black coffee at every restaurant we ever visited, no matter what time of day it was. I remember birthday cards that always came with a check, and I remember when they stopped coming because she started to forget. I remember her standard outfit of a nice t-shirt and a denim skirt. I remember every inch of her house, and her neighborhood, and the beach. I remember one specific denim shirt I would pull out of the downstairs closet for those cool Michigan summer evenings. I remember watching fireworks from the dock on the 4th of July and I remember puzzles on the table in her back room. I remember taking the ferry over to Sarnia (Canada) and I remember driving to Port Huron to go to the mall. I remember driving over the Port Huron Bridge, with the river on one side and Lake Huron on the other, opening up into this massive body of blue, blue water, stretching out forever, looking for all the world like the ocean. I remember the soft, lush, deep green Michigan grass, and I remember how darn cold the river always is.

It's hard to believe she's really gone. We've been losing her for a couple of years, but now she's really gone. It makes me sad, and it hurts, but there is peace, too. Memaw died in her sleep, which is an answered prayer. Her death could have been long and painful, but it wasn't, and I'm very grateful. It had been a few years since I'd last seen her, but I was able to go to Michigan this past summer and got to spend some time with her, and I'm so glad. She was in a pretty good mental state while I was there, always knew who I was, and got a big kick out of Noah. She called him the best-behaved baby she'd ever seen, and that's quite a compliment! Memaw knew the Lord, and knows Him now better than ever. She's no longer in pain, she's whole and happy, and I know I will see her again. But until then, I remember.


Brooke said...

That's so beautiful. Thanks for taking the time to share. It means alot to me, having recently experienced the loss of grandparents, myself.

Angela said...

That vacation I took with you guys is still one of my best memories. I remember thinking that I hope I'm as sprite and full of life when I'm her age, and that was over 10 years ago. She was so much fun to be around. It was nice to remember some of those things you wrote about.
And I love the picture of Halle. Its amazing to think about how cyclical life can be. Just thinking about us 15-year-olds playing in the river, knowing you probably did that when you were your daughter's age...it's beautiful.

Anonymous said...

My Grandparents always kept a jar of Oreo cookies and Pecan Sandies in the Kitchen. The Oreos were my Grandfathers and the Sandiens were my Grandmothers. Now that my Grandfather has passed, my Grandmother still keeps the jar full, but only of Oreos. I wonder why that is? All my life, I remember visiting my Grandparents and going straight for the Oreos, and every time having my Grandfather say jokingly that he wouldn't have any cookies because we would eat them all, and my Grandmother telling me to eat as many as I wanted. I am glad that you share the peace with her passing that she has with Jesus.

hoesayfina said...

thanks for sharing your memories, because they are beautiful.
thanks also for reminding us of Eternal Life in Jesus, for it is beautiful.
Blessed to know that Memaw is face to face with Jesus. -m