Tag Archives: grief

Remembering My Grandmother

4 Nov
Autumn Falls

Autumn Falls

“Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.” – Rossiter Worthington Raymond

A little over a week ago, on October 25th, my grandmother lost her battle with cancer.  Generally, I’m a fairly private person, but she was an incredible woman and deserves to have a few words said about her.  So here you go.

I can’t remember the exact date that my grandmother was diagnosed with lymphoma…some time before July 2012, from what I can find…but I remember thinking it seemed impossible.  My grandmother was a vibrant woman, full of life and love.  I couldn’t imagine her being incapacitated by anything so devastating as cancer.

My whole life, I had known my grandparents to be adventurous and energetic people.  They had 5 children (my mother included), all of whom were spread out across the country and they spent a lot of their time traveling (driving in an RV, the ultimate on-going road trip) from state to state visiting family.  When they weren’t checking in on their children and grandchildren, they were keeping a busy social schedule, traveling between states to square dance (one of their favorite activites…yes somehow I inherited zero dancing skills.  I can’t even Zumba. haha).  It seemed as though my grandparents had been pretty much everywhere, both within the US and internationally.

Besides having endless amounts of energy (it seemed to young-Shannon, at least), my grandparents were the most caring, loving couple you would ever meet.  They were together 65 years, and without a doubt, it was a happy 65 years.  As most people do at the conclusion of a long illness, my cousins and I traded stories about our grandparents as a way to honor my grandma’s memory.  I remember visiting in September, and my grandfather had left a love note for my grandmother on the white board in their apartment: “I love you a bushel and a peck”.  One of my cousins from Texas brought up an instance about 6-7 years ago when she remembered watching Grandpa pinch Grandma’s butt.  Another cousin, from California, talked about how Grandpa never stopped trying to impress Grandma after all those years, and how Grandma always showed her appreciation for his efforts with a smile, and a sigh (read my cousin’s perfect tribute here, if you’re interested).  They were a shining example of how relationships should be….they were 100% open about their love for each other, always sharing kisses and smiles, and supported each other, good times and bad, throughout the years.  As Grandpa said this past January, when he talked about dancing with the woman he loved, “We need each other.  We hold each other up.”

My grandmother’s love extended well beyond her relationship with Grandpa.  She was such a genuinely thoughtful and caring person.  Even in the age of email (and believe me, she was computer savvy.  I always joked I had to watch what I put up on Facebook, because both of my Grandparents were in my friends list!), my grandmother would be sure to send cards and letters, and photos…man, she loved her photos!…out to family.  Sometimes it was for holidays, sometimes it was just to keep everyone up to date on their latest adventures, and other times it was just to show she cared.  About 3 weeks ago, shortly before she was admitted to the hospital for the last time, I recieved a card in the mail.  It had a beautiful photo of a flower on the front, and in the inside my Grandmother wrote that she was sorry to hear the trip I had waited so long for didn’t go as I had planned (Peru) and she hoped the flower cheered me up, and that knee surgery went well.  She signed it the way she signed everything, “Love and Hugs”.

I’ve thought long and hard about my Grandmother, and decided two things.  I want to spend my energy appreciating the good memories I have of her and with her, and that the best way to honor her life is to try to live my own life in a way that mirrors the things she valued.  She was a smart woman, who appreciated the beauty of the world, she was an artist (she loved to paint), she valued family (did I mention the photos?  She had shelves full of photo albums and spent a lot of time working on a family history for us), she was frugal in a good way, a great cook (for my brother’s wedding, his only food request?  Grandma’s home made pierogi), she was bold and spirited, she loved to laugh (I can’t remember her without a smile on her face), she was confident and as my cousin said, “expected it from us”, she accepted people for who they were – quirks and flaws and all, she was supportive, she was loving, she was strong (my god was she strong.  She wasn’t going to let a little thing like cancer slow her down!), she was a rock for my Grandfather and for her children, and she impacted everyone she met simply by being herself.

The photo at the top of this post was taken a few weeks back when my friend David was visiting from California.  We took a walk in the woods, appreciating Connecticut as it started to shed its greens in favor of some brighter colors.  The day was peaceful, and I remember enjoying my time with David.  We laughed, we supported each other as we worked to create beautiful images and the quiet of the woods was peaceful and soothing.  At first, I struggled a bit, trying to decide which photo to put up for my grandmother’s tribute, then I realized that this image, and that day is the type of memory that honored the way my Grandma lived her life.

Grandma was always completely supportive of all of her grandchildren, and although I do remember there were a few photos she pointed out here or there as favorites, overall she was outspoken about agreeing with my decision to pursue photography.  I am forever grateful to be part of such happy, loving, somewhat loud and crazy, accepting and supportive family and that culture stems from my Grandparent.  I am forever grateful to have had the best Grandmother a girl could ask for, to have learned the importance of love, of family, of laughter and of strength from the woman who set the example for all of us.

I’ll miss your smile, Grandma, but I promise I’ll never forget it.  Thank you for your love and the lessons you gave us.

One of your many, many grandchildren

Letting Go

2 Mar
Horse Hug

Horse Hug

Sometimes your heart just knows.

There were a lot of reasons why adopting a horse at that point in my life was a bad idea. I was trying to find my way through a college class schedule and work three jobs. I would be setting myself back financially with the extra bills. And as horses go, Spot wasn’t “easy”. He was scared of everything, too big for his own good and stubborn as hell. When he wasn’t breaking things, he was running away, or kicking people, or (to mix things up) slamming them into walls. The farrier and vet visits were always an adventure, and trailering…? Forget it.
Oh…and did I mentioned he was only half-trained? The canter was interspersed with bucking, especially when he saw a whip of any sort…even if the rider wasn’t the one holding it.
Somehow, though, the idea of him walking out of my life was heart breaking.
Eleven years ago, while volunteering at Second Chance Ranch (a local horse rescue), I met and adopted Spot…and he changed my life. He taught me the meaning of patience. He blossomed as he aged, turning into a more confident version of himself. He became the “road block” on trail rides to keep the runaways in line. He gave lessons to beginners and helped teach children the joys of horsemanship. As he learned to trust, his personality shined through. He was challenging, playful and infinitely affectionate.
While he was never a “push button” horse, to me, he was perfect.
Yesterday Spot lost the battle with sinus cancer. As one person said, “now he is breathing easier, playing with his friends in horse heaven.” I’m so grateful for the time I had with him. He left some gigantic footprints in my heart and taught me so much about life, reliability and love. ❤