Hi everyone, I have returned from my trip to New Mexico. On Thursday evening I found out that one day before my flight to see her, my grandmother passed away. She had family surrounding her in her last days. She died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 96.
As I'm sure you can guess, I was sad, frustrated and disappointed that I didn't make it in time to say goodbye. But as my mom told me on the phone when I called to tell her, "You don't have to be there in person to say goodbye." And that's true. (As an aside, my grandma once noted to me, "I must have done something right, as I have two ex daughters-in-law who still write!")
The weekend, however, was not sad. I had a really enjoyable drive from Albuquerque to Los Alamos with two of my cousins, and we stopped for dinner in Santa Fe and toasted our grandmother over a margarita and New Mexican cuisine. We shared lots of funny stories. This was a woman who was by and large healthy as a horse pretty much until her final days. A woman who purportedly told her doctor when being admitted to the hospital to have her hip replacement surgery some years ago that she hadn't been admitted to the hospital since she broke her arm when she was 13 and fell off her horse, and no, being in the hospital to give birth three times apparently didn't count. She was very intelligent, graduating from high school at the age of 16 in 1931, going on to teach in a one room school house until she entered college two years later. She was the most voracious reader you ever did see. I don't think she ever uttered a curse word her entire life (hot weather was even "hotter than Hades" to her). She was active in her church, her college sorority and her community well into her 80s. She once credited her good health to water exercise classes (take note!). I swear she didn't have a mean bone in her body. Everyone she ever knew was the better for it.
The family gathered at my uncle and aunt's house on Saturday for a very informal memorial. I saw cousins I rarely get to see, and everyone shared stories. I heard about her making my uncles strip naked when they got sprayed in the face by a skunk, while she buried their clothes and everything on them at the time (including my uncle's best Roy Rogers cap gun) in the backyard and my dad, the youngest of the three brothers, laughed hysterically from safe inside. I heard about her riding her horse, Bess, to school everyday. We told funny grandma-isms and other family stories. And we all remembered her cooking fondly (well, except a couple of aspic dishes). The whole weekend I wore her wedding ring and smiled whenever I thought of her. I think we all did.
It was a long life, well lived, full of health, good friends and family. She will be missed, but we're all thankful to have had so many years to enjoy our time with her.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite photos. Little baby me and my Grandma Nella Mae. It makes me smile. :)