Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Tribute to My Grandma

Even though today is Father's Day, I won't be posting about my dad, but rather, about my grandmother, Grandma Ruth, who passed away Thursday evening, one month shy of her 81st birthday.

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My Grandma Ruth and me, on May 29, 2014.

She was a special lady. Growing up, she lived an ocean away from us, but made sure to keep up a relationship with us, either flying across the world once or twice a year to visit, or flying our family in to visit her. About 10 years ago, my family moved to the country in which we currently live, to be able to spend more time with my Grandma, and she became a steady presence in our lives and the lives of our spouses and our kids.

My earliest memories of my Grandma are of her reading stories to us in the guest room when she'd come to visit, stories in the local language, my Grandma's mother tongue, which she helped teach us, and helps me out to this day, since it has given me a base in the local language, so I can get around.

When I was about 8 years old, my grandmother taught me how to crochet. Once I got the basic stitching down, she taught me how to crochet more complex patterns, and we crocheted a doll dress together for one of my dolls.

My grandma was orphaned at an early age, and didn't have the easiest childhood. Her marriage wasn't a happy one, and when she divorced, she raised my mother and her brothers as a single mom, taking care of them, and always having a positive attitude. I never once heard her complain about the difficulties she went through in life.

My grandmother was a doctor- not of medicine, but of history and literature. She received her Ph.D. and then became a college professor, in literature and history, and continued teaching until very recently- she only stopped within the last year or two.

She was a great teacher, with the ability to captivate an audience, and really make a subject come alive. I always hated history, since I had terrible history teachers, but when she would teach me about a certain time period in history, she made me want to learn more and more.

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Grandma, me (ate age 10), and my little brother.

She was like an energizer bunny- constantly on the move, constantly doing more things, never sitting down to relax. As I said above- she was still working in her late 70s, didn't believe in retiring. She went on trips around the world, loved exploring new countries and learning about new cultures. I wonder if this is where I inherited my "limitless" energy from.

She loved to have fun. My family got together over the weekend, and we were reminiscing things about her, and the first things that came to mind were all the fun songs she taught us and would sing with us on a regular basis. She loved to laugh.

The thing about my grandma- she was very modest. She would be scoffing if she'd know I was writing a tribute to her- she didn't want to be praised, didn't want to draw attention to herself- she did what she did because she wanted to do it, and felt it was the right thing, not because she was looking for any sort of kudos. If you'd compliment her, thank her, praise her, she'd try to convince you that you were making a big deal out of nothing. She didn't want thanks, what she did was truly done altruistically.

For example, when she did nice things for people, she tried to do it in a way that they'd benefit, but not realize that it was she behind it. And when she gave, it was entirely with no strings attached. That was the beauty in her gifts. Not given to get appreciation or because she wanted you to do something- she simply gave out of love.

The morning after my baby Rose was born, my grandmother collapsed, and fortunately my mother was visiting with her and was able to find her at 7 am on the floor, unconscious, and able to save her life- my grandmother was in the hospital since then. My grandmother was a fighter- when I was 11 years old, my grandma got sepsis and nearly died, but after a few months, she got back to herself and was as vibrant and active as ever. We were hoping that that would be the case this time as well, but unfortunately, it wasn't so...

She had an auto-immune lung disease called sarcoidosis which caused her scarring in her lungs, which progressively made it harder and harder for her to breathe, which required her to be on higher and higher doses of oxygen, which caused even more scarring in her lungs- a catch 22 situation.
She was on a ventilator since March, and gradually her body got weaker and weaker, but her mind was just as sharp. Even though she couldn't talk, she had a white board on which she wrote responses and communicated her thoughts and needs. As late as Wednesday, she was writing messages to my sister and step father who were there- the last thing she requested was for him to read her Le Miserable, and listening to that story, she slowly drifted into unconsciousness, and Thursday night, while my brother and sister were sitting with her, she slowly and peacefully passed from this world.

Fortunately, because of the progression of her illness, we had a chance to say goodbye to her. I visited her about 2 weeks before she died, and had a nice time with her, really bringing a smile to her face when I gave her a makeover.

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Last Friday, her situation worsened, so on Sunday, after emotionally preparing my children, the entire family went to visit her in the hospital. She really appreciated seeing all the kids, and though we didn't say anything to her about it, I think she realized that we were coming to say goodbye.
The next day, she was mostly unconscious... and the day after that, her body's systems started shutting down, but she was completely aware and lucid, so I came to visit her again. She had many visitors that day, lots of people coming to tell her that we loved her, and then the day after that, after we all came to "say goodbye" (though none of us told her she was dying, none of us actually said that words goodbye, she might have figured it out- she realized something was up), she became unconscious, and then peacefully passed away on Thursday... so much so, that my sister and brother, who were with her at the time, didn't even notice right away when she died....

So, am I sad? To be honest... I'm not 100%. I don't feel my grandma is really dead, since there was so much vibrancy to her, so much of her that is a part of us and who we are, that when our family was all together this past weekend, it felt like she was there, and I kept on "seeing her" out of the corner of my eye...

And another thing- for someone as active and vibrant as my grandma, being bedridden, and being unable to talk, was very very hard for her. She struggled so much at the very end, that I'm happy that now she is in heaven and no longer tied to her frail body...

I love you Grandma Ruth. I'll miss you. We'll all miss you. You made a good impression on everyone that took the chance to get to know you.


  1. What a lovely tribute to your amazing grandma. My thoughts and prayers are with you. xo

  2. a beautiful post! thanks so much for sharing this, and expressing it so well.

  3. May she rest in peace. Sorry for your loss.

  4. Your tribute to your grandmother made my heart happy. May she rest in peace. Peace and love to you and your whole family

  5. I'm so sorry for your loss. Your grandmother sounds like such a wonderful woman, and I'm sure you'll keep her memory very much alive.

  6. What a lovely tribute. She sounds like an inspirational woman. I am sure she was as proud of you as you obviously are of her,

  7. so sorry for the loss of your grandmother.

  8. You both look so beautiful and happy in that picture. It's a treasure.

  9. What a lovely woman, inside and out.

    So sorry for your loss.

  10. What an amazing woman. It seems that the world has lost a truly incredible and inspiring person. My sincere condolences to you and your family.

    Daisy in Canada

  11. What an awe-inspiring woman. And such a beautiful tribute. Very sorry for your loss, but how lucky to have had her in your life.

  12. Penny, that was beautiful. Thank you for allowing me to get to know your Grandma. Hugs to you and may peace be with you.

  13. So sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute! My grandmother passed away several years ago at the age of 90. She was also very active right until she passed, and went very quickly at the end which was a blessing. She also would have hated to be bedridden and I would have hated that for her. Blessings and peace to your whole family.


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