Remembering the extraordinary life of my Grandma Kaye

kAYEPeople come into our lives in many different ways. Most come and go, others stay for a while before eventually leaving and then there are those that make a lasting footprint in your life. One that doesn’t go away over time, nor at parting. It’s an eternal footprint made into the fiber of who you are as an individual.

These are individuals of great impact. Ones that see a far greater future than you can comprehend and will encourage you towards that vision. They are often your biggest fans and can see talent within you that is often hidden from your view. And, because of this, they are counted as your dearest and closet friends. One’s that are deeply loved and held on a mantle of respect and admiration.

For me, this is my Grandma Kaye.

Nene'sBirthday 160After battling illness and pneumonia for about a month my Grandma passed away tonight. It was a beautiful moment. My parents, sisters and I were able to be there by her side as she passed. Words cannot describe the joyous somber feeling present in that room. From our end the end of life was passing, but one could just imagine the wondrous reunion she was experiencing with her parents, siblings and her dear husband. I won’t lie, I felt a tad envious.

Tears were shed as she passed, but it wasn’t tears of sorrow. The tears flowed from gratitude and appreciation for her. Not just for who she was, but for what she meant to each of us individually. I couldn’t muster a goodbye, because I knew I would see her once again. My lips simply flowed with simple “thank yous” and “I love yous” that couldn’t accurately described what my heart felt. It was simply one of the most tender, purest and spiritual moments I’ve experienced in my life.

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The positive and loving footprint that my Grandma made in my life cannot be understated. She was always there for me. Always. When my Mom refused to pick me up from school because I was “SICK” (meaning, I just simply wanted to go home), I knew I could call my Grandma to come pick me up, no matter what my Mom told her. My ‘sick days’ from school usually consisted of watching Nickelodeon while eating ice cream and cookies.

My Grandma and I had a special bond throughout my life. When my Grandpa passed away in 1996 that relationship really went much deeper than just a Grandmother-Grandson relationship, it was a true friendship. While she still lived in her house I would visit nearly every Saturday to help with things around the house (ie-cleaning, lawn care, etc.) but most of the time was spent talking and eating lunch. She would make me a ham and cheese sandwich with a side of dill pickles and a glass of Dole juice and while I ate she would sit and peel an apple as we talked.

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Our conversations covered pretty much everything. If we weren’t solving the world’s problems we were complaining about the promiscuity rampant in the media. No matter where that topic took our conversation it always seemed that Britney Spears’ belly button always got brought up somehow. I can’t tell you how much my Grandma hated seeing people’s belly buttons on TV.

That relationship bonded further as we wrote letters, notes and lengthy humorous birthday cards. We both would exchange cards with someone or something mooning the recipient. It’s just how we did business. Even our gifts held more symbolism of our friendship than they with a price. For birthdays and Christmas I would get either a jar of pickles or band-aids (because she was always concerned about my bloody nipples). Then, I would usually give her the unexpected. One year it was an abstract portrait of me as a lamp, another year I got her a wrestling championship belt (she loves wrestling), another year I bought her a soccer ball, shin guards and soccer shorts. And, this past year I got her, her own cat shirt.

She was spoiled.

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But, the one thing about my Grandma that I will always remember, aside from the fun, laughs and talks is her encouraging personality. She constantly was telling me to pursue my dreams, how much she loved my writing and ability to write from the heart, she told even last week I need to be a journalist when I grow up. That attitude and personality was heavily leaned upon at times in my life. When I was at my heaviest and a VERY unhappy person, she was probably one of very few that could reach me. She encouraged me to be better and that helped give me the courage to act on that.

Even when I started running she would always ask about my races and how my runs went. And, though she really didn’t understand running, she embraced it because she saw the joy it brought into my life. Plus, she always wanted to steal all of my colorful yellow or orange shoes because of how bright and vibrant they were.

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She really had this gift for making people around her feel good about themselves. It was something that rubbed off onto my Dad and I tried and still try to emulate. Whether she was volunteering on a committee with the Boy Scouts, PTA or community church she touched many, many lives. She even tutored a young man named Tommy Monson in business while at West High. Though she always stayed true to her Greek Orthodox religion she never missed “little Tommy Monson” talk during LDS General Conference. She would muse how such a quiet and shy young man became President of the Mormon Church.

There are countless little stories like these throughout her life. I could probably fill pages of similar stories. She was a special generation that saw a lot of hardship with the Great Depression and WWII among other things. And, because of that she always understood what mattered the most. It was family. It was relationships. It was people. It was God. It was the gift of life.

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I hope that I can emulate many of her great qualities. She set a bar and standard that is pretty high. But, more than anything I feel like one of the luckiest grandkids around, because I can say with confidence that my Grandma was also my best friend. And, to me that means the world.

Love you Grandma! Always have, always will.

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