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Thursday, March 11, 2010


Ten years ago today, March 11, my grandmother passed away.

She died of cancer, although her lifelong struggle had been with arthritis. She was absolutely one of the most fabulous human beings I have ever known, and will ever have the pleasure of knowing.

She grew up with two brothers, which is probably why she was as tough as nails. She never, ever, complained when she was sick or in pain. She took several knee replacement surgeries like others might handle a bad cold, and she was up walking on her crutches much sooner than any doctor could have predicted.

She gave gave new meaning to the words "comfort food" and always had a hot, steaming meal waiting on the table as you walked in her back door. Holidays are full of memories of hot milk cake, JB squares, Jam-Jam cookies and her ridiculously crunchy chocolate chip cookies. You never walked away from there hungry. When I worked away at a summer camp for several years, I looked forward to packages from her because I knew I would get a reprieve from hideous dining hall food for a few days. Even when I went away to university she never sent me on my way back to Ottawa without boxes full of goodies to take with me. I would beat my roommates off with a stick to keep them away from her home-baked treasures.

I remember when I was a young girl, my grandmother got her driver's license, and then purchased her very first car. It was an orange-yellowish
mini and my very tall grandmother drove around town proudly in that little car, with the top of her dark brown hair just grazing the ceiling of the car. She would drive my sister and I around in the backseat while we giggled and laughed and had the time of our lives.

My grandmother was an extraordinary penpal. As I got older and moved away from home to live in Ottawa we wrote to each other on a regular basis. I looked forward to her letters with a girlish anticipation. She would share with me her small town gossip, stories about her dog (or my parents' crazy furniture-chewing-Airedale), updates about family members, and then would always end her note by reminding me what a wonderful person I was . . . and to not "work too hard".

Occasionally when I came home to visit she would take me out for my favourite East Coast meal - clams and chips. We would laugh and chat and comment about what other people were wearing and who was dating who and who was getting married and who was getting divorced. While the waitress wasn't looking, Nan would slip whatever food was leftover on her plate into her purse, so that she wouldn't offend the cook or anyone who worked there.

never complained.

She taught me how to love others unconditionally. She taught me the true meaning of faith, and of courage. She taught me to laugh when times get tough, and she taught me to hold my head up high and to take on the world like I owned it.
That cold March ten years ago was a very pivotal time in my life. You see, my grandmother was sick. My wedding was four months away. And unbenownst to the rest of my family at that time, I had just been accepted into the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa and was planning on quitting my job in marketing and public relations to pursue my passion to become a teacher.

In the hours before she died, I whispered in my grandmother's ear and told her my plan. It was not the right time to tell the rest of the family that I would be quitting an excellent and high-paying job to go back to school. But I told my grandmother, because I wanted her to know before she died that I had learned from her that I could become all that I wanted to.

And, today, I am a teacher.

Although she met my fiance several times, I will always feel a sadness that she did not get to meet my three Things. As I raise them I make sure to pass on the things that she taught me - to show them the beauty in places that so many are not willing to look.
And on some Sundays as I sit through mass, I look around and sense that I can almost feel her presence there, watching over all of us.

It's been ten years, Nan, and you are dearly missed and always remembered.


Loukia said...

Shannon. I have tears in my eyes. What an emotional, beautiful, touching post. What a great grandmother you had. God bless her!

Capital Mom said...

Seriously, I am yelling at you now. Stop making me cry!!!
That was beautiful. How luck you were to have her. And she to have you.

Jenn @ My Not So Glamorous Life said...

My grandmother is one of my favorite people in this whole world. There is nothing I could ever do to prepare myself for her loss... Your story is so touching, full on beautiful memories and nostalgia. And love.

DaniGirl said...

This is so sweet, so touching, so lovely. There's something unique about one's relationship with a grandmother -- mine died more than 20 and 15 years ago, and I still miss them both.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely, and touching tribute. I have tears in my eyes now. Your Nan sounds like an amazing woman.

Landerson said...

Beautifully put Shan. Thank you.

Finola said...

You were lucky to have her and she was lucky to have you... A very lovely post.

BeachMama said...

Such a sweet post Shannon. How wonderful that you took so much from Gran. I too am saddened that my Grandmother (well both of them really but, the one I was closest to) was not able to meet J and Apple. I know she would have just loved them to bits and taught them that going Uptown for lunch is the best treat ever.

Lara said...

You did an amazing job at painting a picture of how fabulous a woman your grandmother was. It is so great that you had her in your life and so fabulous that you can still, ten years later, bring her memory to mind so clearly to be enjoyed. Thank you for sharing, and I am positive your grandmother would be very proud of you :)

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute. My grandmother is still alive, but I worry every year that it will be our last with her.

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