When I would call my grandmother to talk, I would invariably hear about it later from my mother.
“I just got back from Grammy’s- she was just thrilled that you called her.”
She never was the typical grandmother who would talk and talk and never let you go. After a few minutes’ report, she’d conclude the conversation, “Well, alright, Honey.” She never wanted to impose. She walked on a broken hip for weeks because she didn’t want to “complain”. Last night in the emergency room, she weakly commented, “Too much fuss.”
She gave me the gift of always knowing I had someone I could call who would be “thrilled” to talk to me.
She let me see a beautiful new side of my own mother, who ministered to her night and day- cooking for her, bringing her books, bathing her, dressing her, admiring her out loud and unashamedly.
As I sat by her bedside last night, waiting for her halting breath to go still, I was embarrassed momentarily by how little I knew about her. I don’t know much about her likes and dislikes, or her history. What I do know is refracted through other people: her late husband who went AWOL from the army to be with her, her daughters who cook and talk and hug like her, her grandkids who steadily visited her and ran to her side last night.
Hers was a life lived for others, and as fruit of that beautiful devotion, she continues to live. After 92 years she stopped breathing this morning and passed on, but most of what I know to be my grandmother still lives. I can call any of her children and be welcomed excitedly. I can taste her recipes as they’re brought to new life by her daughters’ hands. I can see her pure goodness in her son’s grin. I can strive, alongside others who knew her, to follow her example of humility, grace, and love.
In loving memory of Phyllis Shelton, 1924-2016