Grandmother Cookie, as she was known by her younger grandchildren, was a stable fixture in my life. Like clockwork she sent cards and gifts for every holiday imaginable. A birthday never went by without a sweet note and a little something to help stretch the budget of a perpetual student.
Though we corresponded mostly through mail, that all changed when I went away to college. I never realized, in all my eagerness to leave home, that I would miss my family. Grandma was always able to spare a minute (or twenty) to comfort me and assure me that all was well at home and that I would recover from the heartache. During the last ten years as our phone relationship developed, I could always count on Grandma to help me feel better about life. She encouraged her pet, as she often called me, in successes and offered solace in many disappointments. Without her gentle influence and listening ear, I don't know that I would be where I am today.
I know that there will be many moments in which I will long to call and talk to her about bargain shopping or baking or dealing with razor stubble in the sink. I know I will always be a little bit disappointed when her notes on Dollar Store stationery, usually with a $5 bill tucked in the envelope, don't arrive on St. Patrick's Day. I will wish I could hear her tell people about a certain baby (me) vomiting down the back of her brand-new black robe, or a little girl (me again) who said, 'Grandma, you're kind of a rich old lady, aren't you?' I am confident, though, that, with time, this pit in my stomach will all but disappear.
During the cross country trip to join my family in this time of sweet sorrow, my mother called to ask me to assist in dressing my grandmother for burial. I have to admit that, at first, I was very uncomfortable at the thought of interacting with her remains in this way. However, I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to provide one last service for her. Together with my aunt and my sister-in-law, she and I dressed Grandma's frail body in the clothes she would wear in her final resting place.
Saturday afternoon, as we paid tribute to my grandmother through music and words, I reflected on the way she had touched the lives of hundreds of friends and family members and I gave thanks to have been one of them.