She is my grandma. The first significant person in my life to pass away, the first real experience of loss, the first real experience of a funeral, and in a way the first time I saw her- the person, the woman beyond MY grandma.
It happened when we first walked into the funeral parlor. I was standing right by my grandpa when he first saw her. Right before the tears started flooding down, he said, “She’s so beautiful.” That’s when I realized she wasn’t just MY grandma- the one who made a quilt for my bed, who made all my birthday cakes and meticulously decorated each one, who always brought fresh baked cinnamon rolls to my house, who tried to teach me to sew, who made me my first Cabbage Patch doll when my parents said no, who I anxiously waited for at the end of my driveway for hours on the days they would visit, my hope rising at every passing car. She was a wife, a mother, a woman, a companion.
I started to see her through my grandpa’s eyes. I saw her when they were young and met. I saw her as a bride, a young mother of two boys. I saw her as the woman who kept the household running, helped out with the farm, and at times had a part-time job when money was tight. I saw her cry tears of pride and fear as her two boys entered the military. I saw her enjoying friendships that had passed the test of time. I saw her watching with pride as her boys were married and started families of their own. I saw her strength in her fight against cancer. I saw that beauty – internal and external- that he saw.
Fifteen years later, I can still hear him, “She’s so beautiful.”