Yesterday, we buried this beautiful lady. It's been rough, especially on my husband and his sister and brother, who loved their mama deeply. She passed away a week ago Friday having battled Alzheimer's for the past 6 years. It was a slow decline, stealing her memory bit by bit. The last 2 years were the worst. Despite virtually no short term memory, she always seemed to know her kids and grandkids. She may not have remembered their names, but she knew she loved them. Even though this horrible disease robbed her of her memories, her loving, kind, fun spirit was always there. She was always ready to laugh, and maintained a positive attitude. Mercifully, I don't think she ever knew she had Alzheimer's. I remember one very poignant moment when, in the early stages, she commented on a friend who was also losing her memory. She was going on and on about how she felt so bad for her, and wouldn't it be horrible to have that disease? Once again, at Kinsey's wedding, upon seeing Kinsey's other grandmother, who was also suffering from Alzheimer's, she said to me, "I'm supposed to know her, aren't I?" She was desperately trying to conjure up how she knew her - the deepest, sweetest part of her, the part that never dies, still knew.
My husband Dan was very blessed to have been mothered by someone like her. She was the most encouraging person I've ever known. No matter what, she was always on your side.
At the funeral yesterday, what struck me most was how very proud I am of Kinsey and Jeremy. They are my stepkids, even though I hate that word "step." It has such a negative connotation. They are both incredibly talented in a myriad of ways. They are incredible musicians, like their dad. Jeremy got up, and spoke some very eloquent words about his grandmother, and then proceeded to sing "It is Well With My Soul" so beautifully. The strength that must have taken is beyond me. There's no way I would have been able to do that even if I could sing. Then when the minister asked if anyone wanted to share a story about Kathleen, Kinsey stood up and said, "I'll go first." I was shocked, because Kinsey was taking this very hard. She and her grandma had a very special, close relationship. She smiled ever so sweetly, and spoke so beautifully and eloquently. I was in awe. Then at the cemetary, when Kinsey came forward to sing Amazing Grace, it was even more poignant. You see, she hadn't planned on singing - she didn't think she could, her grief was so great. Jeremy was going to sing both songs. But on the way to the cemetery, Kinsey asked Jeremy if she could sing. And she got up there, and the most beautiful sound of her voice permeated through the soft, warm breeze. It was heavenly, and Kathleen would have loved it. I told Kinsey I didn't know how she did it, and she answered, "God." Amen.
I felt compelled to write about this, because I want them to know how much I love them. You see, I have always held back from them, not because I don't love them, but because, when I married Dan, I just knew that there was a strong possibility they would resent me. That's what you're supposed to do to step parents isn't it? However, I was very wrong. They have never been anything but kind to me. But I have always remained in the background, not wanting to come on too strong, because I didn't ever want them to think I was trying to take the place of their mother. I think that's a mistake (trying to take the place of a parent) a lot of step parents make, and that's where the conflict arises. I've tried to be more of a supportive friend, but one thing I know about myself is that I put up walls. I automatically think, there's no way they will love me, so I hold back in order to keep myself from being hurt. So this is really about breaking down that wall, and telling them how proud I am of the extraordinary people they have become. They both have big hearts, are incredibly talented, have married equally loving, incredible people, and are so much fun to be around. My girls adore and look up to them so much. What wonderful role models they are.
I took off from work for two days, in part, so I could prepare the slideshow for the funeral. Silly me, I thought it would take about 3-4 hours. It took 15, but it was so worth it. I scanned many of the pictures, and took pictures of pictures with my iphone. Dan chose the music his mother most loved, I scanned and put the pictures in, put the music in, and then we decided to put quotes from the letters everyone wrote her for her 80th birthday. I made her a scrapbook for her birthday celebration. It pretty much documents her life, and her whole family wrote her letters that expressed their love. When Jeremy and Misty got here, he typed all of the quotes for me to copy and paste into the slideshow, and helped so much with the finesse of the music - fading the music in and out at the exact right time is very tedious, and I so appreciated his talent with this.
If you can spare 20 minutes, please enjoy this slideshow celebrating her life and the powerful legacy of love she left for her family. Just click on the link below.
I don't want to forget to mention her husband, Myron. He was so incredibly devoted to her. When he no longer could care for her at home (this past summer), he visited her everyday, sometimes twice. The night before she passed, he was with her at dinner, feeding her. Throughout their marriage, they were very happy together, and enjoyed fishing, playing bridge and dancing. Thank you, Myron, for your devotion to her, and your example for us all. Everyone should be so lucky to have a Myron in their lives.
In closing, this week's been rough. Though the past few days have been bittersweet, it has been so great to have everyone together. We cried, but we also laughed a lot - remembering the good times.
And I don't want to forget - we have had so many people send cards, emails, thoughts and prayers. We had a delicious home cooked meal last night - thanks so much, Shari and Perry! It was such a relief not to have to cook. Thank you to Laura and Lindsey, who had the courage to come into my messy house and take the 4 dogs for a walk. (The kids brought their dogs, plus a dog they were puppy sitting, all the way from Kentucky)! And thank you to my sweet 2nd grade team, who didn't hesitate to take my 28 darlings when I heard the news, even though they have large classes themselves.