The “hills” were alive this week. Not with The Sound of Music, but with tears, laughter, love and memories of Rita Frances, my beautiful, warm and strong grandmother.
I took the week off from blogging, work and other “normal” responsibilities to focus solely on my family and helping in any way I could with the arrangements that needed to be made. I went up to Milwaukee on Tuesday and remained there through the funeral on Friday morning. It was heart wrenching, heartwarming, devastating, joyful and, as you can see, quite a roller coaster of emotions all week long. I’ve realized that this woman meant SO much to so many people. As the mother of 10 children, 19.75 grandchildren (my newest cousin is due November 15) and a beloved wife of almost 60 years, she has touched the lives of many, many people, and the love we have for her was present all week long.
I have never felt closer to my family than I do now. Grandma Rita brought all of us together. Of course, we wish it was better circumstances. We wish we were all together now, celebrating her recovery from the cancer that spread so quickly and took her from us too soon and too unexpectedly. But she will always be remembered and is now in a wonderful place, watching over us all. She is no longer in pain.
Words can’t express the tears of gratefulness that I have shed reading all of your comments, emails, and letters of support. This community has given me so much and I am so thankful that I am a part of it. So thankful – I will not forget the kindness you have shown me!
I will be back to blogging soon. Life will never be the same, but we will carry with us our memories of grandma as we get back to what is considered “normal” in our everyday lives. But for now, I wanted to share a poem I wrote and read aloud at my grandma’s vigil, as well as some pictures that encompass her beauty, her grace and her warmth. I hope you enjoy them.
I’ll never forget the way your voice
Could put my mind at ease.
The stories you told sent my mind wandering
Like an autumn leaf in the breeze.
It’s quieter now that you are gone
A little colder, too.
But I don’t mind because these things
Will always remind me of you.
I’ll never forget the games we played
Rounds of Dominoes in your kitchen.
The stories you told about our family
The enthusiasm that kept my attention.
Your letters are safely packed away
Too often left unanswered.
But I promise to send my replies to you now
In my dreams. In my heart.
Where you’ll always be remembered.
The above is a picture of my grandma and grandpa (Busia and Dzia Dzia!) on their wedding day in 1950. Can you see the love emanating from this picture? It makes me smile.
Here they are cutting the wedding cake in 1950…
And here they are, 55 years later Cutting the cake at their anniversary party in 2005.
Last but not least, I couldn’t resist a picture of the early years of Papa Bender. He’s on the far right – what a cutie! Have I told you he’s the oldest of the 10? He also gave the eulogy at my grandma’s funeral. I could not have been prouder of him at that moment. The whole family stood behind him, holding hands and nodding in agreement as he spoke of his mother with eloquence and pure heart. After the service, people told him it was one of the best speeches they had ever heard. I love you, Dad!
I’m pretty sure he was the cutest little kid ever! Actually, my little brother looks a lot like him, and I look like my mom. I just love looking at pictures like this and going back in time to imagine what life was like. It’s amazing to imagine our parents living as we did when we were young.
This entire experience has inspired me to put pen to paper – and finger to keyboard – and write a story. I don’t know how long it will be or how it will turn out, but my grandmother’s story needs to be told some way, somehow. I am excited about this new adventure and have been furiously typing my thoughts all week long. I want to create something memorable for my family. No, scratch that. I WILL create something Grandma Rita was known for writing letters and being a deeply reflective, thoughtful woman. I hope that when I grow up, I can be just like her.
If you’re still with me, thank you. This blog is an outlet for my life, my words and my thoughts, and I appreciate you taking the time to read my musings. I love you all – and as I said recently, make sure you tell your family how much you love them today. You can never say it too often. I promise.