Follow Every Rainbow, Find Your Dreams

by Jenn (eating bender) on October 3, 2009

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.

So in love

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…

cutting the cakeAnd 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!

The growing family 2

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.

Back soon.



1 broccolihut October 3, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Simply put, Jenn, this is a beautiful post–just like you and your grandmother:)

2 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Thank you so much, Caroline!

3 Mara @ What's For Dinner? October 3, 2009 at 10:32 pm

This was such a wonderful and heartfelt post…something I wish I’d have done when I was in your position. I’m looking forward to seeing you! Love you my dear :)

4 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Looking forward to seeing you, too!

5 Foodie (Fab and Delicious Food) October 3, 2009 at 11:31 pm

This was such a beautiful post. And Jenn, you already are thoughtful and reflective! I’m sure your grandmother was very proud of you! I have no doubt that you’ll create something really special for your grandmother. And in fact, this post and your last post are just two examples that you have already done just that!

6 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Thanks, Foodie! You always have a way of making me smile and I hope you know how much I appreciate it :)

7 glidingcalm October 3, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Wow Jenn. You really have a way with words. You are such a wonderful writer, and I am so happy you shared your Grandmother with us. I loved seeing the pictures as well. So many hugs to you, and so excited for your family project!

I love you Bender!!!!

8 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Aw GC, thank you. Many hugs to you, too! Love you!

9 jocelyneatsfresh October 4, 2009 at 1:44 am

Thank you for this post…my grandmas funeral is still so fresh in my mind, being in July…it was one of the hardest experiences of my life – having to see my grandfather look so alone, lonely and lost :( But we owed it to my grandma to celebrate her life – which we did…and have been doing.
I hope you continue to write and celebrate your grandmother’s life :)

10 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 6:49 pm

jocelyneatsfresh ~ Thanks, lovely. I’m sorry for your loss. You’re right – we do owe it to our grams to celebrate their lives. Grandmothers are so special. Thanks for sharing your story with me.

11 Leah October 4, 2009 at 2:14 am

Beautiful post Jenn… thank you for allowing us to share your memories of her.

12 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Thanks, Leah :)

13 VeggieGirl October 4, 2009 at 5:37 am

This is so beautiful and moving. I truly cannot properly express my sentiments, but you know how I feel and that I’m here for you, always.

14 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Thanks, VeggieGirl. I know how you feel, for sure – and love you for it!

15 Gina October 4, 2009 at 6:04 am

Great post. Thanks for sharing these memories, and the fantastic pictures. I hope Nick and my story of love is similar to your grandparent’s :) They look so in love, and happy.

16 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Gina ~ I have no doubt it will be :) Love is a beautiful thing – and you are very sweet.

17 Diana (Soap & Chocolate) October 4, 2009 at 6:25 am

Thoughts are definitely with you, Jenn. I can’t help but admire the fact that you have spun your personal tragedy into something as beautiful as your poem, and continue to do so in writing your grandmother’s story. Congratulations, seriously. I’m glad you have an outlet during this difficult time! Much love to you.

18 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Thanks so much, Diana. That honestly means a lot – it’s always nice to hear things like that when I put something “out there” :) Much love!

19 Melissa S. October 4, 2009 at 6:51 am


That was a wonderful poem. I’m so glad you got to spend time with your family, even under those circumstances. It’s going to be hard I’m sure but I can’t wait to hear that story; I’m always here for you sweetie.

20 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Thank you, M :) You know I love you and echo your sentiments!

21 Julie @savvyeats October 4, 2009 at 6:57 am

This is a beautiful post. My thoughts are with you and your family.

22 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Thanks, Julie :)

23 Karla October 4, 2009 at 7:04 am

I don’t know how else to say this but AMAZING. Your grandma was beautiful, and so are your heartfelt words. This post and the poem you wrote are so beautiful–it’s wonderful that you’ve decided to carry on your grandma’s legacy. You’ve certainly got some readers of her story when you finish!

Sending love, my thoughts and “hugs” your way :)

24 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 6:59 pm

No apologies necessary :) A comment that nice is worth seeing twice – ha, am I a dork or what? Sending hugs your way, too!

25 Erica October 4, 2009 at 7:04 am

Beautiful words for your incredible grandma. I’m so sorry for your loss but am glad to hear that this sad event brought your family closer together than ever. Love to you!

26 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Thanks so much, Erica :) Love back!

27 Karla October 4, 2009 at 7:05 am

I don’t know how else to say this but AMAZING. Your grandma was gorgeous. This post and the poem you wrote are so beautiful–it’s wonderful that you’ve decided to carry on your grandma’s legacy. You’ve certainly got some readers of her story when you finish!

Sending love, my thoughts and “hugs” your way :)

28 Karla October 4, 2009 at 7:07 am

So sorry for the duplicate–computer issues!

29 ksgoodeats October 4, 2009 at 7:42 am

Jenn, this is a beautiful post. It honestly made me tear up. Your grandma sounds like a wonderful woman! There’s no doubt in my mind she’s proud of you and all of your accomplishments in life. She may be gone but she’s not far :)

30 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Thanks, K. I agree – the ones we love are never too far, whether they are still here with us or not :)

31 verbalriot October 4, 2009 at 7:43 am

Amazing poem and I love the photographs. When I looked at the first one (and hadn’t read what you wrote yet) I felt the same way, I can SEE the love between them! How beautiful.

One of my favorite quotes is by Winston Churchill, who said:

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”

It seems like you’ve found opportunity in your loss, to get closer with your family, to honor your grandmother’s life and to let your creativity flow out. Your strength shines through this experience.

Thanks for sharing this with us Jenn.

32 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Olga ~ What a fantastic quote! I am going to print that out and hang it somewhere. Thank you for your beautiful comment!

33 TorontoGirloutWest October 4, 2009 at 8:06 am


I didn’t know your grandmother but your poem had me shedding a tear or two.

It’s clear that she was a wonderful woman! And all these wonderful tributes are the legacy of a life well-lived. We should all be so lucky.


Karen :)

34 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:02 pm

*Hugs* Karen!! Thank you for your kind words :) Let’s all strive to be as lucky as she was.

35 Andrea (Off Her Cork) October 4, 2009 at 8:11 am

Oh girl this post was amazing. Very heartfelt and full of emotion. :)

36 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:02 pm

Thanks, Andrea :)

37 The Foodie Diaries October 4, 2009 at 8:15 am

You are such a beautiful and talented writer, Jenn. I’m glad you’re recognizing and utilizing it as a therapeutic outlet and, so admirably, a capstone. It’s really a testament to your strength. It sounds like you are very like your grandma on the writing front :)

All my love chica,


38 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Hey you! Have I told you yet that your comments are always so thoughtful? Thank you so much :) You’re amazing!

39 gina (fitnessista) October 4, 2009 at 8:46 am

now i am here bawling like a baby at your beautiful words and wonderful pictures.
amazing tribute to your grandmother, jenn. thinking about you and your family

40 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:04 pm

Gina, you’re so sweet :) Thank you for what you said – love you!

41 Jessica October 4, 2009 at 9:47 am

I don’t even have words for this. What an amazing tribute.

42 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Thank you, Jessica!

43 Brittany October 4, 2009 at 10:14 am


I have tears streaming down my face after reading this post. You have a way with words and I simply loved the poem that you wrote to read aloud at your grandmother’s service.

Thanks for sharing the photos of your grandmother and your dad- he was a cutie. I LOVE old photos. I have some saved of my parents and grandparents when they were growing up and when they first started dating. I just love them.

44 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Brittany ~ Thank you so much. I am sorry to bring tears to your eyes but flattered that the post touched you that way :) I love old photos, too! The ones of my parents when they were young make me so happy.

45 MelissaNibbles October 4, 2009 at 10:16 am

Thank you for sharing your memories with us. I’m so very sorry for your loss.

46 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Thanks, Melissa :)

47 inmytummy October 4, 2009 at 10:59 am

That’s a very touching poem, Jenn. Your grandmother sounded like an amazing woman.

48 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:07 pm

She was :) Thanks, Lee!

49 Lindsay October 4, 2009 at 11:36 am

This is a beautiful post. I am sure your grandmother is very proud of your family, you all sound amazing!

50 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Aw, thank you, Lindsay!! My family is definitely one-of-a-kind :) I guess that’s what happens when there are so many people!

51 Maggie October 4, 2009 at 11:45 am

Jenn, this is such a beautiful post. It’s wonderful that you have such amazing memories of your grandmother. I’m so sorry for your loss.

52 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Thanks, Maggie – I really appreciate it.

53 Michelle October 4, 2009 at 2:06 pm

I’m glad that you feel closer to your family…that’s what life is all about. My thoughts are with you Jenn.

54 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Thank you so much, Michelle :)

55 Aimee October 4, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Beautiful poem! I’m sure you will create something beautiful. You are such a wonderful writer Jenn.

56 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Aw, Aimee – that really made me smile. Thank you :)

57 Deva (Voracious Vorilee) October 4, 2009 at 6:13 pm

This is such a beautiful and moving post. Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful, loving woman, and I am so sorry for your loss.

58 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Deva ~ Thank you.

59 allijag October 4, 2009 at 6:47 pm

This was a gorgeous post, Jenn – one that I can imagine was emotional to right. Sounds like you have a wonderful/beautiful family (a lot of what you wrote about kids/grandkids/etc sounds exactly like my family, so I can relate)

I’m glad you have such wonderful memories- and you gave a beautiful tribute- your Grandma is in my thoughts and prayers.

60 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Thanks so much, Allison. I’d love to swap family stories with you sometime :)

61 luckytastebuds October 4, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Jenn, you already know what I wanna say. I’m not original, but just wanted to keep telling you you’re in my thoughts. Take your time and come back to our world at your own pace. :) You’ll be missed but we love you!!! Never forget that!!

62 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Thanks as always, Michelle. We still need to have our meet up :) I heart you!

63 Shannon October 4, 2009 at 9:00 pm

what a touching poem! love it, and how amazing is your ability to make sure her story lives on. glad you were able to spend so much time with loved ones during this difficult time.

64 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Sweet Shannon :) Thank you!

65 Lo October 4, 2009 at 9:12 pm

jenn, this is such a beautiful and thoughtful post. i am so sorry for your loss and I am praying for you and your family. The pictures of grandma Rita are beautiful and show sounded like such a wonderful and strong woman. Take all the time you need and you know we are here for you. If you are in need of pancakes soon, just text me :)

xoxo always

66 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:12 pm

I definitely want to get some pancakes with you soon, ma’am! Thank you for your sweet words :)

67 Brandi October 5, 2009 at 7:47 am

what a beautiful poem and tribute to your grandmother. I think it’s awesome that you want to write her story :)

68 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:12 pm

Thanks, Brandi :) You’re awesome.

69 Diana October 5, 2009 at 8:19 am

What a beautiful tribute to your gradma. :)
Thank you for sharing.

70 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:14 pm

Thank you, Diana :)

71 lilveggiepatch October 5, 2009 at 8:27 am

Oh, Jenn. My heart is with you. I love that picture of your grandparents cutting their cake.

72 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:14 pm

Thank you so much, Katie!! I love it, too :)

73 Alisa - Frugal Foodie October 5, 2009 at 9:18 am

What a beautiful tribute Jenn. Thank you for sharing.

74 Jenn (eating bender) October 5, 2009 at 7:14 pm

Thanks, Alisa!

75 Hangry Pants October 6, 2009 at 4:48 am

Jenn, the poem is beautiful. It must have been so hard of you to read, but I know your whole family appreciated it.

76 Jenn (eating bender) October 6, 2009 at 6:27 am

Thanks, Heather. I’m thinking of you.

77 jenngirl October 6, 2009 at 7:37 am

Oh Jenn, I’m so sorry to just now be catching up, but I want to send my deepest love to you and your family. Your poem is beautiful, I can’t imagine a more genuine expression of love to your grandmother.

It is hard when a death brings a family together, but in a strange way it can be a blessing as well to reconnect.

78 Erin October 6, 2009 at 9:21 pm

What a beautiful post Jenn. And what a glorious life to celebrate :) Much love b

79 Marianne October 8, 2009 at 2:35 pm

I think it’s great that you want to document your grandma’s story to remember her. Every one of us could write a great story about our lives, even if we don’t realize just how interesting it is. I look forward to hearing more about it :)

80 Jenn (eating bender) October 14, 2009 at 7:42 pm

I completely agree. And for every person’s story there would be an audience who would love to read about it :) Life is great and crazy that way! Thanks for your comment :)

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