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She Liked ALL the Flowers

17 June 2018

Saturday afternoon I sat on my grandparents’ back porch. Alone. Watching birds dart between the trees and sunlight fade to a golden glow and leaves bob in the occasional breeze.

After five days and scores of photos. After hours of smiling and shaking hands and being Amy’s daughter (and much bigger than the last time they saw me). After lunch in the church hall, a failed nap, a house full of other people’s old friends, another failed nap, and a dinner of everything that so many wonderful people brought by over the previous several days, I sat on the back porch alone. And quiet.

My Nana loved that porch.

They had it built after they bought the house. Or they had it finished and screened in, I don’t really remember. It presides over a backyard Eden, and my Nana loved to sit out there and just look at her garden.

I sat there for the better part of 30 minutes hoping that if I sat still and kept quiet I wouldn’t scare it all away: the rose bushes, the rabbits, my memories. 

Because it’s all bound to change. My pawpaw is committed to maintaining the yard that Nana loved, but it will change. It will be slow and gradual and hardly perceptible from one summer to the next, but it will change because it won’t be her. We’ll tell her stories over and over and keep pictures where we can see them, but we’ll also have to create new memories that she won’t be on screen for. Her absence will be a character itself, in a way, for a while, but things will change.

The week had been about remembering her and now that the sermons were over and attentions were turning toward going home, somehow it felt like remembering her was over too. But as long as I could sit there, I could put it off. As long as I could just hold still, so would time.

A Life Well Lived

Nana was born in Oklahoma in 1935.

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She met Pawpaw while he was in the service, and the favorite story about the meet cute is the time that he and friend came over for a double-date-and-meet-the-parents and they were so proper about everything that by the time the guys left my great-grandma didn’t even know which one of them was the one after her daughter.

Pawpaw told me, at some point in the past few days, about finishing his time in the army and what was going to be next. It wasn’t a difficult decision, “I got done and I just knew I had to go back to Oklahoma and get that woman.” They married in August of 1956. This summer would have been 62 years.

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Any couple goes through a lot in 62 years, and they did too. College, and four babies, and Nana going back to school to finish her degree (and get a Master’s). Grand-babies, and breast cancer, and caring for aging parents, and the death of a son-in-law. And right up to the end, when the breast cancer came back and Nana’s health started to decline, they were always that sweet older couple that everyone wants to be.

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I remember hearing, several years ago, about a school reunion they went to. Nana sat at a table with some ladies while Pawpaw mingled, but he came back to the table to bring her drinks and check on her so often that another woman at the table asked if they were recently married. Nana told her it had been more than 50 years.

Saying Goodbye

Last Friday, Nana was back in the hospital. Her kidneys had been having a hard time. Her heart was tired. She’d been in and out of doctors offices and hospitals for a little while—comebacks and declines. Her strong spirit and her tired body taking turns with the upper hand.

But this past Friday was different.

They needed to do surgery for the kidneys, but there was a lot of fluid in her heart that might be making it too weak for an operation. So they waited. But after a couple of days, her heart still wasn’t getting stronger. By Sunday it was obvious that surgery would be too much.

It was a kind of mercy. The surgeon had said that everyone would need to be there during the prodecure in case the worst did happen. If she took a bad turn, he would need the family there to make some difficult decisions. No one wants to make those decisions, though, and in the end they didn’t have to.

The hospital was keeping her comfortable. Her best friend and husband was with her. Her four daughters only left the room when she insisted (which she frequently tried to do – she was not a fan of hospitals).

Monday, the case management team from the hospital came by to talk about options: Could they move her to the hospital closer to home? When would hospice officially take over?

And then, how long would people stay? Would it be days or weeks? When should we come?

But all those decisions were made for us too. Tuesday morning, at about 10:00 am, two of her daughters were in the room with her when she closed her eyes one last time and very gently went to sleep. Some of the nurses even commented on how peaceful her last breaths were.

We knew it was coming, and I’m so glad that she didn’t have to lay in a hospital bed for weeks, but the call was harder to get than I’d thought it would be. She had told my mom weeks before that she wasn’t afraid of death, and she was confident of her eternity in Christ. But the reality of her absence landed much heavier than I expected.

All the Flowers

Someone texted me at some point this week asking what Nana’s favorite flower was. I asked the aunts that were sitting nearby and no one had an answer. “She loved them all.” 

Nana always had enough love to go around.

The number of people who called and texted and emailed and commented and showed up surprised everyone (but only because grief tends to limit your view for a time). Old high school friends that no one had talked to in decades found the home phone number or the online guest book, and everyone said the same thing: She was such a sweet, loving woman. Everyone felt it—from her kids’ old school friends to church family to neighbors—everyone knew exactly what kind of woman she was, because it was simple.

She knew a lot of flowers, and every one was beautiful to her because she had a special kind of capacity for beauty. She created it. She recognized it. She appreciated it. And she left so much of it behind for the rest of us.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 17 June 2018 1:17 PM

    Very, very special. So glad you wrote.

  2. 17 June 2018 1:32 PM

    Thank you Lex, wish we would have thought to let you speak at the service, your words truly convey what a wonderful woman she was (but darn it, you made me cry again). Love You!

    • Lex permalink*
      17 June 2018 4:10 PM

      I probably wouldn’t have been able to anyway. 😉 ❤

  3. jmiszczak permalink
    17 June 2018 2:46 PM

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