12.09.2010

The most beautiful smile is the one that struggles through the tears (in memoriam)

Six years ago today, the world lost a hero. A quiet, gentle, reluctant hero, but a hero nonetheless. She may have seemed an ordinary woman to the rest of the world, but to me, she was the woman I strove to become (and still do). Six years ago the world got a little bit darker, but to those of us who knew her, we discovered there are some lights that don't go out.

I wrote this on my grandmother's birthday last May, and I can't think of a better tribute to her memory than sharing it again - than letting people know that this amazing woman lived, and loved, and made me who I am. I miss her often - when something big happens and I can't tell her, or when I make spaghetti from her recipe, or when I glance at one of the pictures I have of her and my grandpa when they were young, or in so many quiet moments when I see a little bit of her in me.
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May 2, 2010
My next tattoo is going to be 'Que sera, sera' in script on my wrist. And it's going to be in memory of my Grandma K, who said that all the time.

Today would be her 92nd birthday.

It's impossible for me to not think about her most of the time, but today especially. There are some people in your life who shape you, who push you, who make you better, and my grandmother was one of those.

Every struggle I've had in my life...every war I've waged, whether it was against myself or others....every thing I've ever tried and failed at and tried again....The part of me that refuses to give up or give in, that refuses to accept limitations, that refuses to surrender...that comes from my grandma. She was a woman who survived anything that came at her. She battled and beat cancer more than once. She stood by her husband and her child and her grandchildren whatever happened. She did everything she could to make sure that her son and his children would have a good life. She looked for the best in people. She looked for the best in life. She was an optimist and she passed that on.

And she was beautiful! In all the ways that mattered, and in many that didn't. She had the kindest eyes I've ever seen. Full of compassion and caring, but with a glint of humor. She was always ready to laugh. Always ready to humor a child by listening to a stammered knock-knock joke, or bumbling story, and laughing her heart out. She could make you feel like the only person in the world she could possibly want to be listening to. She was selfless and funny and generous and loving and big-hearted and a force of nature. She knew when to make you laugh, or when to take you in her arms and comfort you with soft words and hugs. She displayed a stick figure drawing on her refrigerator with the same care as a straight A report card. She would take the time to do whatever it took to make other people happy, whether it was finding the perfect present, or cutting up watermelon into the kind of slices you preferred. She was a great cook and I wish I had cared more when I was younger so I could have learned more from her. I think of all the times I spent at her house, and wish that I had listened a littler harder, paid a little more attention, asked more questions. There is so much I could have discovered, so many things I wish I knew!

Grandma died 5 years ago this past December. It seems like yesterday, and a thousand years ago, all at once. There's not a day of my life that I don't think about her, feel her, discover another part of the influence she had over my life. I was unbelievably blessed to get to spend so much of my time with such an incredible woman. Some of my happiest memories from childhood are the times I spent at my grandparents' house, my sister and I dressing up in stupid outfits, or 'building' things in the backyard, or just sitting at the table coloring with Grandma. She was content with simple pleasures, and the greatest one of those was seeing her son and his children happy and healthy.

It's been over 5 years. And I'm starting to forget some of these things. I'm starting to forget the smile, and the softness, and the easy way she could turn an entire day around. I'm starting to forget the sly look in her eye when she was teasing my grandpa, and the look of her hands as she worked in the kitchen. And that scares me. How could I possibly forget any part of this amazing woman?

But then I look at my dad. And I look at my sister. And I look at myself. And I imagine the sons or daughters I may someday have.
And I realize that no matter how long she has been gone, her legacy will live on. Her touch on our lives will reach into the next generation, and the one after that, and however many come after.

And I know that she'll be looking down on all of us with love in her eyes and a smile that comes from the heart, giving a little push whenever we need it, and being the quiet voice in our heads, reminding us that whatever will be, will be.

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