Grandma Jeanne

Friday, September 21, 2012

  So this obviously isn't going to be the typical blog post about traveling, Denmark, or the kids. I wanted to take the time to write about my Grandma.


  This year, I lost one of the most beautiful, inspiring, loving women in my life. My Grandma Jeanne. It was one of the hardest things I've ever experienced. I still remember the day in March when I called Dad and he said he had to call back because he was on the phone with Grandma who was sick. I just knew it was something serious. It was a terrible feeling. Later we found out it was a tumor on her liver but we were hopeful it would just be removed and everything would be fine. But after some doctor's appointments we learned it was too big to remove so they'd have to do chemo.

After a couple treatments that didn't go very well, I think she decided she didn't want to continue. This whole time, it was a shock for everyone because she had previouly been so healthy... The healthiest of all our grandparents was now sick with cancer. No one was prepared for this.


  For so long, I had spoken of how much I feared losing a loved one and didn't know how I would ever handle it. So gratefully, I've had amazing friends and family with me along the way to help me through it all.


  The hardest thing, by far, was when I went to visit Grandma with Mom and Dad one weekend. For one, I wasn't even thinking about how she had lost her hair but luckily Dad mentioned that before we got there. Then when I saw her laying in bed, it was so hard to hold back the tears from coming down. It was the first time I'd ever seen anybody sick and it was my beloved Grandma. I guess nothing could really prepare you for that. It was also unexpected because talking on the phone with her, which luckily I did a lot more of after finding out the news, she always sounded close to her normal self. I think that shows what a strong woman she was.
  It's a shame it took her getting sick to realize how important and how nice it is to just call and catch up whenever you can. It was always a joy talking to her and I know it meant so much to her too. That's one thing I've been working on with everyone in my life since then. Just simply communicating more with family without needing bad news to prompt me. It has definitely made me appreciate and revel in the love and presence of my wonderful family and friends.


  But while we were visiting her, we shared laughs, stories (i.e. Stump and Aunt Linda getting married in a furniture store), looked at old pictures (cause for a lot of the laughs), and music. Anyone that knew my grandma would think of the piano when thinking of her. She was such an incredible pianist. The only person I know with perfect pitch. She graced us with beautiful music on so many occasions, taught us some, and passed on her talents to her son, my dad. So during our visit, while sitting in with Grandma, having Dad serenade us with his songs was so incredibly special. At a point when he stopped playing, Grandma wondered why, so our humble requests kept him playing, making for a really special moment. It was such a sweet gesture that warmed my heart; A mother just wanting to hear her son play piano. I could tell how peaceful it made her feel and can only imagine how much it meant to her.


  She blessed many people with her knowledge of music, teaching piano to probably hundreds of students. When my Aunt Cyndi asked what was one more thing she wishes she could do, she wanted to teach piano. She never did retire from teaching. She taught all the way up until she couldn't anymore.


  The morning in July that I got the news of Grandma's passing was, of course, a very tough one. Fortunately, Amy O'connell and Amanda were up visiting for the weekend so it was nice having them there. Somehow, God has timed our AAA visits to be during times when friends are needed, as Amanda and I had also been there for Amy Rubin a couple weeks earlier for the news of her Grandpa passing.


  To honor our amazing Grandma, we had a memorial service at her church in Alabama. It was just a couple weeks before I moved to Denmark and Chris and Liesl had already had a trip planned to see me so we were all already together for it. It was a lovely service where the pastor read memories we had with Grandma, a couple of her students played some wonderful pieces, and a couple friends spoke as well to honor Jeanne Stanley Focht. Some of the memories Chris had gave to the pastor to read were the same ones I thought of when Mom asked me about it... Our cruise that she took each grandkid on after their 8th grade and listening to these tapes she made of her reading us stories of Peter Rabbit and other stories. I can still hear her voice so calmly and beautifully reading these stories. I'm surprised Chris didn't mention our countless games of Chinese Checkers and Parchese, which we learned that she apparently hated Parchese! We had no idea. Haha

A trip to Vail, Colorado with her was also a favorite of mine, which is pictured below, along with us at Chris' USAFA graduation.


  For me, I feel that I had been somewhat holding things in and just having short cries here and there. So the moment I sat down to listen to this become even more real, it was impossible to hold back the tears, and it became increasingly difficult to stop, as it often does once you let the first tears fall. At the end of the service, feeling Matt put his arm around me walking out of the church meant so much.


  We walked out into the lobby where my tears were quickly relieved at the smiles and conversation of Tule, Grandma's best friend from high school. I had met her before the service began where she told me several stories of when they were young, and spoke such wonderful words of my grandma. The first thing she said to me when Mom called me over to introduce us was something like this: "Back in our day, the term 'free spirit' wasn't even around yet. But that's exactly what your grandma was. She was her own individual." She then talked of how I have the same beautiful eyes as her, something I heard from several this day, which were definitely words I didn't mind hearing. I think I felt it was nice to almost have something of or like hers with me everyday and in a way, continue sharing something so simple.


  So when Tule came over to us after, sharing stories of their first boyfriends (the senior boys while they were sophomores, and from what I understood, the bad boys), it reminded us to look at all the stories, memories, and love, and that it's a time to smile as well. We got to meet several other friends and people from Grandma's life that shared more great memories they had with her. I learned a lot about her during these times, especially what a selfless, caring, and free-spirited person she was.
  One of the main things I remember Grandma saying even before getting sick, was that at her funeral, she didn't want anyone wearing black... Just lots of color and beautiful music because it was a time to celebrate as she was going to be with her Father. As my mom so beautifully and perfectly put, she can only imagine the beautiful music she's adding up in Heaven. She will be unbelievably missed but has spread so much love, happiness, inspiration, faith, music, and beauty to so many people throughout her life that will always be cherished. Love and miss you always, Grandma Jeanne.
At Chris' USAFA graduation
Our wonderful trip to Vail. Grandma was my roomie on this trip!

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