Slice of Life: She Was My Friend #SOL17 #TWTBlog

My husband’s grandmother

My children’s great-grandmother

My mother-in-law’s mom

 

I struggled with all of these names last week when I shared the news of her passing with friends, family and colleagues.  During her wake, when I introduced myself as her grandson’s wife, someone said, “Clare, she thought of you as a granddaughter.  You were her granddaughter.”  While the sentiment was touching, I don’t agree.

I called her Nana.  She was Nana to everyone around her, that is what happens when you live to be 99 and a half years old.  But I don’t feel like I am saying goodbye to my nana.  I have been trying to figure it out and I have been thinking about it over the past two weeks.  What was she to me?  What will I miss?  How did she fit into my life?  How do I finish the sentence, My  …. ?

Nana was my friend.  I know it sounds strange to consider a woman more than twice my age a friend, but for the last twenty-four years she was a true friend to me.

She was the friend I called as a young mom when my life was out of control trying to balance the demands of kids and work.  She always found a way to “need” me and get me to bring the boys down to her house.  We would arrive ready to help her, but in fact she was ready to help me. This became our weekly ritual.  I would bring the boys to her house and find a quiet spot to work all day.  She took care of the kids, fed us dinner, bathed them and sent us home ready for bed.

She was the friend who helped me realize the depth of my strength.  I will always remember the moment of weakness I had with her.  She needed me to help her care for her husband as he battled cancer. One day when it was too much for me, I walked away.  I told her I couldn’t do it.  I told her I was afraid of death.  I told her I was not strong enough.  She walked over to me.  She held me firmly by the shoulders, looked me straight in eyes and told me she never met anyone stronger.

She was the friend who was a true working mom role model for me.  Nana worked her entire life.  She worked because she had to and she worked because she loved it.  Nana was a woman before her time.  She understood the personal sacrifice and pressure involved with two working parents trying to raise a family. Nana knew I didn’t have choice about working and reminded me that just because I had to didn’t mean I couldn’t love it.  Nana helped me navigate the guilt of a working mom.  She always had words of wisdom and reminded me to never doubt my intelligence at work or my dedication to my kids.

She was the friend who gave the best hugs.  They always lasted the perfect amount of time.

She was the friend who always found a quiet moment to tell you what you needed to hear.  She would pull me aside to fold laundry, wash dishes or shuck the corn and use the opportunity to give advice, to ask a poignant question or to tell me to trust my instincts.

She was the friend who helped me care for my own mother.  She would come and stay with my mom and our boys to give us a break.  She always let my mom believe that she was taking care of Nana when we all knew that was not the case.  She allowed my mom to have the dignity of being a grandma taking care of her grandkids.

She was the friend who always held me to high standards and was never afraid to tell me what she thought I needed to hear.

She was a storyteller.  Some thought she was getting forgetful and didn’t realize that she was telling the same stories again and again.  I think she knew exactly what she was doing.   She was purposeful in her choice – it was always a story she felt you needed to hear.  Her stories always had a message and these stories reminded us that we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves.

Her stories are still with me.  I knew her for more than half my life.  So much of who I am is because of my friendship with her.  I will always hear her laugh when I see a blue jay and remember not to take life too seriously.  I will always hear her “gaw” when I play gin rummy and remember we have to do the best we can with the hand we are dealt.  I will always see her sitting in her chair when I am on the beach and remember to treasure time with family.  I will always feel her presence when I have a cup of tea and remember to pause and appreciate life.  Whenever I need a friend, I will think of her stories and remember that she is now a part of me.  Nana was her name, but she was my friend.

Mary Magee

 

 

14 Comments

  1. Lynne Martin September 12, 2017

    This is beautiful. Thank you for writing this and sharing it.

    Reply
  2. Karen Szymusiak September 12, 2017

    So beautiful! You were so fortunate to know and love her,

    Reply
  3. Rose Cappelli September 12, 2017

    What a beautiful tribute, Clare. It brought tears to my eyes and made me think of my mother-in-law who I recently said good-bye to. She was also I woman who gave me much more than she ever knew. Thank you for sharing this piece of your heart.

    Reply
  4. Katie Gordon September 12, 2017

    Clare, you’ve brought me tears and a full heart through your story. What a gift Nana has been for you.

    Reply
  5. Carol Varsalona September 12, 2017

    Clare, this is a truly touching tribute to a woman who gave with your heart and expected only love in return. Your Nana sounds like she was special and wise beyond her long years of life. She is the type of person that lifts our spirit when it’s heavy from life. Within this piece you shared a thought about your husband’s illness. I am surrounded by doctor appointments, procedures, and an upcoming surgery for my husband. Your slice has given me strength to see the day with a smile.

    Reply
  6. Karen September 12, 2017

    What a lovely tribute to your Nana, your friend. She sounds like an amazing lady!

    Reply
  7. Molly Hogan September 12, 2017

    This is such a beautiful, heartfelt piece. What a gift your friendship was to each other!

    Reply
  8. Melanie Meehan September 13, 2017

    This is a beautiful tribute, Clare. It provides all of us with reminders of how to live meaningfully. Thank you!

    Reply
  9. Marcia September 13, 2017

    Beautiful. How lucky you are to have a Nana in your life. Such a gift to pass on later. XOX

    Reply
  10. Lehua Gerboc-Naulangi September 13, 2017

    This is beautiful! I didn’t even know her and she seems like she’d be the best friend to have. I’m so sorry for the loss of your husband’s grandmother, your Nana, but mostly, I’m sorry for the loss of such a great friend. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  11. Robin Pratt September 13, 2017

    Clare, what a beautiful tribute to your friend. I am sorry for your loss. She sounds like a remarkable woman!

    Reply
  12. Tara September 13, 2017

    Such a beautiful post, Clare, to celebrate a wonderful person. I’m sorry to hear of her loss to your family – she will be missed, clearly.

    Reply
  13. Jill Peterson September 13, 2017

    Clare, what I loved most about your words are that they let me feel the deep emotion you felt/feel for this powerful, yet gentle woman in your life. We don’t all have opportunities to be surrounded by strong, loving, gentle women, so truly you have been blessed with this friendship, and she with yours. I am envious, saddened, and reminded all at the same time when reading your thoughts. Thank you for sharing. I too have 2 women in my life that have passed, and before that journey, left me with so many wonderful lessons and memories. Such a blessing. They, like your friend Mary, still find ways to teach me and let me know they stand beside me and hug me when no one else can. <3

    Reply
  14. Aileen Hower September 15, 2017

    A wonderful tribute. I wish all families by marriage treated each other like friends and family, like the example of your relationship.

    Reply

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