“Almost thirteen years ago, I started dating Matt, my future husband, and quickly learned that he lived with his grandmother. Before I met anyone else in his family or most of his friends, I had the privilege of meeting Nana. She was a spry 85, completely independent, optimistic and happy, and always welcomed me (and fed me!). I remember that early on, when I spent the occasional night there to avoid a late drive back to my university, I always insisted on sleeping on the couch because I didn’t want Nana to think less of me. Several months into our relationship she bought new sheets and extra pillows for Matt’s bed — point taken!
When I was doing my clinical rotations and living back at home, my dad died unexpectedly, and I spent most weekends in Altoona at Nana’s. It was a haven of sorts during those tough months of adjusting to life without my dad and dealing with a plethora of emotions due to losing him to suicide. She was always quick to give me a loving hug and ask me how I was, and to tell me she’d been praying for my mom and me. I remember the time I accidentally backed my car over her gorgeous peonies — I got out, ready to cry, and she laughed and said, ‘Good, I needed to cut those back anyway!’ Once, I took her shoe shopping at Kmart; she briskly walked back through the store, tried on a pair of flats without ever sitting down, and bought them in two colors… the whole trip was 10 minutes tops. She told me she’d been buying the same shoes for at least 10 years, but she had to make sure her feet were the same size.
Eventually Matt and I moved into our own home, one mile from Nana’s (by back roads) and we’d walk to visit her. I remember lots of conversations with her, sometimes uncomfortable at the time, but memories I’ll treasure now. We talked of life and loss, God, and faith. When I went through my third miscarriage, she told me about hers and her eyes grew misty. By that point (age 97), confusion had begun to set in, and she was starting to mix up places/situations, but that day she looked me straight in the eye and asked, ‘Are you okay? I know what it’s like to tell people that you’re okay, but you really aren’t okay.’ When we watched other family, members get sick and eventually pass, she told me, ‘I don’t want to be sick in the hospital. I hope that someday I just go to sleep and wake up in heaven.’
Nana continued being her spunky, independent, optimistic self for more than a decade after I first met her. She could beat me playing washers. She got two hits playing wiffleball at a family picnic. She chased my daughter Lena around the yard… RUNNING… in her late 90s.
She maintained a 3-story house by herself up until two years ago. She knew our kids’ names as recently as last weekend, when she was clearly not herself but perked up and declared, ‘Lena girl!’ during our visit. Up until recently she never took any medication and rarely complained. Her outlook on life never ceased to amaze me. If she had a complaint (usually about the weather), it was always followed up with a quick shrug and then she changed the subject. She has been a role model for me, and I feel blessed that I got to know her. It’s weird to think that I’ve known her for more than one-third of my life, but it was a much smaller fraction of hers.
To my husband, his parents, and his sisters, I’m so sorry for your loss and thank you for sharing Nana with me all these years. Nana woke up in heaven today, I’m sure of it. Rest in peace, Nana, we love you.”
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