This past weekend I was so thankful to go home to celebrate my grandma’s life. Grandma was 90 years old. My grandpa, Pops, whom she’d been married to for 66 years had passed just six months ago. She missed him (we all missed him). But I can only imagine how hard it was for her because they had been a team for so long. It was always Grandma and Pops together. Of course, they had their own hobbies: Grandma enjoyed baking and Pops painted. But they also shared hobbies, like bowling and dancing. And they weren’t afraid to try out new activities, like the Accordion Club. They complimented each other: Pops was in the spotlight, charming the pants off everyone he met and Grandma was in the background feeding and loving them and maybe even sharing her fiercely Democratic views. It was beautiful seeing how much Grandma and Pops loved each other. And although he loved to tease Grandma (we all did because it prompted her big, infectious laugh!), I have seen Pops turning into Papa Bear mode when he was worried about her.
In reflecting on their lives and relationship, I’ve realized that I am blessed with a similar love. Devin and I are a team just like Grandma and Pops. And Devin enjoys teasing me too, but he’s also my protector like Pops was to Grandma. Devin is such a beautiful blend of gentle and tough, not worried about impressing others or looking weak because his focus is to love fiercely and openly and honestly. When I leave the room to go upstairs, he tells me that he’ll miss me. And he means it. When I am troubled, he wants to help alleviate my pain. When I want something, he strives to get it for me.
Of course, we are selfish at times and focus on our own wants, but we know that’s not the way we were meant to be. God designed us to be a team and take care of one another. And when we are selfish, things just don’t work as smoothly. After being together for 18 years, we’ve learned that when we are kind to one another and genuinely love each other that a beautiful system of reciprocity starts emerging: the more I do for him, the more he does for me, and we are both content. I saw that reciprocity in Grandma and Pops’ relationship as well as in Grandma’s relationship with all of us.
Grandma’s service was a beautiful tribute to the ways she loved others. At the entrance was a tray full of pizzelles, an Italian cookie grandma was famous for (Aunt Nancy made them this time), and that set the tone for the rest of the service: this was going to be a celebration of a woman who enjoyed giving to others. Grandma was one of the most predictable people in my life. I grew to anticipate the ways she’d show her love: birthday cards with $25 in them, pizzelles and seven other types of cookies at every holiday gathering at their house, pineapple upside down cake for dessert, homemade raviolis and meatballs for Christmas, bocce ball games in her backyard. I loved the consistency of my grandma. It was comfortable and easy. Her house decorations barely changed in my lifetime and although pictures would be added as the grandkids grew up and increased, the house was still the same. It felt like home to me. And as Grandma and Pops got older and less able to host holidays at their house, our family gatherings were different. Thanksgiving was moved to my house one year and it just felt…incomplete. It was at that time that we started to lose a little bit of Grandma and Pops. I know they felt it too. Change is hard. It was hard for all of us to acknowledge that my grandparents were aging. And now that they have both passed, the focus is on losing them.
But Grandma’s service showed me otherwise. The priest’s beautiful speech spoke of the way Jesus broke bread in remembrance of him, and he reminded us that we can love those who have passed by remembering them and sharing their stories of giving to and loving others. We can celebrate the love we’ve learned from them and integrate that into our own lives. Grandma and Pops both taught me to love fiercely. Grandma had a quiet, humble fierceness to her love; she didn’t need to say, “I love you,” but she took care of us always and was so very proud of our accomplishments. And Pops had a loud, open-his-arms-to-everyone fierce love where he would hold you tightly and slip a $50 into your pocket. The way they taught us to love is their legacy and ours, and it honors the job Jesus gave us:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another” (John 13:34)
Thank you, Grandma and Pops for showing me ways to love others.