I just received word that you went home to be well with the Lord tonight. To be honest, I feel as though you had been taken from us long before now. I laid in bed tonight, overwhelmed with the memories of who you were and how you touched my life in so many ways. Yet, had I told you, I don’t know that you would have understood in your final days here.
When I was little, I couldn’t imagine life without you. The traditions you worked hard to create. Your home always felt like my respite from the storm. Even as an adult, I looked forward to just stopping in to spend the day. It always brought me back to a simpler time.
I remember the excitement about spending the week with Grandma St. Germain. Meeting in Champaign to eat at Bob Evans. Singing Jesus Loves me in the car along with all of the other crazy fun kid songs you had. The collection was endless. Walking to the restaurant for pancakes in the morning with your daycare kids. You always let me have soda while everyone else had to stick to milk or juice. I remember putting money in my Moola Moola savings account. Sitting at the drug store and munching on penny candy while you caught up with Ruth at the counter. You introduced me to everyone you knew. “This is Sam. Can you believe how big she has gotten?” I remember driving by the whiskey barrels in Kankakee, shopping at the farmers market and rooting on Jim McMahon and the Bears on their way to the Superbowl. Darla and I had the Superbowl Shuffle down. And when Grandpa would fall asleep watching TV, it was always so fun to turn it off on him and hear him proclaim, “Hey, I was watching that!” It was the thing to do, every evening just after the 10 o’clock news. You would snooze on the sofa and I would camp out in my sleeping bag on the floor. And the summer you taught us to stand and walk on a rolling trash barrel down the hill. Yep, I still can’t believe I came away from that unscathed. We both know how graceful I am.
At Christmas, I remember Santa delivering my gift. He would stop to smile for the camera before coming in the front door, a quick pose in the front picture window. And I remember us running into him at Santa’s Village when I was around 12. It was just as I had stopped believing that we walked into Santa’s house and he called us all by name. What a funny moment of surprise that was. He became the National Lampoons Santa. And he used one of your pictures on his resume. Yep, that is still my favorite Christmas movie.
At Easter, you hid baskets for kids and adults alike. I remember wandering through your yard and the neighbors, looking for our Easter treasures. And then, of course the hunt for the last few eggs that we always hid so well. But more than anything, I loved to hear the stories around the table. Easter could not pass by without Jello Eggs from Liz or Sugar Cookies from Darla.
Have I mentioned the cousin’s pictures yet? Yep, those were a hoot. You decided to do those shortly after I was married. It was a bit awkward being the only adult in the cousin’s pic. I never told you this, but it is next to impossible to find bib overalls for an adult. My absolute favorite picture is the one we got for free. No one was posed for the camera, so we all had our relaxed faces on and we were looking in different directions. That picture hung proudly on my wall for years. Mostly because it is the only one in which I was smiling AND having a good hair day all at the same time.
I loved that you loved my husband. I still cherish our corner cabinet and cradle that Gramps made. What pressure you put on David, to get that cabinet home safe. He has never driven slower on the interstate. The day you told us about our handmade cradles, I had just started to suspect I was pregnant with Chloe. I remember telling you a week or so later and you giving me such a hard time about holding back important news. You felt so guilty about not coming down the day she was born. Yet, we passed you on the way home in the hospital parking lot. You and mom had already been by our house and decorated with yard signs and pink balloons. You were there when I laid Chloe in the cradle for the first time. And when Lucas was born, you were right there to cradle him on as soon as you could. He was the first grandson in the family, after all. I love that you would remind me that I was a good mom. That David and I were raising our children right. That God would honor the decisions we were making in regard to our family.
When David went to the guard, and particularly when he was deployed, you were always faithful to check in. You prayed. You made sure he got his birthday and Christmas gifts all the way overseas. You sent him a used cellphone because you heard the troops had a way of being able to use them to call back home. We never actually figured out what that program was, but he brought the phone back home because it had a picture of grandpa on it and he didn’t think you would want to get rid of that quite so easily. We probably still have the phone tucked away in a drawer somewhere. I never could bring myself to talk you out of the ideas you had, especially if you thought they were helping the greater good.
The hard part is that this is just the touch of the iceberg of the memories you have left behind. I remember you showing me the family bible. The playhouse in the backyard. Snuggles, Lokie, Sable and Bailey. I remember mom and I dognapping Lillie after your mastectomy. She is doing well, but now has a little sibling rivalry going on with her new brother, Gus.
You have left a legacy of strong women behind. Daughters, Granddaughters and a Grandson that will carry on to make a difference in this generation and the one to come. We will make you proud, I have no doubt.
I love you and miss you. You took a little part of my heart with you today as you said your final goodbye on this side of Earth. I am thankful you are healthy and at peace now. That you have reunited with those whom you have loved so dearly. I will never forget how you have impacted my life. Thank you for everything.