For days I’ve been going back and forth about writing this post. Words aren’t free flowing when you lose someone you love. Most people probably think saying goodbye to someone age 92 isn’t a tragedy. In comparison to dying young they might be right. However, loss is loss and losing a loved one, no matter how old, is always a tragedy to the one who must go on living without them.
Death is the hardest part of life for those left behind to live it. (Tweet that)
Last Tuesday, March 4, 2014 my Husband’s grandmother passed away. We called her grandmama. Her name was Anna Maria Clementina Guillen de Valle Rennick Tracy. Try saying that three times fast!
Clementina wasn’t the average grandmother. She wore animal prints and did step aerobics well into her late 80s. Until just a couple years ago, when we went shopping together, she could keep up with me step-for-step. She would even try on, and purchase, the same clothing styles I wore. I hate to admit it but she often looked better in them.
Because my husband and I were high school sweethearts, I first met grandmama when I was 16 years old. In fact, I remember the night…
I was invited to vacation with Paul’s family in Ocean City, Maryland. Grandmama was flying in from California to join us. The first time I saw her she was sitting outside on the front porch. When I walked out she began talking to me as if she knew me forever. I sat down next to her and she proceeded to tell me story after story about her life. I immediately felt connected to her.
My family never took vacations, so that trip to Ocean City marked my first time seeing the ocean. I remember my boyfriend and his sister Renee, (who was my best friend) swimming in the rush of the sea and loving every minute of it. The first couple days I was fearful of the crashing waves and fish I couldn’t see. (Me afraid?!?! Shocking, I know!) Guess who was my beach buddy? Yep! Grandmama.
At 68 years old she wore a black bikini. She encouraged me to walk into the ocean with her but stopped when the water hit her knees. As each wave rolled in she braced herself as she modeled a perfect surfer’s position. Several times the waves almost knocked her off balance and she screamed sayings such as, “ay yi yi” and “ay, chihuahua.” I stayed right next to her and did the same thing. Only I didn’t use that exact phrasing.
From the moment I met Clementina I called her grandmama, but I officially became her granddaughter at age 18 when I committed to forever with her grandson. A few years later we moved to California. When grandmamma turned 80 she finally retired. I was blessed to spend several days a week with her. My only child was in school, and I was a stay-at-home mom, so the two of us would shop, eat, and even go bowling together. She loved to Bowl. I loved to be with her.
After 8 years of living in California Paul and I decided to move back to Pennsylvania. She often telephoned and sent cards and letters. The best letter I ever received from her included a newspaper clipping from the sports section…
Living in Sacramento we grew to love the Sacramento Kings basketball team. At the time, my favorite player was Chris Webber. She affectionately began referring to him as my boyfriend. She would say, “Jenny, your boyfriend is on the television again!”
One day while checking my mail I received a letter addressed to me in her handwriting. I opened it to find a cutout article from the Sacramento Bee Newspaper with a picture of Chris Webber shooting a foul shot. She captioned it, “With love to Jenny from Webber – Jenny, I am jealous and kisses too.” I laughed until I cried.
Today, I just cry…
There are so many moments I will treasure:
- I used to love sitting on the couch with her while she watched Spanish soap operas. There would be women screaming at each other on the television. I only know about 5 words of Spanish, so I would ask, “What did she say?” Her response, “That lady’s mad!” (Umm… I gathered that, grandmama!)
- Then there was the day she caught the oven on fire, shut the door and said, “We hope for dee best.” (Insert Spanish accent.)
- Every now and then we would journey to the casino where I would Follow her around and watch her win. Once, she was even picked to stand in a money machine. I watched her strap on goggles and enter a large contraption where hundred dollar bills swirled around her head. She jumped around trying to catch them. (Hilarious!)
- I will never forget her leopard print style and attitude to match.
- At 92 she was still concerned with joining a gym and watching what she ate. (I’m 41 and struggle with that kind of determination.)
- Her love of extra salted margaritas and cooking great meals such as tamales, enchiladas, and Spanish rice touched her entire family. (It’s touched me a little too much around the hips!)
There are a million instances I could have written about today. I’m sure there are deeper words to write and funnier stories to share. However, my heart is heavy and my mind is jumbled.
Yet, within the pain, hope lives. Her soul is alive dancing in praise unto a faithful King who renewed her 92 year old body while granting her eternal life. We will miss her, but she lives on…
When you arrived at the gates I am certain you heard, “Well done good and faithful servant.” We will miss you here but know you are so much better off there. Please kiss my babies, and save me a dance. You are so loved.
Until we meet again…
I love you,