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Grandma passed away - Frances Bea
frances_bea
frances_bea
Grandma passed away

My grandmother passed away yesterday afternoon. We first realized that she was getting sick around memorial day.

We celebrate Memorial Day every year with a visit to the Grange Hall in the small town where my grandparents live. While waiting for arrival of the parade we visit the graveyard where so much of our family is buried. I look for the graves of my great uncle Alvie who I remember as a cheerfully competitive player of Dominoes, my cousin Patrick who died only a few years ago of an allergic reaction at the age of eighteen, my aunt Susan who died before I was born but who left us two beautiful daughters who now have families of their own. Patrick's grave is always the most highly decorated. His friends continue to leave tokens: small stones, miniature skateboards, tiny angels, and other things whose significance I can't even guess. When the parade arrives it is led by nearly every small kid in town who can ride a tricycle or bicycle. The bigger ones are usually too grown up for this. Also marching in formation is every past or present military service member who can put together any semblance of a uniform. All in all, this is usually well under a dozen people, including my grandfather and my uncle Brian. (I did say it was a small town.) Of late, the parade has included the local high school color guard and marching band. They were comparatively well polished this year. Grandma was her usual self this year, but she was having trouble with her balance and held onto my arm for support most of the day (Grandpa was marching).

It was not long after that it was learned that she had cancer in her lungs, cancer in her brain. She fought it for nearly six months. I took the above photo on the occasion of her eightieth birthday and sixtieth wedding anniversary. By that time she had lost fifteen pounds and her hair was no longer her own, but she was still strong. When I saw her on Thanksgiving day, she repeated to me an expression that she liked. She said, "God gives us memories so that we will have roses in December."

My memories of my grandmother are of one of the most generous people I have ever known, and a woman who was nevertheless feisty and strongly opinionated on subjects that she cared about. She never doubted her own keen intelligence and would allow no one else's reason to override her own. As a charitable exercise she manually re-typed several novels for the use of blind children using a six buttoned manual braille typewriter (most notably the Laura Ingall's Wilder "Little House on the Prairie" series). During periods in her life she made homemade baby quilts for poor families and knitted "ugly" mittens for the homeless (the use of mis-matched yarns was supposed to make them less salable). In the last years of her life she knitted untold numbers of tiny little infant caps which she donated to her local hospital for newborns to be sent home in. She was a devoted teetotaler and a woman of great religious faith. That her presence left the world is a better place is no accident. I'm certain that was her intention.

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