Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Gone but not forgotten


Pre-college photo, possibly high school graduation ca. 1935
Engagement or wedding photo, ca. 1937
Admiring my dad, summer of 1943
Dinner in Kansas City, ca. 1984
During one of my visits, 2010
Meeting Severen for the first time, October 2012

Last weekend we attended the memorial service for my "Grandma Duffy," my paternal grandmother. She passed away right before Christmas. She is the only grandparent of mine who lived into my adulthood and I am so thankful for that. She was, like so many women from her generation, a tough goddam cookie. She was born in 1915 and trained as a musician. She worked full-time as a cellist and raised a family of three with my grandfather. When he passed away she found new love and married again at the age of 73. Again a widow at 78, she met and married a third time. She outlived all her husbands. I find it so inspiring that she found new reasons to love and be joyful in the different seasons of her life. My family joked that she could never be alone long before getting snatched up by someone else. She was just too good of a woman. And it is really true. She was so lovely, so elegant, so frank, so quick to laugh.

The majority of the service was made up of short speeches from family and friends. All of her grandchildren (five of us) spoke as did my mom, uncle and a few other people. Here's what I said about her:

As a girl, I was really in awe of Grandma Duffy. She wasn’t like other grandmas. She traveled the world. She was a musician. She made chicken with wine and served leafy salads on fancy side plates. She wore pretty pajamas to bed and her closet smelled nice. She went skydiving. She had lots of interesting friends. She was elegant and worldly and I was totally enchanted with her.


Grandma was also spunky. I have Grandma’s copy of her Junior yearbook from Drury (college). It is easy to see from the messages from her classmates that she had a good sense of humor. One was addressed to, “My petite Miriam” (my grandma was tiny - just barely 5')and another teased, “You were such a pest this year in class!” She was quick to giggle and seemed to appreciate a certain amount of silliness.


When I think of Grandma and what she means to me, I think of three names, her husbands and loves: Grandpa Duffy, Harvey, Jack. We are all here because Grandma said “yes” to love, and to new adventures – not once, but three times in her life. I am so grateful that she chose to say “yes” each time and strengthen our family in love (and numbers) over the years. That took great bravery. I love our hodge-podge family and am so proud to be a part of it. To be a part of what she built.


In losing Grandma, we lost some of our family glue. That means that now, we all need to work a little harder to stay connected to one another. Maybe it means more phone calls or cards or a family gathering once a year. Whatever each of us can do, we must do it. That is the best way to honor Grandma.

In the last several years of her life, my grandma was cared for by the most wonderful women. There was someone with her - keeping watch while she slept, bathing her, laughing with her, eating with her, playing cards, reading the paper - 24 hours a day. The care she received was professional and compassionate. Almost all of her caregivers attended the service and at least one of them brought her family. They, too, had fallen in love with my grandma. She was so easy to love.

You can read her obituary here, if you are interested.

8 comments:

Karen/Small Earth Vintage said...

I'm not sure which I love more: these photos or your written tribute. I think it's a tie. Lovely remembrance, Duff!

Wild Tea Party said...

So sorry to hear you lost your grandmother Duff, but so happy for you to see that she brought such a positive approach to life and love. That makes her truly special. xo

Jean Jean Vintage said...

Thank you Karen and Ellen! I forgot to mention that my favorite part of the service was the music. The woman who had purchased my Grandma's cello many years ago came to play it. It was like my Grandma was in the room, in a way. So moving.

steph.kelley said...

A wonderful tribute to a remarkable lady. The photo of you two sharing a giggle at the dinner table is priceless. And don't tell me you haven't ogled that pompom zipper pull from 1935! :) How simply amazing that the cellist came to honor your G-ma too. A lovely story all around, Duff. Hugs to you. xoxoxoxo

Foy Update said...

If by some chance you have a baby girl, Miriam May would be a lovely name with a family connection!

Maria Casteel said...

what you said was just perfect! i also love that she was a cellist.
the picture of her with your dad...you can just tell how proud of and in love with him she is. its just how you look at severen, actually.

Jacqueline said...

So sorry for your loss, Duff, and such a lovely piece you wrote. Now please excuse me while I plan a trip to go see my grandma ASAP...

Feronia said...

I'm so sorry to read of your loss, but you have remembered her with such love. Beautiful x

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