Birth date: April 14, 1935
Death date: December 28, 2009
My mom asked me to write something for my grandma’s funeral. As writing does, it has helped me heal and made me feel a little closer to my family during this time of loss. My mom asked my cousin L to read it for me. It made perfect sense. L was one of three sisters who we always called ‘the girls’. I grew up with them. I wore their hand-me-downs. We had adventures at the in between table on Thanksgiving because we were not quite adults but not kids either, just starting to enter the teen years. They were older than me, L being a year older, and her sisters a year older each. It’s been a long time since we’ve hung out. They had kids and I left the country. It seemed so fitting for her to read this in my absence. And now I share it with you.
There is a photograph of grandma on my fridge at home. In it she is seated on my left, with grandpa on my right. Grandpa and I are looking at each other. We are arguing playfully about something that doesn’t really matter much to either of us, but we enjoy sharing our views. Grandma is looking at the camera. She is telling us to stop arguing; fearing that the smiles on our faces will disappear and the talk will turn serious. I love this photo. I love how it shows the love we all have for each other and the playfulness of our discussions. Grandma wanted to keep the peace.
She was an amazing woman. A mother who birthed eight children and helped take care of countless grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. I have so many clear, vivid memories of her. Starting back when I was just five years old, staying the night at her house on Lafayette Street in South Lyon. As thunder cracked overhead I backed myself into the corner between the living room and hallway, scared out of my wits; I screamed and she came running. She embraced me and took me to the kitchen to make me a hot bowl of Cream of Wheat. Grandmas do that. They draw you under their wing to keep you warm and safe from the world outside. She had a lot of grandchildren and she loved and adored each one.
Even with the distance, Grandma was always a part of my life. Just like she has been a part of yours. You can find her in the kitchen, in between the pages of old cookbooks and hand written recipes. Her voice over the telephone telling you how much butter to use and reminding you to sift the flour. The advice about all things important and even the unimportant things, letting you know what she thinks of this or that. In the hem of your dress or pants, fixed by her seamstress skill and long, strong fingers. The puzzle pieces arranged in groups and waiting to be fitted into the 1000 piece puzzle on the card table in the living room. Even the puzzle on the shelf at the store that you think about getting her as you walk by it just because you know she loved puzzles so much. The memories of her warm hugs and soft smile, happy to greet you whether it’s been a week, a month or a year.
Women like Nancy Mayo put other people first. She supported her children and grandchildren. Even her great-grandchildren. With her humble lifestyle she still pressed money into the palm of my hand to help pay for her great-grandson’s therapies while we were visiting Michigan this summer. She longed to hold him for a bit longer, but her body was too weak to allow her that pleasure. As they sat side by side on the couch in her living room, he looked up at her and smiled. Fussy only moments earlier, she had a way of calming him, like she did with all of her grandchildren and children. Always just a phone call away with a listening ear and the advice you were searching for, especially in the days when travelling got to be too hard for her.
Grandma will be missed in so many ways. But she will remain always in our hearts, as a happy memory of time spent in the kitchen, the living room and on the other end of the phone.