The loss of a grandparent

On Monday, the 13th of September, we lost my last living grandparent, my maternal Grandmother. Mrs Marjorie Wood (née Ulrich) would have turned ninety-five (95) on September 22nd and, while I am not sad that her suffering has come to a peaceful end, the hole she has left in my family is acutely felt. Covid affected her tremendously, she was isolated in her ALF for many months and then she contracted covid after a hospitalization for a fall in her room. She’s been uncommunicative in hospice for several months and more than once took a turn towards the end only to rally and stay with us.

My grandmother was both a woman of her generation and a bit of a maverick. She accepted the message that her highest goal as a woman was to be a wife and mother, but she also attended college for a time, paying her own way. She came from very modest beginnings and married into one of the most prominent families in her area. She never officially worked outside the home, but juggled far more details than most full time employees between the house and volunteering and my grandfather. She deferred to my grandfather (an engineer) in many things, but was the neck that turned his head far more than he would probably have acknowledged prior to his sudden and unexpected death on February 1, 2003; I can hear their “fights” in my head which included a lot of name repetition in a certain tone. She was always a wonderful hostess, showing her love and care for her family with actions rather than words. She struggled with the fact that I married a black man and worried that my mixed children would not fit in, but respected, accepted and loved my husband and boys once she met and got to know them.

Her main accomplishment, in her eyes, which she was happy to describe in excruciating detail to whomever would listen, was her family.

We gathered in Ohio in 2016 for her 90th birthday ….

My siblings and I with my grandmother in 2016. Clockwise from my grandmother is Tommy, me, Andrew, Anna, Kyle and Amy.
My family with my grandmother, Liam is on Elliot’s lap and Malcolm is on my lap.
My mom and dad (seated on either side of my grandmother), my siblings, their spouses and children.
My grandmother’s three living children. My mom is a physical therapist, my uncle is a pharmacist and my aunt is an oncology nurse. It is no coincidence that each of them went into medical a/k/a helping professions. One other son preceded both my grandparents in death.
All of my grandmother‘s grandchildren. She used each of us to push the others to do better, more, bigger. She was inordinately proud of each of our accomplishments, all of them.
The next generation, the great-grandchildren. Grandma doted on each one.
This is my grandmother’s legacy. Each of these people (and so many more) were affected and changed forever by her.

As the eldest granddaughter and groomed to please my elders, I spent a lot of time with each of my grandparents. With my paternal grandmother, I learned to crochet and knit. With my maternal grandmother, since I wasn’t very enthusiastic about cooking, we wrote letters. When we moved from Orlando to Miami after my diagnosis and I cleaned out many stashes, I found piles of letters and cards from her. We moved from Ohio when I graduated from high school and she never really liked talking long distance on the phone, so we wrote to each other frequently. I saved nearly all of those letters and cards until I had to let most go in the move and her handwriting evoked many memories.

My grandmother was a part of my life at each stage and consistently wanted to know me. That being said, she didn’t always understand or agree with my choices and wasn’t quiet about that. I think some of my stubbornness in going into a male dominated profession scared her because she was worried about me. When I kept working full time after I had my kids, I think that worried her too. She was a product of her generation and her experiences, so my tendency to do things differently wasn’t something she easily assimilated. We didn’t always see eye to eye but I always knew she cared, I always knew I could count on her love.

My grandmother’s legacy is love. Love of her family. And I can only hope to carry that legacy forward as I now face the world without a grandparent and my children without great-grandparents. I hope to keep her memory alive by telling the stories of who she was to my kids since they won’t have the benefit of her physical presence the way I did. She will never be forgotten.

My mom took this picture on 9/13, the day her mom transitioned, of a rainbow out at sea. Rainbow are significant in our tradition as a symbol of how God is faithful and will never forsake us (or send another worldwide flood). Seeing the rainbow is comforting.

Her obituary with a truly lovely slideshow can be found here.

59 thoughts on “The loss of a grandparent

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I can see how much family meant to your grandmother, and how much she meant to all of you. My children lost their grandfather two weeks ago when my Dad lost his battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He leaves a major hole in our lives, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am sorry about the difficult circumstances for you, your grandmother and your family. She sounds a lot like my mother who would be 90 this. Such a blessing to have beautiful memories of her life. 💕💐🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so sorry for the lost of your grandmother, Abigail. From reading your post, it sounds like she was the rock of the family and she left a fantastic legacy and helped create beautiful memories! My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. ❤🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing that beautiful story about your grandmother. I feel like I’m part of the family – loved looking at all the pictures and seeing your lovely family. I lost my grandmothers in 1986 and 1981, and I still miss them intensely. Treasure all the memories. Hugs to you. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry for your loss. The story of your grandmother is very beautiful. She was 95 and relieved from her suffering. I guess she was very pretty at her young age and also a wonderful lady. Very well written. Loved to read it ☺️😊🌷

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh no, I’m so, so sorry 🌹 It’s painfully sad how Covid affected her, not just contracting it but the way in which it served to isolate her. That said, I’m glad she knew the love of such a wonderful family, and she clearly cared deeply about you all.

    To have your family as your biggest achievement is an enviable one and a beautiful one. She was clearly proud of everyone and it’s a big family too, which is lovely to see (especially as I have a very small family, most of whom I never get to see). I’m glad the family was all able to meet up to celebrate her 90th, I’m sure she absolutely loved that. The photos are fantastic, everyone looks really happy and those can be cherished forever.

    Sending my love and best wishes to you and your family, Abigail. 💜

    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is such a lovely, unvarnished tribute to a wonderful woman whose bond with you surpassed your many differences. That’s the way things should be, but too often are not. You and your grandma were both rewarded by your shared determination.

    Lovely photos!

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  8. I’m so sorry for your loss Abigail. She sounds like a wonderful woman 💕 my grandmother passed away at 99 years old. I was holding her hand when she transitioned. It was a beautiful moment because I had a visualization that she got up from her body and she was a young woman again. After that visualization she stopped breathing. There must have been a thousand lights in the room. And I heard a voice say each light represented a soul that loved her from the time she drew her first breath to the time she drew her last.

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  9. I don’t know how I missed this Abigail. Belated sincere condolences to you and your family.
    Loved the pics of her 90th. So many great grandchildren!! What a treasure to have that memory❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Abigail,

    I’m so sorry your grandmother died. It sounds like she was very special. My grandma, I only really remember one, loved her grandchildren fiercely. I honestly don’t recall her ever saying anything “bad” about any of us grandkids – and I know none of us were/are perfect! In fact, if she heard someone else saying something noncomplimentary, she always stood up for whichever grandchild was being spoken about. The love of a grandparent is something special and it’s hard to say goodbye to those who love us so unconditionally. It really is the end of an era in our lives. Love the photos. Thank you for sharing some memories. Again, my condolences. x

    Liked by 1 person

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