Blogging is, like, hard these days. Obviously I don't do it that often anymore, but you know by now that when I do—I mean it. Case in point...
The one-year anniversary of my beautiful grandmother's death came and went last week. I still can't figure out what to do with that—the one year, or any anniversary of the loss of a loved one. It's hard. There's guilt for not paying enough respect (what is "enough?") There's also regret for dwelling on the past. There really is no right way, no matter what people say. Of course, I find it easier to dwell on the positive. I found many photos on my phone from her last months spent sick in bed, but immediately decided against re-hashing those private and painful moments. (They're not mine to share anyway.) Despite being surrounded by loved ones, those visuals do not exemplify the person she was.
So, I've just been thinking about our first year without a grandmother. Since her passing, as an extended family, we celebrated the birth of my cousin's adorable daughter and two weddings. We also celebrated "her boys" (the University of Virginia baseball team) going to the College World Series for the second time (it was a big deal to us). I think I speak for everyone when I say these reunions are much more pleasant than the all-black events of last summer. But as the matriarch and defacto party planner for every family get-together, she is ingrained in our family experience. I can't see them without thinking of her. Never mind that my mom stands and laughs like her and my Aunt Molly has her voice. I just associate the boisterous laughter of our giant family members with something she created. So we hug and crack jokes and make dinner and keep going. And she's there in the kitchen with us. And she's on the porch, in the driver's seat, and at the ballgame. I smiled to revisit her name on the Hall of Fame door at the baseball stadium this season when heading in for a playoff game. Her memory is literally everywhere, whether in formal honor or passing thought. Special people have this effect.
Now, about the above image. It goes without saying that emotionally, I keep many pieces of her with me. Physically, I have this: her charm bracelet. I thought it would be a nice little memorial, especially for the family members who may not have seen it. Somewhere in the hubbub of cleaning out her closet and giving away her things last Spring (her orders, mind you), I found a faded Liberty of London zip pouch in the back of a dresser drawer. It smelled heavily of Estée Lauder perfume (as does everything of hers). I pulled the stiff zipper open and this charm bracelet cascaded into my hand with a few decisive clinks. When I took it to her, she clutched it to her chest, and exclaimed: "Oh, I've had this since I was a teenager!" Without missing a beat, she thumbed each charm and took me through their origins one-by-one. Grandad's high school service medal. Her college class ring. His Beta pin. His honors society lavaliere. It is truly a fantastic keepsake.
Since she gifted it to me, it's been sitting in the same pouch on shelf in my bedroom. I thought about framing it, or getting some kind of glass box for display. But it's kind of nice to see and remember it all over again every so often. Today, I took it out and went back through our conversation in my head. With a little light Googling and a magnifying glass, I could decipher the details once more. From what I can remember, there are 3 charms that are truly hers. The rest are tokens of my grandfather's accomplishments and physical proof that she was part of his journey the entire way. As if we ever doubted that for a second...
Though not a photograph, this actually exemplifies her quite perfectly. It represents her unspoken mantra of treasuring each moment wholeheartedly. (All us Instagrammers can relate.) In retrospect, I see this in my memories of her. She threw so much effort into personal events and celebrations, which on the surface may have seemed frivolous. But as a result, we wear the experiences like charms—little happy capsules of memory. There could be one for each giant Christmas dinner, each summer by the sea, every grandchild's graduation, college acceptance, honors society and degree. Lord help her, she would have run out of room on the chain. But this is where it all started—with her and grandad and their step-by-step journey together. I think that's pretty special.
One year later, I love that I can learn from her legacy even though she's no longer around to tell me in person. As they say, actions speak louder than words. Hers were quite charming. (Wink.)