My Nana passed away last week.
It’s been so hard, so sad.
And if you follow me on Instagram, you know that she’s been ill for some time now–in a nursing home this summer and then a few weeks in hospice care. But it doesn’t make the loss any easier, knowing that the end was near.
I’ve written about our power notes to Nana, I’ve shared bits and pieces here and there about our visits to Nana over the years and how much she’s meant to me.
But I thought that today, since I can’t concentrate on much else, and because I would love for the universe to know what an amazing woman my Nana was, that I’d share a little something I wrote about her.
Something I shared at her services this past weekend.
Here’s the skinny. . .
Life Lessons from Nana:
I have spent hours scouring the internet for the perfect poem to share today.
A poem that Nana would love—because we know she loved poems—and a poem that would speak to our feelings about Nana. About her life. About joy. And sorrow. And celebration. About contentment, which she wished for each of us.
But then it hit me—I didn’t need to search through books or libraries or websites or databases for someone else’s words. Nana gave us her own words so many times. So why not use hers?
Nana sent me close to 200 letters after I left home. 200. She wrote to me through 10 different addresses, over dozens of life changes, but I’m sure I’m not alone. She wrote to everyone. All of her granddaughters. Mary found 15 letters from Nana while they were living in the same zip code.
Nana liked to write. Her writing, among many other things, was one of her many gifts to us.
So as I read through these many, many letters and the many, many photo books and albums and Nana’s About Me, For You! which she wrote for Heather as Heather’s wedding gift, I found several recurring messages.
Several ideas that Nana repeated in her writing, Some she made very clear and others became clear over time. But either way, Nana gave us everything we need to really rock it as humans, and I’m not even kidding.
Life Lessons From Nana:
First, get the best education you can, whether it means a vocational school (sewing, cooking, designing, hair dressing), a community college, business school, college, nursing—even just reading everything you can get your hands on. The library is free, newspapers are still cheap and educational. Even TV is educational if you’re selective. Never stop learning. It’s a fallacy to believe that you can’t learn as you get older. Do crossword puzzles, cryptograms, word games. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn and also how much you already know. Just read and read and read.
Second- take your time about any big decision you may have to make – whether that means schooling, your life’s work, marriage, children, buying a home. Weigh the pros and cons – write them down if necessary and if you go ahead and make a mistake anyway, remember it’s not the end of the world. You can always change your course, you can always change your jobs, you can always buy another house. A marriage and children though—that’s not as easy. Also take a couple of years to be on your own – learn to be independent.
Third—the subject of marriage is next. Since you’re all girls, I want you to know this—I don’t think everyone has to be married – it is not for some people. I think you can have a good, full and complete life without marriage if you’re content with a career – just as I believe you can have a good marriage without children if you so desire. That would not have been my choice. . . .
Fourth – for those of you who do decide to get married, talk to the young man of your choice and then talk, talk, talk some more. Talk about what you feel your role should be in marriage and his role. Find out how he feels he should contribute to the marriage and what he feels you should. If you decide on children—will you be satisfied with one or do you want more? What does he want—one ore more? Define your role as parents too. You may be shocked and surprised at the differences. Talk about religion – your plans for the future. Does he object to your working – do you really want to work or to stay home with your children? Talk about your family backgrounds – how you will celebrate holidays. All these differences will be brought together in a marriage and many adjustments must be made. Generally, girls, talk, talk, talk—if he doesn’t want to talk, you may have a real problem. Don’t’ ever think you can marry some one and change him—it doesn’t work.
Fifth—if you have children, give them the best you can. I don’t mean material things but love and caring. Being a parent is a twenty-four hour a day job and a lifetime one. You won’t know all you need to know but there are books out there to read and people to ask questions of, including your parents. Sometimes you’ll get very discouraged but other times you will make up for it. I guess another thing needs to be said here—don’t’ forget your husband or put him last in line after the children. After all he is the one you married and vowed to spend your life with and he’s the one who will remain after your children are grown and gone, Don’t grow apart – try to grow together.
Sixth—the last bit of advice is this – don’t lose your own identity by becoming a wife, a mother, a daughter, or whatever. Take the time –find the time—make the time somewhere for yourself – your own interests. It will pay off in the long run.
Remember these things too – never park in a handicapped parking spot – never shove in front of anyone in line, and never, ever leave your shopping card out in the lot – return it to its proper spot. As you might have guessed, these are some of my pet peeves. I do have lots more.
These six lessons were what Nana outlined specifically for us, but I think it was very clear that she wanted us to remember just three more.
1. Nana taught us to move slowly. The world felt like it slowed down in Nana’s house. Things may be crazy at work or school or in life, but it always felt like Nana’s house gave us room to breathe at Nana’s. Nana taught us to stop, especially now in the fall, when leaves change colors and the breeze is cool, and just be happy with time together. She noticed the beauty of the blue sky, the birds singing. Snap dragons growing. Tails wagging. Someone warm and fuzzy on her lap. She taught us to enjoy a second cup of coffee during a breakfast out, or a piece of pie after lunch. It was okay to slowly eat ice-cream in the middle of the day at Nana’s, as she enjoyed every last bit of her cherry vanilla. She showed us to walk carefully through craft shows or craft stores, admiring the details—delicate stitches, lacy roosters, glittery santas.
2. Nana taught us to always keep the door open. Any time, any day, Nana’s door was open. For many years, it was unlocked, too, but that’s another story. But keep the door open for a last-minute visit on the porch, donuts at her tiny dining room table, or a chat in her pretty blue living room. There’s something really comforting about knowing that no matter where we went, no matter how many miles we traveled, or how many days between visits, Nana would always be there when we returned. She would always be eager to see us and would welcome any one of us with open arms, a seat on the couch, and backyard full of trees to climb. Or, in the summer, a pool to swim in.
3. Nana taught us to love well. It may not have been easy for her to say it—and I know she admitted this many times—but Nana loved each of us so well. She loved each one of her children and each one of their spouses. She loved each one of her granddaughters. Her great-grandson, and her great-great grandson. She loved everyone we brought home to meet her. She loved our friends and she loved our children and our children’s children.
Nana taught us to love well in the way she cared for Pappy. The way she cared for Uncle Frank. The way she cared for Ripper. The way she cared for Willow, Sugar, and Spice (and basically all of the neighborhood strays). The way she cared for Aunt Pat, Aunt Bren, and Dad. Uncle Curt, Uncle John, and mom. The way she looked so happy and proud of her kids but how you knew it was sometimes hard for her to really show it.
Nana taught us to love well in the way she viewed family, in the way she spoke about her parents and her brothers and everyone here who have become a part of her story.
Nana taught us to love well in the way she wrote, in her letters and stories and gifts and journals. She taught us to love well in the care she took in her crocheting—for us—and for so many others.
She taught us to love well in her consistent message that we mattered:
- In the $5.00 she sent us as ‘hamburger money’ or ‘hotdog money’ or ‘mad money’;
- In the reminders that she thought of each one of us every day;
- In her carefully wrapped prizes for pokeno games;
- In picking the perfect birthday cards with precise messages;
- In making holidays so very special for us;
- In putting us on her to-do list each week—in a call, a letter, or dinner out;
- In taking care of us;
- In listening to us;
- In updating us;
- In asking about us;
- In worrying about us;
- In being proud of us;
- In wanting to visit us;
- In wanting to spend time with us;
- In sharing memories with us;
- In dreaming big for us;
- In wanting better for us
One thing is certain, Nana loved us well.
Thank you, Nana, for loving us well.