Live Color Fully

today i am excited about everything.

Dear Grandma

on August 17, 2016

(This is the letter I read out loud at my Grandma’s memorial last month. It was so easy to write, and so hard to read, and… I don’t want to forget, so I’m letting it rest here.)

Dear Grandma,

I think that in the arrogant way that only the younger generation is capable of, I believed I knew almost everything about you. Don’t get me wrong, I always knew you were special. I saw it in the way your feet turned in and your hands clasped behind your back as you told me the stories of your childhood, the stories of my history. In the way you always looked put together (you’re the only person I know that actually owned bejeweled sweats). How you somehow were incredibly laid back and simultaneously high-maintenance. The way your shoulders would lock- strong- in a bout of stubbornness and we knew to just let it go even if you were wrong. How you knew the name of every plant by heart. How proud you were of where you came from and the life you had built.

But of course, there are things that I’m just now learning about you, even this week as your family gathered to share stories and celebrate you. I never knew how much you loved letters, Grandma. Your drawers are full of, well, many treasures, but among those it seems you may have saved every letter sent your way through the years. It seemed fitting to add one more to the pile, one that describes who you were, they way we loved you, and how we’ll take what you taught us into the next generation.

So, here are three things I promise to carry forward, the things that will exist in me to allow people to know your legacy.

First: Grandma, you were a life-learner. You often told the story of going to school a year early- at age 4, after weeks of begging and pleading with your strong-willed parents. Even the strongest wills can be worn down, and off you went to fall in love with education, and later, teaching. You served kids and families in Title 1 schools well, understanding what it’s like to come from very little. But while you loved and believed in education, it was more than that- you saw the world around you as an opportunity to learn. You took classes, studying spanish at the local college and computer at your local library. You watched documentary after documentary after documentary on your favorite thing- Netflix. You travelled anywhere you could get to by plane, train or boat, and let your adventurous spirit lead you to new and different ideas. You read everything you could find, and relayed tales of history, financial facts, and countless other things in long phone calls. You saw the world as your classroom, Grandma. I want to be like that.

Second, you were… yourself. This may not sound like much, but in a world that constantly pushes for people to fit into a mold, you were you. You inherently understood what churches incessantly preach- how to be who God created you to be- nothing more, but nothing less. Some of this came with the wisdom of age, but some of it was just you. You liked what you liked, and you were unapologetic for it. We teased you mercilessly for your freezer stockpile of treats (that you ate one bite per night), your shoe shopping habit, and your love for Kenny G- but you didn’t care. It was this sense of self, this sense of understanding what you had to give the world that led to your volunteer work here, with WHO- and ultimately, to your time in Honduras. There, you offered exactly what you had to give- education, women empowerment, and your time. This sense of self let you hear God’s call on your later days, and it gave you the courage to answer, ‘Here I am Lord, send me.” I want to be like that.

And finally, there is this: the way you loved. It was your own unique way, just like everything in your life. You weren’t prone to long flowery speeches confessing feelings, but there was a quiet determination in the way you cared for the people in your life. Sarah saw it in Honduras, when you set out in the heat of day an hour early for school, mostly odd because you never left an hour early for any place… or 10 minutes early, or anything other than 20 minutes late. She watched as you slowly made your way along the dirt path to the school, stopping often to hug women and ask them about their days in broken, heartfelt spanish. You made the time, you showed them their worth, you loved them.

And you loved your family. Even when it was hard, even when people disagreed and didn’t see things the same way. We all inherited the stubbornness you had running in your veins, and though it drove us crazy, drove ME crazy, I’m so thankful for it.

And I’m thankful you moved here; lifted your roots out of the California soil and transplanted. This was your ultimate show of love, and this is what allows me to write this letter today. Instead of yearly visits, there were coffee dates and hours sitting cross legged on the floor of your living room. Every memory from high school, every concert, every dance- when it plays in my mind, I see your piercing blue eyes as a part of my story. I know it wasn’t easy to start over and craft a life here, but our lives look different because you did. You taught me this: loving others is as complicated and as simple as showing up. I want to be like that.

Grandma, I’ll remember the smell of your house, your fingers running through my hair, your rough voice singing mountain songs just slightly out of tune, and the way you looked the world with the wisdom and awe of a traveler.

None of us stand alone. We are all built on the lives of those that have come before us. I am so lucky to have bricks in my foundation with the name “Lillian” penned in your beautiful handwriting on the side.

I love you, Grandma.

Until I see you again,

Annie

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