On January 19th, 2011, sometime in the morning, my Nana passed away. She was born on December 4, 1906. She lived a long and (mostly) happy life, and when she died, she was 104 years old. She lived through the great depression, both World Wars, and a lot of other history, good and bad. She was my father’s father’s mother, and I remember a lot of happy times with her.
In my earliest memories she lived with my great grandfather in what was basically a one room house at the top of a hill. I remember playing parcheesi with her in that house, and I remember that the bathroom had no door, but rather a curtain, and that at a very young age this was troubling to me.
I remember my great grandfather’s funeral, probably about twenty or so years ago. I remember the usual talk of wondering how long she would last after he was gone, but my nana was not one to give up on life. For one, her life was very simple. She rarely left her house, except when my grandfather would drive her to the store, or to church. I remember after my parents were divorced, how she was one of the few people to still welcome my mother when we came into town, and so we saw her more often than maybe we would have otherwise.
I remember when she finally agreed to move into the retirement home at the age of 99. I remember her 100th birthday party, and I remember my grandmother’s funeral just about 3 years ago. We always joked that Nana would outlive us all, and she certainly seemed to be headed that way! Ruby was just a baby then, and we were able to get a five generation picture while we were there, which I will treasure for the rest of my life.
We saw Nana at least once a year, and she was still sharp despite her age. Two years ago we showed up unannounced for a visit and she didn’t immediately recognize us. She thought we were the Gideons, come to bug her again, but as soon as we told her who we were, she started talking to us about our lives and what we had been doing since the last time we had seen her. It was always a pleasure to visit.
The last time I ever saw her was last summer. We were passing through town with my half-sister Carolyn. I don’t generally feel the need to qualify her with a “half,” but I think it is important in this case because, due to the halfness, she had never met Nana before. I don’t even think she even knew she had a great grandmother, so it was necessary to introduce them. I’m glad I did. One of my greatest sorrows of the moment is that Edward and Ruby will never get to know Nana the way that I did.
Yes, there is sadness in any passing, but mostly I feel grateful for having what seems like more time than I should have been allowed with such a wonderful woman. 104 years is a lot longer than most of us can hope for, and every day with her was a blessing.