A long, strong life

I want to dare all of my spoiled friends to walk to a gravel road every day with a bucket to gather enough water to cook supper.

I’ve had so many people tell me how sorry they are that my Grandma died yesterday…

Every time I smile and say, “Thanks, but she was almost 98!” because I want to celebrate her LIFE not mourn her passing. I want to pull out the old black and white photos of her and show her off, lounging with other 1920’s flapper friends as a motivated young woman in “business school”, then take a magnifying glass to the sepia photos of her during the depression standing tall and grinning at the camera in front of a dilapidated old Ford truck, hugging my then toddler father to her legs while the wind whips her long belted felt coat to one side. I want to tell everyone her stories, real western pioneer stories, of hardship and suffering that didn’t break her but made her stronger.

I want to dare all of my spoiled friends to walk to a gravel road every day with a bucket to gather enough water to cook supper. To withstand seventy some harsh Montana winters that last forever, to raise five wild boys on their own, to lose their husband early and never flinch, just muster up enough courage to get up the next morning and keep trying, keep living. I want to quiz them, would you be content in a shanty, absolutely delighted with a two room house, in joyous tears over a small a-frame house bought for you late in life? Would you be perfectly pleased to have a two room apartment in your last years, so long as people bustled in and out and you weren’t confined to assisted living or a nursing home?

This woman, who never had much at all but didn’t seem to need a lot beyond her family, lived for almost one hundred years and still stubbornly refused to be helpless. Even at the very end of her life with ankles grossly swollen, she insisted on having her feet firmly planted on the ground. Although physically seated her unwavering life long message was still clear, “I will stand on my own two feet.”

So I will accept condolences but I will continue to celebrate her pioneer blood that runs through me and her inner strength and commitment to family that was her genetic gift to me and my children. My children and I were truly blessed by God to spend precious minutes with her again this past summer, to hold her soft hand and connect with her one last time on this earth (though surely we will laugh and visit in heaven later about her funeral this week and all the people that came to mourn).

When people cry, and they will cry, it will not be so much that is was a tragedy she passed away at almost 98, it will be that they miss her already, and they know they will miss her forever.

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