Menifee Mom: Tribute to a Grandma Strengthens Family Ties

By Karen Thomas

Last weekend, my family and I traveled to Sacramento to attend the memorial service for my grandmother.

My grandmother was 89 years old and lived an amazing life. She experienced divorce, remarried and found the love of her life, endured the death of a teenage child, migrated to a new country, ran her own business (which continued until her death), and raised six children.

Her family was everything to her. We all marveled at how she managed to make it to every important event for her grandchildren, no matter what state they lived in. She left behind a legacy of love and devotion.

Throughout her later adult years, she experienced many severe health problems, but she refused to let them slow her down. She continued to serve others even when it meant being pushed around in a wheelchair because her heart couldn't take the exertion.

As we sat and listed to stories of her life, I only could wish that I can leave behind such a legacy. I hope that my children were able to sense what a great person she was and find a desire within themselves to live a life focused on those things that really matter.

But of course, one of those children is only 5. Though she understood the situation, her interest was fleeting. Being family, we were seated at the front. A few times during the service, she loudly asked, "Is it almost over?" and "Can we just go back to the hotel and swim?"

Each time, my hand was quickly put over her mouth in embarrassment! It had been a long morning and I guess you can only expect so much from a little tyke.

There were tears at the service, as there always are when someone you love passes away. But those tears were combined with a great sense of joy: joy that she was able to live a life that had influenced so many, joy that we knew her, and joy my personal belief gives me that she has gone on to bigger and better things.

One great thing about memorial services for a matriarch who meant so much to so many is being able to witness the great gathering of family members. I was able to see relatives I haven't seen in 15 years or more. It is wonderful to find still intact the connection that brings people together even when they've lived worlds apart.

At the end of this great weekend in honor of a great person came the drive home. After we left home to begin the trip up to Sacramento, we had discovered our portable TVs were not working. We had promised to get them working before we came home, but we hadn't.

So now, we had another long drive with no TV. They had done it before (I'm ashamed to say it was due to iPods and portable gaming devices), so we figured they'd survive it again.

We were busy "surviving it," when it was announced that one daughter was "stinky." Her older sister, who was stuck in the very back with her, told us she was "not going to ride back there with her any longer!"

So we asked her, "How are you going to get home?"

Her brilliant answer: "I don't know; I'll ride on the roof."

To our surprise, the little sister (the stinky one) started to cry and said, "But then I'll be back here all alone!"

Yup, no worries that her sister will be risking her life by riding on the roof, but only that now she'll be all alone in the back! This logic or lack of compassion should've concerned me, but all I could do was laugh.

I know my grandma had plenty of experiences with her kids that drove her crazy, but at which she later looked back on and laughed. I am learning to find humor and a bit of perspective in frustrating situations, but probably not as much as I should. I know if we can only learn to find joy in the journey, instead of frustration, then each day can become part of a legacy of a life that truly was great.

Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.


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