I know that I one of the lucky few, but up until about two years ago, all of my grandparents were still alive. I grew up 30 miles from both sets of grandparents and I have wonderful memories of all of them. In their own ways, they were each remarkable people who overcame so much to even grow up, much less have successful lives. They are each such a blessing to me.
Over the last two years, both of my grandfathers died. And last night, I found out that my Maw Maw died. Her husband (my Paw Paw, naturally) had a stroke about a year ago and died in October. I think that she finally just couldn't take living without him any more.
My Maw Maw (sorry, that sounds so childish, but that's who she is and I can't just call her "my grandmother) is probably who I was closest to. She grew up the youngest of four girls, born in the midst of the Great Depression in the middle of the dust bowl. They lived in a half-dugout house in West Texas. Her daddy died when she was 10. I know that it was a terrible, terrible death and that it influenced the rest of her life. How could it not? Eventually, they moved to Oklahoma and she met my very handsome (her words) Paw Paw. They got married when she was 16 and she became a mom at 18.
When I was little I thought that my Maw Maw was the most perfect person on the whole planet (and she likely was!). Her house always smelled like heaven to me. And anything that came from her house smelled like it - my brother & I would even say, "This smells like Maw Maw!" Clothes, toys, blankets...whatever, if it came from Maw Maw's house, I didn't want it washed until the smell had completely worn off. I can't even describe the mixture of Downy, potpourri, perfume, good food and grease from Paw Paw's machine shop. But all together, it was just perfect.
Maw Maw always made me feel like I was the smartest, most talented, prettiest girl in the world. If I was sad, being in her lap made things so much better. Or even the sound of her voice. I knew that I could tell her anything and my secret would be safe.
And as I grew up, she never wavered in her support. She told me more than once that I was the best mother that she had ever known. Which was HUGE because, evidently, she had never told MY mom that. Up until I had kids, Maw Maw was the best mom she ever seen. And you know that when you are in the middle of raising kids, hearing you are a good mom means the world. Especially when you hear it from the most perfect person on the planet.
Maw Maw also managed to make my kids feel so special and loved and appreciated. When she was going through chemo a couple of years ago, Bear made her paper hat to wear. And not only did she wear it, she made sure that my mom took a picture so that Bear could see her wearing it. And she would make a point to ask the kids to sing "Amazing Grace" or, really, any other song for her & followed it with lavish praise that would make the singer feel so proud and talented. Every picture they drew was beautiful and every poem or story they wrote was Pulitzer-worthy. Plus they were the smartest, most beautiful children on the planet. Just like their Mommy & Daddy (her words).
Maw Maw really loved nothing more than to sit and listen to her grandkids and great-grandkids play and laugh. My boys, of course, kept her in stitches. When my babies were born, she just wanted to hear them cry or laugh or make noise or just breathe.
I always thought that the phrase "a hole in my heart" was kind of trite and goofy. But really, I understand now. My Maw Maw made me who I am today. My confidence and self-esteem (and my deep, abiding appreciation for cute shoes) are in large part due her influence - her unfailing support and truly unconditional love - in my life. I'm having a very had time imagining this world without my Maw Maw. But, I know without a doubt that she is in heaven with my Paw Paw and she is happy and finally at peace.
I love you so much Maw Maw. Thank you for all you have been for me. Give Paw Paw a big hug and a kiss for me. I'll see you in heaven. Save a place for me.