Surrounded by her husband and five of her children, my Grandma Barbara died Friday night. Intellectually, I obviously understand that we all die. I understand, as I look at the many beautiful babies filling my Facebook news-feed, that one story has to end for another to begin. Knowing this doesn't make the pain of closing a beloved story any easier though. Her story was, of course, a significant part of mine. 

I have a gigantic family; I am not exaggerating. I honestly do not know how many cousins I have because there are so many generations in our close-knit family, yet my grandmother never made me feel like a face lost in the crowd of ever-expanding family. This was not because I was more special than the rest; she loved everyone and made sure we all knew it.

She had the sweetest, gentlest voice I ever heard. I do not recall a single time that she raised that voice in anger at me. If she had, I know it still would have sounded as sweet as sugar. 

When I was six-years-old, I lived around the corner from my grandparents. I decided to run away from home, and it was their house I was going to. I just knew she and my grandfather would love to have me! (That darned trash-bag full of toys ripped as I dragged it a full two doors down as my parents watched, and I didn't make it to my destination.)

She loved to cook and bake for her family and remembered the favorites of them all. Growing up, she used to bake me angel food cake and her famous strawberry cake. One of my most cherished memories is when she came to visit me at my home in Texas. She stood in my kitchen and taught me how to make that strawberry cake. I felt like I was inheriting the keys to the kingdom! 

We never had a conversation that didn't include her telling me how proud she and my grandfather were of me. I never doubted that she was genuine. She believed in me; she bought me my first hard-back book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, when I was seven years old--a book I still have and cherish. 

She has been ill for quite some time; her death was not a surprise. When it became clear that her death was imminent, my mother was at her bedside. She offered to hold the phone up to her ear so I could say goodbye. I could not do it. I was ashamed of my weakness, but I didn't have the words. It hurt too badly, and I didn't want to accept the fact that this sweet woman who I loved, who I used to spend the night with, who made the best pancakes, who patiently listened to the repeated and long (though interesting) stories of my grandfather, who always had a twinkle in her eye, who loved us all, was truly gone. When I got the phone call on Friday night that her suffering was over, one reason I cried was that I did not say goodbye or take the opportunity, one last time, to tell her that I loved her.

That night I dreamed about her. She came to me, and though I do not remember a word being spoken between us--she smiled at me with that ever-present twinkle in her eye and held my hand. I knew she was telling me it was okay and that she loved me. When I awoke on Saturday morning, I had a tremendous feeling of peace. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I believe that she was with me, comforting me; that is who she was. 

Grandma, you are loved. Thank you for a lifetime of happy memories, delicious food, and love.