Last night I went to sleep exhausted in a quiet house. This morning, I awoke to my wife sobbing again. She crawled in next to me and whispered. “It doesn’t get easier.”
All I could say was, “No. It doesn’t.”
Lara’s mother, Sharon, died in her sleep on Friday morning. She was 74. She was hiking on Thursday, out in the Santa Fe nature she dearly loved. She had been bothered by a headache for weeks. But that was nothing new. Those of us who knew Sharon knew she had been bothered by headaches off and on for the last twenty years. It did not indicate anything out-of-the-ordinary. It did not give us any warning. Sharon went to bed on Thursday night and didn’t wake up.
When I was young, I was certain of many things. I knew about living and dying. I knew who I loved and who I didn’t. I knew where I was going and how I wanted to get there.
Now I’m 45, and I know much less than I used to. I thought that was bad enough, that my experience stripped me of my absolute certainties. But this morning I’m scared that you cannot count on anything to be certain, ever.
I was certain that Sharon, who our children exclusively called Granny, would be here for Thanksgiving, for Christmas. I was certain she would be a proud grandparent at my children’s high school and college graduations. I was sure I would see the beautiful new quilts she made for each of them, sewn with Granny’s artistry, to usher in the next stages of their lives.
But I’ll never see Granny again. Her majestic quilts marked my wedding to her daughter, the births of my children, their growth from babies to young people, and now these are the last quilts we will have from her. She was making quilted wall hangings for our family that marked the 12 months of the year, each exquisitely done, each seasonally themed: Halloween in October. Christmas in December. A sere snow scape for January. We have 10 of the 12. Two are missing. I can’t help but think of Granny’s life as those 12 wall hangings, with two more expected that will never come.
All I can do now is think of the “10 months” of memories we still have and cling to them. I think of Sharon’s unerring compass of social justice. She didn’t preach it. She lived it. She took care of people she didn’t have to because she saw it as her obligation as a human being.
I remember Granny’s “basic diet”, a healthy helping of natural foods and the basics of the human condition: Arts. Literature. Our connection to nature. She loved museums, especially out-of-the-way and out-of-doors museums, curiosities like Tiny Town and the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum that showcased the subtle accomplishments of every-day people. She took my children to these every chance she got. And she took them to nature’s own museums as well, hiking the trails of Santa Fe, the arroyo behind their house, or white-water river rafting.
Above all, I remember her investment in our children. In the raising of them, in exposing them to wholesome aspects of life. She longed to visit them. She sent them packages nearly every week, of newspaper clippings or the funnies from the paper that she knew Dash loved, post cards from places they’d been or of scenic moments in Santa Fe. Of all the things I will miss about Granny, I will miss this the most. I lament that she will no longer be here to guide my children, to teach them the best things about grandparents: That they care about you and are interested in your growth. That they want to expand you with their many years of experience, let you see through eyes that have lived in a time you did not. Granny loved my children so much. She gave the very best parts of herself to them in every moment she was with them.
Over the past years, I have watched Lara begin her own quilting. A little bit to start, back when we were first married, then more and more. And now Lara has begun to make quilts for new babies just as Granny did. This, and so many other things, are part of Granny Sharon’s legacy, and I hope that Lara continues to quilt. I know, for my part, I will quilt with Granny in my own way. I will try to look with her vision when I watch other people, to carry her care for them in my heart. I will remember that dignity is the right of every person, and that we have an obligation to help them find that dignity, especially when it is the most difficult. I intend to stitch that piece into my own life and the lives of my children for as long as I am here.