I don’t have a first memory of my grandmother. She was just always there, her presence so closely tied to the farm on which they lived. She was always there, bringing home turtles from the pond in a feed bucket, and showing us where the cat had made a nest for the kittens in the straw mow. She was always there, scooping ice cream onto little plates of perfect apple pie slices. She was always there, picking strawberries from her garden by the bucketful and sending us bags of green beans long after we had moved away from home.
On Monday, after a short struggle with cancer that began in May, Grandma died and God took her soul to be with him. She was 77, but everyone – herself included – expected her to live to 95, just like her mother, spry and sharp in thought and memory until the very end. Saying goodbye this week has been one of the hardest, most surreal experiences of my life.
I saw my grandparents all the time as a child, but in recent years, as an adult, I have not visited as often. Now that I can no longer see her at all, I wish I had found the time, the energy to visit from the big city, to sit at her kitchen table in her new house for a cup of tea and a slice of pie, or a lunch of summer sausage sandwiches. There is so much I could yet have learned from her: stories of adjusting to life in Canada; how to grow everything, and store it to feed a family all through the winter; how to make her perfect apple pie.
We will be okay without Grandma. We won’t mourn forever. But we will always know what we are missing, what we have lost, and what we will never have in our lives again.