Ironically, death isn’t always as sad as we think. In fact, it’s really just a part of life, and when people die, it only seems appropriate to celebrate the life they’ve lived, especially if it’s been long and fulfilling. All of that sure sounds well and true, but it certainly doesn’t make the grieving process any easier, does it?
For those of you who read along regularly, it should come as no surprise that my gramma passed away late last week. And this gramma of mine was one strong lady, but I think she finally decided to call it quits, and I can’t blame her one bit. She lived almost 95 whole years, and touched more people than I’m sure she was aware of in that time. She was truly the most wonderful person I’ve ever known – beautiful through and through. I don’t know if I’ll ever be an ounce of the woman she was, but I’m surely going to try.
Going back to NC for her funeral, my second trip there in less than a week, was certainly not easy. Many a tear were shed, and most of the time I wasn’t sure if they were “happy tears” or “sad tears”; probably a hearty mixture of both. I realized I’d never hear her favorite phrase, “I love you, shug”, said to me in her sweet Southern accent; I realized I’d never get to “hug her neck” again, and I’d never get to say goodbye again when heading back home after Christmas break. And I also realized that being sad about all of those things was selfish, in a way, because all the while we’re sad about what we’re going to miss that we forget to celebrate the wonderful, long and enduring life she led and the example of what being a truly wonderful person is that she set. And therefore, for that reason, I’m glad for my gramma that she’s finally somewhere that she can be happy again, and at peace. These tears now, these are tears of happiness.
And while funerals bring about a great many a sad moment, this past weekend was extraordinarily awesome in so many ways. It was peaceful, staying in “the country”, waking up to birds chirping and cornfields within steps of my bed. Things moved much more slowly there, a pace I could easily adjust to in time, if truth be told. I was able to spend a lot of time with my family, time I’ve probably taken for granted for the last 30 years of my life, certainly for the first 20. I sat on my Aunt Faye’s front porch, side by side on the swing in 90 degree weather with my dad, for so many hours I can’t even say for certain exactly how many. Those moments were some of my favorite of this past week – and while I know he needed me, I won’t pretend for a moment that I didn’t need him too. I will remember that time as something very special, and I realized when leaving him how hard it really is to be away from them (my family) for so long and how moments with them are so important, no matter how few and far between they are.
And aside from all that “family bonding stuff”, I had plenty of time to think and reminisce about my gramma. I went through old pictures, we walked through her house remembering Christmas dinners, anniversary parties, and the cupboard where gramma kept the oatmeal cream pies. She probably hated that we ate all of them every time we visited, since they were her favorites too! I heard many a story about her from friends, relatives, many people who were strangers to me for sure. Being the (now) youngest grandchild by at least 20 years, I realized that my memories of her were very different than those of my other relatives. While they remembered her advice about love and growing up, I was too young for that and instead I remember all the little things – picking pecans and acorns, scavenging through her quilting house, eating her oatmeal cream pies, and fighting with my brother over the viewmaster so I could click through the Rainbow Brite pictures time and time again. I certainly remember the food she cooked, and growing up I thought she was a kitchen master with all those pots and pans she had going at once. I didn’t appreciate that stuff until later, though.
But no matter what silly ol’ things I remember, I remember her hugs the most. So strong for such a small lady, so full of love, of heart, and filled with so much meaning. She hugged like it was the last time, every time, whether she meant to or not. She told us she loved us, over and over with every visit. And though I’ll never hear that sweet voice again in this life, I will always, always remember these words, almost whispering to me from wherever she may be: “I love you, shug.”
I love you too, gramma.
Gramma’s Pound Cake
Gramma always had a fresh cake waiting for us and I always made sure I took a nice slab home every single visit. My Aunt Faye makes them now and has for many years, and she continues to use Gramma’s simple recipe. I dug around her cookbooks one night last week until I found it written on a wrinkled piece of yellowed paper, and I made it within hours of getting home. And while it’s good, damn good, it still isn’t the same as the ones made with gramma’s hands, but it will have to do.
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 c sugar
1 t vanilla flavoring
1 t yellow food coloring (less will do, for sure)
1 box yellow cake mix (yes, cake mix!)
preheat oven to 325 F. grease, spray, or butter a bundt cake pan.
in a mixer or by hand, blend butter and sugar together until smooth. add eggs, one at a time until incorporated. add vanilla and coloring. stir in cake mix until just incorporated. pour into bundt pan and bake 50-60 minutes, until browned and pulling away at sides. insert toothpick to ensure the center is cooked through. cool on rack, in pan, for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool on rack.