Tuesday, 12 February 2013

To be like Jessie

Today my grandma, Jessie, would have been 98. She passed away 4 months ago.  She was the only grandparent I grew up with, and since she only had one child, my mom, and 3 grandchildren, we were very close.  She spent 3-4 months each winter living with us in Vancouver, and we spent a summer month each year at her house in Rainy River, Ontario. Around the time she turned 92 we all noticed she was increasingly forgetful and there came a time when she forgot who I was a couple years ago.  I admit I forgot who she was too.  I avoided going to visit her in her care home because it was depressing and I hated seeing her that way. I preferred to remember her as the independent, articulate, and capable woman she always was until well into her 90’s.
My grandma was fairly healthy until about 3 days before she died—we think it was due to a stroke. But about 2 weeks before all of this, I started thinking about my grandpa a few times a day. (My grandpa passed away when I was 3, and I have only 2 memories of him making me wooden toys in his workshop.  I’m the only grandchild who remembers him, and I probably thought about him once a year before this).  A week later, my grandpa was in my thoughts almost every hour. I have never had anything like that happen to me before, and I don’t consider myself to be an extremely spiritual person. I laugh at shows about people who talk to spirits and I’m a huge skeptic of this kind of thing. But for some reason, I felt a very heavy presence over me that intensified to the point where one night I laid in bed unable to sleep because the air felt so thick with my grandpa’s presence. I actually said out loud, “Why are you here? Is Grandma not ok?” thinking I’d get some kind of definitive answer, which I did, one day later. My mom phoned to tell me, “I think Grandma is really not doing well. Something happened to her yesterday and this might be the end. I’m just preparing you for it so you’re not too shocked.”  I had goose bumps listening to her. All I could think was, "Oh my god. I am maybe not going crazy." The feeling got so heavy the next day that I was actually afraid to be in my own home.  When I closed my eyes at night all I could see was Grandpa smiling, holding out his hand. I was so convinced I was going to see something that would freak me out in the night I didn’t even get out of bed to pee.  Being 34 weeks pregnant at the time with all that baby pressure on my bladder typically meant having to pee multiple times in the night…but holding it for hours tells you how much I did NOT want to leave the "safety" of my blankets.  Later that night, I woke up in the dark and felt…lighter. (Not because I’d peed my bed ;)  There was no presence around me at all.  I was kind of disappointed, thinking, “Maybe I was imagining things this whole time, because if something really did happen to Grandma, Mom would have phoned me by now."  I went back to sleep and in the morning I saw I had missed a phone call from my parents telling me Grandma had passed in the night. I have not felt my grandpa’s presence since. So now I am convinced I am not crazy.  I really believe Grandpa was there with me and wanted me to know that my grandma would not be alone when she left this world. And now, since she died, I have felt my grandma with me almost every day, and it's comforting. I feel as though there is something for me to learn from all of this and that I shouldn’t just carry on as I always have. I'd love to know if this has happened to any of you when you lost someone close to you?
My grandpa, mom, and grandma at my parents' wedding reception 40 years ago

Gram at my wedding 6 1/2 years ago

Gram at my sister's wedding 2 1/2 years ago

So why did I share all of that on this blog? This blog is a collection of my personal goals and the intent is to be as honest and authentic as I can be in stating them and their progress.  So today’s post goes beyond a tribute to my grandma; I realize I can stand to learn a lot from her and this experience.
I’ve had and continue to have weight loss, career, relationship, and travel goals. All of my goals focus on improving physical and emotional aspects that will help me live my best life. But there is one area of my life that has not had any sort of goal in a long time—I guess you could call them spiritual goals. I kind of got shaken off my spiritual couch, if you will, with that whole experience with my grandpa and grandma. What I’m committing to today in honour of my grandma is to spend some of this year figuring out what my spiritual goals are. It’s too early to post anything because I don’t even know where to start. So today I’m declaring my intent to focus on this area of my life that’s been neglected for years and I will get back to you on it within a month’s time. (Please hold me to this, by the way.)

As for what I can learn from my grandma? She was solid. She was so cheerful and just so damn nice (like, so nice that you wanted to say, “what is wrong with you? Are you really this happy to see everyone and anyone all the time?” The answer was always yes! She really was that sweet). She never stopped learning (she got her degree when she was 54 years old). She was generous with her time and money to everyone, not just grandkids or favorite friends. And I think everyone who knew her will agree with me in saying she never complained, ever. Not once did I ever hear her say an unkind word about anyone.

In honor of Grandma, I’m making it my goal to truly see the best in everyone and anyone and not immediately go to judgment. That may take some time to do unconsciously for me.  I’ll create opportunities to say something positive and uplifting about others.  There’s enough negativity to go around in this world; we could all use some uplifting, right? I’ll let you know how this is going over time too.

Gram, I know you know what I wrote just now. I miss you and think about you every day. As you used to always sign off your letters and cards to me, "love is forever."
Jessie Martinson
February 12, 1915 to October 10, 2012


  1. Ahhh tears. I love hearing stories like this. What a lovely post, friend. I can't say that I have had an experience like you had with your Grandpa, I wish I did. But I guess in the same vane as your Grandpa 'showing up' as your Grandma's health was failing to reassure you that it's okay, Grandma won't be alone... I do think there was some design to my Grandma passing away 8 wks before my Mom; she wanted to go first, pave the way for her daughter so that she could usher her in and be there when it was her time to go. I have been told that when people we love die, we must attempt to find their peace and 'let them go', so we are able to hear them once again, in however subtle or obvious the ways. It sounds like you're doing just so. Love. C