Thursday, March 27, 2008

Remembering Grandma Zieser

Spending the first years of married life half a world away has some perks, but there are other times when all we want is to be closer to the rest of our family and friends. This week in particular, there has been a lot more of the latter.

On our way back from Ilha Grande on Sunday, we received the news that Grandma Zieser had passed away Saturday night. The arrangements were planned for yesterday and today. Despite desperately wanting to be there, it just wasn’t feasible for us…and that is one of the hardest parts of being away.

Any time you lose a loved one, I think it makes you stop and think a little bit about your life, your priorities, and a whole host of other topics. And for some reason, right now for me, being married and enjoying and planning our life together, it makes me look at things even more differently than ever before. The thought of losing your spouse after 55 years of marriage (as Grandpa Zieser just did) is a tough reality to consider. And then your mind thinks about those people who get a heck of a lot less time together than that…and, well, that’s hard to think about too.

I am well aware and very much comforted by the fact that our life here on earth is temporary, and there is a heavenly home much greater then anything we can even fathom waiting for us after this. But as silly as it may be, there are an awful lot of things I want to get to do and experience with my husband before either of us leaves this little place. And when the two of us dream and plan for our future and all the things we want to accomplish/see/do, the 74 years that Grandma Zieser lived just doesn’t sound like nearly enough! I know that in the end none of those things really matter, but, right or wrong, the selfish human part of me wants it.

The other thought that has been on my mind this week are the memories of the past that Eric and I each have that I so wish we could have experienced together. For instance, I was blessed to have my Granny and Papa (my Dad’s paternal grandparents) in my life up into my college years. They both passed away before I ever met Eric, but I so wish he could have known them (especially in their slightly younger healthier years as I like to remember them.) I can try to tell him about how Papa could play the harmonica and sing like it’s nobody’s business and how Granny would put out the most amazing spread of good ol’ southern food (and we’re talking like so amazing that Paula Deen ain’t got nothin’ on my Granny!) Or how Papa had such a laid back personality and always insisted on a “big ol’ bear hug” from the great grandkids, and how Granny was such a sweet but quite bossy thing (which makes me able to blame that on heredity!)

And now I think about Grandma Zieser, who I’ve been blessed to have known for a couple of years. The sad thing though is that I never met the Grandma that Eric remembers and tells stories of. Grandma Zieser was already entering the latter stages of Alzheimer’s when I first met her. She and I had lots of good conversation in those first few months about everything from stories of her Dad who used to work-up everyone’s garden in town with his mule and plow to her asking all the time just where was I from with that heavy accent! I loved our visits together, but I knew that the next time I saw her, whether it was a few hours or a couple weeks later, she would hug my neck and then say, “now, I think we’ve met before...haven’t we?”

The Grandma I wish I could have known was the one Eric talks about who made the best ever homemade noodles, pea salad, apple dumplings, and sweet pickles. I wish I had memories of the Grandma that loved cooking dinner for all the family and never once ran short on food. (Eric’s Dad had 7 sisters and after everyone married and multiplied a bit, that is one BIG family, so I consider the meals quite a feat!) I want memories of the Grandma who was always correcting the Zieser men’s grammar (so I have someone to back me up when I’m correcting Eric!)

The memories I do have of Grandma Zieser are not at all bad though. In fact, one of my very favorite memories will always be our last visit to see her back at Christmas: She was unable to walk and had to be in a wheelchair, and when she spoke it was soft and we were barely able to understand her. But there were two things she said that we did understand from her that day. 1) She looked over at Grandpa for a minute and then told him, “you sure are older than I remember” (which got a good laugh from all of us). And my very favorite, 2) she stared across the room at Eric for a bit and then looked to me and said, nodding in Eric’s direction, “he sure is good looking, isn’t he.” I must give it to her, she certainly had good taste even towards the end!

So today as the rest of the family is attending Grandma Zieser’s funeral, we will be wishing that we were in Iowa to be with all of them. I will hang on to the memories I have of a sweet, wonderful lady, and Eric will no doubt be reflecting back on his lifetime of memories full of the Grandma that I really wish I had known. But what we all lost last week, Heaven gained, and with God’s good grace we will all meet again some wonderful day. And if there happens to be a kitchen in Heaven, I know the saints are sure eating good with Grandma there!


Laural said...

Emily, your post was so beautifully written. What an amazing life view you have. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Rachel said...

Hi Emily,

I'm sorry for your loss. And unfortunately, I can relate. When I was traveling in Brazil for the first time in 2006, my grandmother passed away and my parents chose not to tell me until I got home a week later. I was really upset at first, but I wouldn't have been able to make it back for the funeral, either, so I guess it was for the best. So I feel your pain.

Beijos, Rachel

Gloria said...

Thank you so much for the kind words, all the beautiful memories, we are so glad that you can be there for Eric he sure love his Grandma, we the Zieser family are so glad you are part of our family.
Take care,
Mom (Gloria)

Bru said...

hey Emily, just wanted you to know that she will be taking care of you guys from up there... like I believe that MY Grandma does :)

Kristi said...

What an amazing tribute and yes the post hits close to home for all expats as I think it's always your worst nightmare to have something like this happen when you feel as though you are too far away to be there for your family. But this post is a reminder that you are never too far away to be in tune with the ones you love (or to properly mourn or pay tribute). Our deepest condolences.