The last trek north


March 10, 2013.

I was sitting at Panera with a cousin. She was in town with her husband and young kids for the weekend. Able to escape her kids for a couple hours, she met me for breakfast and we caught up on life. It was the first time in years that we’ve sat down together. Just the two of us. Without little kids running around.

We used to hang out a lot. Back when I was in high school and she was in college. Sometimes she’d take me out shopping or out to eat. We’d hang and laugh and act silly together – just like when we were kids.

As we sat there, we talked about grandparents. Not our shared grandparents – our grandparents on our father’s sides. Hers are in failing health and my grandma was not doing well, either.

Then. She reached for her phone to respond to a text. Looking up from her phone, she asked me, “Hey, Meg. You’ve got your phone, right?” I said, “yeah, of course.” “Well, you should check it,” she told me.

So, I did. I saw my mom had called. Then I saw a text from her. It simply said. “Call me.”

As my phone was dialing my mom, I told my cousin, “It might be about my grandma.”

And it was.

My dear grandma passed away on Sunday, March 10. She was 94 years old.

I asked my mom if she was ok and wondered how my dad was doing. She said they were fine.

I told my cousin the news and she said, “Yeah, my mom just texted me and said I should call you to say ‘sorry about your grandma’ but I told her I was sitting across from you. She didn’t want me to be the first to tell you.”

Though saddened by the news, I was also thankful that my Grandma was reuniting with my Grandpa and the rest of her beloved family. The family she missed. See, she was the last of the group to go Home. And I think, in a way, that was hard for her. To be here. Without her husband.

The week flew by with work and errands, laundry and packing. I spent time texting a cousin in California to figure out flights and when to pick her up from the airport. Her brothers were flying in from the East Coast and the coordinating of schedules was rather intense. But we got it all figured out.

On Wednesday evening, after a delicious dinner with co-workers at Cafe Latte in St. Paul, I picked up my cousin from the airport. She hopped in my car and we talked. We continued to talk when she sat in my room as I packed for the weekend up north.

We talked about our family. How spread out we are. The last time we were all together (Grandpa’s funeral in 2005). And then we talked about how different our memories of Grandma are. She, the oldest of the cousins, remembers things I can only see through pictures. She remembers when my grandparents visited her family in Europe. Fond memories of visits to Grandma’s for Christmas when everyone stayed in the tiny house. Memories of a trip to Sweden with Grandma and Grandpa.

I remember things she never experienced because she was off on her own – attending college, living in California.

We laughed and smiled over our different memories. And thought how strange it is that we are in the same family but almost had a different Grandma.

We teared up a couple times as we talked about Grandma, but mostly we laughed over some of her more recent stories. Stories of when dementia entered her life and tossed around her memories and made her say silly things.

With a five hour drive on Thursday, we both decided to get some rest (it was midnight before we were in bed!). The ride was uneventful, which is the way I like it. And we arrived in our parents’ home town on Thursday afternoon. We met up with relatives, my cousin’s parents, at my cousin’s aunt’s house (her dad’s sister! are you following this?). Food filled the counters and hugs were hugged around the living room. All my aunts were there — the three sisters of my dad.

Shortly after scarfing down some food, we all piled into cars and headed to the funeral home.

It was our time. Just as a family to say goodbye to my Grandma.

Though it was difficult to do, we all said goodbye in our own way; knowing she was already in Heaven enjoying a nice long visit with my Grandpa. Catching up on their years apart. That brought us comfort in a time of loss.

My parents, sister, and I stayed with my mom’s brother and his wife. And my sister didn’t arrive until Friday, so on Thursday PM, it was me and my folks along with my aunt and uncle and Cousin A. He was in town for a hockey tourney and so we were able to chat a bit. As unfortunate as the circumstances for our visit were, I have come to not take moments – sad or happy – for granted. If I have time with family, I’m going to enjoy it. No matter what.

So, I did.

With both sides of my family.

The funeral was in the afternoon on Friday and so that gave everyone plenty of time to say hi and hug.

It was a much-needed reunion with cousins. My dad’s side of the family is incredibly spread out – everyone on either the East or West Coast. Only one cousin lives with Minnesota with her husband and kids and we shook our heads at how little we see one another. Due to travel difficulties with young kids and busy family schedules, none of my “Coast” cousins brought their spouses or kids. That meant, it was just like old times.

And did we ever enjoy that.

The sarcasm from cousins and the laughter we shared was something we haven’t experienced in years. Even at Grandpa’s funeral, spouses and kids were present. This time, just the Minnesota cousin brought her husband and kids and we all joined in discussions on jobs, families, and memories.

During the service, all of the grandkids were allotted time to share memories. Basically one representative from each family could share. Just trying to coordinate that ordeal was a hoot and a half. My cousins were throwing around tastefully hilarious comments about what to share and who would share. The order of our eulogies were determined before we entered the service. And everything went off beautifully.

I had not shared at my other grandparents’ funerals. The first one occurred when I was in Kindergarten. And the two in between were such a shock for me, I could not have imagined speaking. But this last of the last grandparent funerals was different. This time, I wanted to share. And I did.

My family thanked me for the message and my ever-teasing uncle spent an hour after the service dishing out joke after smart Alec comment on the length of my tribute.

“The Pastor was behind you, crossing off parts of his message as you spoke.”

“Twitter was just going crazy with everyone tweeting your speech.”

“Ya know at the Oscars when they play music to cut people off and get them off the stage? That’s what we had to do.”

“I just got the funeral CD and it says, “Service 57 minutes. Megan 47.”

I gave it right back to my uncle. And everyone shook their heads and laughed because it was so him to say such things.

Nothing had changed. Yet we’ve all grown up.

Everyone has kids (except me and my sister). But we’ve all found our way. Found our place in life. We might not be fully there, but we know where we come from and we know where our Hope comes from. And that’s because our Grandma (and Grandpa) laid a foundation for our family that cannot be broken. No matter how many times we break down.

My last trek north was not what I expected. The house had been sold long ago. Grandma’s belongings boxed up years ago. This time, it was just a “goodbye. see ya later” funeral. A time to feel like kids again. Truly to connect as cousins.

And I know Grandma loved watching it all play out with Grandpa by her side.

It may be my last trek north for a grandparent, but that place, where my grandparents lived and my parents grew up, is a place I will always hold dear. A place I cannot stay away from for long.

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One thought on “The last trek north

  1. Pingback: First Christmas | Megan Nyberg's Meditations

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