End of an Era: Fly Free, Grandma Van

My 101-year-old grandmother passed this morning within an hour of the New Moon in Aries. I had the chance to connect with her on a soul level for the past two nights and early this morning, helping her to make the transition to the Otherworld. Some of you may remember my posts about Grandma Van’s 100th birthday party that our family celebrated in January 2012. (Photos and tribute here).

Happy 100th Birthday, Grandma!

Happy 100th Birthday, Grandma!

Vantries Derbenwick was a special woman, so unusual that people still remember her even years after seemingly casual encounters. She is the person from whom I inherited my animal communication abilities, and I spent my childhood watching her call wild blue jays to land on her finger, dote on her many canaries and parakeets, and love her own and others’ dogs. In Phoebe Home, where she spent her last few years, her roommate’s cat took a shine to her, and the staff placed the home’s birds right outside her room, because they all enjoyed each other so much. Now-grown children of people who adopted her dogs when she first went into assisted living still remember bringing the dogs for visits. One parent recently told my dad that her children were so touched by those visits that they had both written papers about them for school.

When I was a child, I lived within a mile of her house. I’d often walk there on the weekend or after school. My grandmother’s yard was wild. In the middle of suburbia, she boasted a chaotic sprawl of trees and shrubs that housed pheasants, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, cardinals, various woodpeckers, blue jays, robins and chickadees. That hilly yard with all its winding roots was a bear to mow, but I always enjoyed the adventure, followed by peanut butter and butter sandwiches, a personal favorite of Grandma Van. She also introduced me to the important differences between Rocky Road and Heavenly Hash ice creams, and Caramel vs. Praline, because “A meal just isn’t a meal without dessert!” (That’s a Grandma Van maxim.)

She collected dolls, crafts, afghans, Hummel figurines, quilts, and stuffed animals. In fact, some might argue that she collected way too many things. In the process of collecting, though, she supported hundreds of artists, doll makers and craftspeople. I attended fairs with my grandmother, and I witnessed how she connected with vendors. They loved her, and it went far beyond the money. They saw that she saw them — that she recognized the care and attention each gave to his or her chosen craft. Many of them continued to write her letters decades after she stopped attending fairs.

My grandmother was a stubborn woman. She knew what she liked and refused what she didn’t. You don’t get to be 101 without some sense of what keeps you enjoying life! A master of knowing her own preferences, she loved romance novels and read several per week. Even on her last day in and out of consciousness, she recognized the woman who runs the book cart!

Grandma Van was difficult to buy for because she was picky and already had so much stuff, but she always appreciated a handmade gift. I spent many hours hand-stitching decorative Christmas pillows and helping her reorganize her shelves. Grandma and I shared the same love language: gifts. Sharing things with those who valued them brought her great joy, and thus she wound up accessorizing and providing kitchenware for many of my early apartments. I had the honor of designing the invitation for her 100th birthday party, and my dad framed one for her, which you can kind of see below:

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My dad, David’s sister and I also recently combined efforts to bring her one last gift: a custom, hand-knit afghan in “pastels, no red.” My dad came up with the idea when Grandma requested a new blanket. In retrospect, it was just so perfect, because I had only recently let my parents know about Linda’s awesome knitting skills. Having a handmade gift that involved so much care and coordination from those she loved and a craftsperson just beginning to sell her wares was just soooo Grandma Van!

She was a generous and lively woman, mentally sharp even after multiple strokes. We would have lost her much sooner had she not had so many friends, because one such stroke occurred while she was with a group, including nurses, which resulted in almost immediate care. When Grandma could no longer travel to her bridge group, they traveled to her, using the community rooms at her various assisted living and care facilities. Many of her bridge friends and former neighbors attended the 100th birthday celebration, along with three more generations of living relatives from all over the U.S. and Canada. She was quite the matriarch, greeting each guest with a smile and one of her signature hand squeezes that expressed so much more than words.

Two nights ago, my sister texted me that she didn’t expect her to last until the New Moon. Grandma was in a lot of pain, and we both sensed that she didn’t want longevity just for the sake of longevity. Grandma knew she wanted to go, but she was also scared of whatever lay beyond. I tuned in as I do for clients who wish to connect with someone who can’t communicate in “normal” ways. Feeling her fear and inner dilemma, I asked, “What would make this more comfortable for you?” Immediately, dozens and dozens of pets and wild animal friends appeared — all the ones who had passed before. She was so happy to see them, greeting them each by name. I felt her relax and energetically squeeze my hand with a thank you. When I shared a more detailed version of this experience with my dad, he thanked me and let me know of potent synchronicities surrounding what I’d seen, sensed, and shared. Those little details brought a lot of comfort.

I still feel my grandmother’s presence, but she feels free. And happy. She said her goodbyes to those on this side of the veil, but — to use one of her expressions, “Land sakes” is she ever having a reunion on the Otherside!

Revel in Paradise, Grandma Van!

Fly free like your beloved birds.

Shower blessings on this world to your heart’s content, finally unrestrained by the physical world you savored and shared for more than a century.

I love you.

35 responses to this post.

  1. sending you and grandma van lots of love. what a beautiful soul she is and i can see where you get much of your own gifts and strength. i’m happy she is free to fly now. perhaps little chuck may be one of those birds around her. i love you! xoox

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  2. Posted by Cindy Moser on April 10, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    God bless you all. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother! She clearly lived life well and shared important, lasting gifts.

    Love, Peace and Blessings to all, Cindy Moser (your Mom’s friend from Lehigh)

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  3. Thanks, Tania! Oh, my grandmother would LOVE Chuck! I’ll give him a heads up to greet her, too. 🙂 I love you. xoxo

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  4. Thanks so much, Cindy! Yes, she truly loved life and has left a lasting legacy. Love, Peace and Blessings to you, too.

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  5. I just love you. The way you wrote about your beautiful grandmother brings me to tears, tank u for sharing such a tribute. It’s wonderful to know that you emerged from such a magical family. Sending your grandma Van love and light for her journey home. And to you Laura, tons of love straight from my heart as you embrace this new era in your life. Xoxooxoxoxooxox

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  6. Awww, thanks, Gina! I love you, too, and felt that love blast. Hugs, blessings and love right back atcha. 🙂

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  7. How very fortunate for you to have known your Grandmother so well. I’m sure she is enjoying the next adventure!!!

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  8. Thanks for sharing, LB. How blessed you were to have her in your life. Hugs, G

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  9. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

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  10. Posted by Shawna on April 10, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    My eyes are welled with tears by this beautiful homage to your Grandma! How blessed we are to have these beautiful relationships.

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  11. Posted by vega1013 on April 10, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Very touching tribute, Laura–Grandma Van is an amazing soul! I’m sorry for your family’s loss, but it sounds like she’s doing just fine now!

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  12. What a magical grandma! Blessings on her way…and to you, and all your beloveds. ❤

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  13. Posted by Sonja Verway on April 10, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    She sounds like and awesome lady. She reminds me of my grandma. I spend many Sundays with her and I still hear her laughing, she too was one of a kind, known and loved by many. What would our world be without our grandma’s. I give a great cheer to all you grandmas out there. You are so full of wisdom, love and kindness and the world would not be the same without you. Sorry for your loss Laura. Bless your heart.

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  14. Thank you for all the love and comments. 🙂

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  15. Posted by Michelle Poppy on April 10, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    So Beautiful. Thank you for sharing. xx

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  16. Posted by Robert Lawn on April 10, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    Laura …

    Your email was very beautiful… I am saddened for your loss for I feel your Grandma was so wonderful for you and brought great personal joy into this life… and happy also for you have gained a tremendous advocate on the other side of the veil.

    Many Blessing and Prayers for You and all your family at this moment and all ways…

    Bob

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  17. Laura,

    What a beautiful honoring of your Grandma Van. After reading about her in your tribute to her and her life/essence, I felt like I knew her but wish I would have known her as well! Grandmas are special people in this world. Made me think of my Grandma too.

    I loved especially the part about you making her more comfortable with moving on by showing her the pets that had gone before her. Touched my heart and it obviously meant a tremendous amount to her. So loving.

    Big hugs,
    Dawn

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  18. Vantries Derbenwick…what a magical name!
    And what a beautiful way to honor her, Laura.

    Goodbye Grandma Van…enjoy your journey.

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  19. Hoping your connection to your Grandmother only grows. I will pray for your and your family.

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  20. Thank you to all you for your beautiful messages, love and prayers. We’re feeling them! Much love, Laura

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  21. Posted by Vi on April 12, 2013 at 4:08 am

    So perfectly shared. Love.

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  22. Posted by Cheryl on April 15, 2013 at 4:53 am

    Beautiful tribute Laura, I feel as though I know her. Much love to you!!

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  23. Thank you all for the continued prayers. My family is doing well. I’ve helped my dad select the flowers and Bible verses for the funeral this Wednesday. Our family is feeling your love, and I’m having a good visit with everyone. Blessings and love, Laura

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  24. We’ll all keep you, your family and Grandma in that Sacred Space of Unconditional Love and Highest Good.

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  25. Posted by Wilma Gurl on April 21, 2013 at 12:58 am

    What a “love”ly tribute to your grandmother. How blessed each of you was to have each other.
    Madison is missing you, Laura.

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  26. Thanks and blessings, Wilma!

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  27. Posted by Pat Delluva on April 29, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    I knew Van while she resided at Country Meadows of Bethlehem. She will remain an inspiration to me always. How fortunate we are to have had her in our lives and how blessed she was to have had such a beautiful and loving family. I cannot help but smile when I think of her room filled to the brim with her collections, her canaries, her excitement over the visiting therapy dogs, her endless love of books and bridge, and her courage and kindness in the face of her own physical problems. Indeed, she was a special lady…

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  28. Thanks, Pat! Yes, she was quite the character, for sure, with all her collections and true delight in life. Thanks for sharing here.

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  29. […] dad packed up the little wooden houses that Grandma Van used to display on her large southern windowsill. We now have sixteen Victorian style houses in two […]

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  30. […] earliest tooth metaphor I remember hearing was from my Grandma Van, the woman who cheerfully asserted, “A meal’s just not a meal without dessert.” […]

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  31. […] nephew’s handpainted hummingbird window hanging, a faery chandelier, and a bird hanging from Grandma Van, we’ve got feasts for the eyes whichever way we turn at breakfast, lunch and […]

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  32. […] be planting those rose bushes in memory of you. I’ve lost two grandmothers this year — 101 year old Grandma Van in April and 91-year-old Gramma Irene yesterday. I shouldn’t really say “lost,” […]

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  33. […] Lehigh Valley and Blue Mountain area. The last time I visited PA was for my 101-year-old Grandma Van’s funeral back in April 2013. Given that my aunt, cousin and her children were all watching my uncle run the […]

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  34. […] On Friday and Saturday, my dad had the family reunion he had hoped for, as all three of his brothers and their wives came into town before my brother left for Chicago. My dad was so happy to see everyone together again, and each person got to say a personal goodbye to my dad. While my dad rested, we all spent quality time together at some good local restaurants and got caught up on the time since my grandmother passed in 2013. Some of them had seen each other since then, but not all together. The big family meals celebrated my dad’s life and all he had done for my grandmother. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  35. […] home we visited on my birthday, and whom I realized on that day was THE huge inspiration for Grandma Van and her magical adventures with […]

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