Remembering Gramma Irene

My mom’s mom passed away in the wee hours of Thursday morning in my Aunt Gail’s home, where Gramma Irene spent the past two years living with my cousins and Uncle Bret. I was initially a bit surprised to hear the news, because I usually receive some sort of visitation or warning just prior, during or immediately after someone passes. This happens consistently, even with people I don’t know very well, so yesterday felt a little surreal until later in the evening when I mentioned to my sister that it seemed so weird not to have known.

My sister replied that she had felt her — feeling compelled to tell Gramma Irene stories last Friday. I then realized that I, too, had felt Gramma’s presence this past Tuesday while attending the Christmas concert at Goshen College. I even blogged about the audience exquisitely singing the Hallelujah Chorus. What I didn’t say in my blog, but did mention to David and think about for days was how much that experience reminded me of my maternal grandmother. I was seated next to a dear 82-year-old friend of mine, and her surprising soprano voice belting out the Hallelujah Chorus sounded so much like Gramma Irene that I teared up. All week long, I’ve heard a blend of my friend and my grandmother singing through my head.

In 2009, while renting a home in Sonoma County, CA with my then-husband, now ex-husband, Stephen, I wrote a post with a little tribute to Gramma Irene inside of it, and it seems appropriate to share her part here:

I have always wanted a rose garden. My maternal grandmother lived in Irvine, CA for most of my youth, and she had the most beautiful roses in full bloom on her patio. A long-time soloist, she would sing her arias while pruning away, offering me, her sixteen-year-old granddaughter, mimosas and chocolate for breakfast. In retrospect, Gramma Irene was a pretty cool grandma!

My grandmother has since moved somewhere that maintains the rose gardens for her, but she still has lovely rose pillows and garden paintings in her apartment. When Stephen and I moved to our new home in Sonoma County, one of the first things I noticed was a woman singing arias while she gardened. It totally reminded me of my grandma! As things turned out, we have our own rose bushes, too, many of which needed pruning. I finally went outside today with some pruning sheers — my first ever — and had a go at them. I think I did pretty well, but we’ll see how many new blooms we get. 🙂

While trimming off the old blooms, I remembered some old thoughts I’d had regarding the whole concept of pruning: the idea that in order to grow, sometimes we need to cut back more than we think is necessary. Some of those leaves looked just fine to me, but I needed to prune them back to the first 5-patch if I wanted the bush to continue blooming. During life coaching sessions, sometimes that same principle holds true. Parts of someone’s life may look just fine, but in order to invite the big blossoming, they still need some cutting out and reshaping. I love how nature reminds us of the abundance of life — that we can remove parts that sap energy in preparation for the tremendous blooms in store for us. We need not fear some discipline or change. Giant, fragrant petals are on the way!

While pruning roses, I started thinking about a Garden Paradise, and quickly those thoughts turned to humanity’s attempts to return to that original Garden Paradise — our personal Eden.

Fast forward 4.5 years, and I now have my own, quite large, garden, a new home and a completely new love life. I had intended to plant rose bushes this Fall, but I ran out of time. Now I know why. Gramma Irene, I’ll 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,” since I carry pieces of each of them with me, and I know I can speak with the dead whenever we both want those lines of communication open. My dad brought me little houses from Grandma Van, and they now house the faeries on our front porch. (For real — you could feel the energy shift when I put them on the window sills.) When I see our front porch, I think of Grandma Van, and whenever I see or smell those rose bushes, I will remember Gramma Irene.

Blessings and love to both of you. Thanks for bringing so much magic, beauty and love to my life!

me, Gramma Irene, Grandma Van, my brother Craig and my sister, Erica

me, Gramma Irene, Grandma Van, my brother Craig and my sister, Erica

20 responses to this post.

  1. sending you and your family lots of love. extra big hugs to you. beautiful remembrance of your gramma irene. love the photo too! and especially love this part: in order to grow, sometimes we need to cut back more than we think is necessary. Some of those leaves looked just fine to me, but I needed to prune them back to the first 5-patch if I wanted the bush to continue blooming. During life coaching sessions, sometimes that same principle holds true. Parts of someone’s life may look just fine, but in order to invite the big blossoming, they still need some cutting out and reshaping. I love how nature reminds us of the abundance of life — that we can remove parts that sap energy in preparation for the tremendous blooms in store for us. We need not fear some discipline or change. Giant, fragrant petals are on the way! ❤ you! xoox

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  2. Thanks and love! She had kind of gone into her own little world for the last few years, where we knew she was happy and creative, but not quite “here.” I’m sure she’s surrounded with roses, music, so many friends who had already passed, celebrating with wine, laughter, perfume, and fancy clothes! Gramma Irene was one of a kind … almost but not quite over the top, but ya just had to love her anyway.

    ❤ you, too! xoxo … Gramma was the first to teach me to write xoxo

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  3. sounds like good peeps to me. ❤ to gramma irene as she dances freely. xoox!

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  4. My condolances Laura. Love and Light, Lucas

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  5. Thanks and love, Lucas!

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  6. What sweet memories of your Grams. thanks for sharing Laura. I know they will never leave you. hugs Dawn

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  7. A beautiful tribute and remembering. May you always be held in the wisdom and grace of your Grandmothers love for you ~ xd

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  8. Posted by Nikkoale on December 13, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    What a beautiful tribute, Laura. Thank you for sharing your memories with us. Blessings!

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  9. Much love to you and Grandma Irene 🙂 Such a sweet photo!

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  10. I am sure your Grandmother will love your roses. Praying for your family.

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  11. Thank you all! 🙂

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  12. Posted by Gail Ross on December 18, 2013 at 3:29 am

    I love this tribute! One of my fondest memories of my mom (your Gramma Irene) was her helping me plant rose bushes in front of my home the day before Renee was born almost 17 years ago. I was nearly a week overdue and she said, “Let’s plant roses today!” We went to the nursery, picked out a variety of roses, and planted a beautiful rose garden (which is still flourishing!). It worked – my water broke the very next morning and Renee was born! I will miss her presence in our home, but we all enjoyed having her here these past 3 years. She died with a smile on her face and with no apparent suffering. What more could we ask for in leaving this physical world? Love you bunches, Laura…

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  13. Love you, too! And I love that story about the rise bushes, you, Gramma and Renee. I will think of that this Spring when I plant mine!

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  14. Posted by Alvena Johnston on December 18, 2013 at 6:06 am

    I really enjoyed reading Laura’s blog. I feel lucky to have known Miss Lilly these past 5 years. She had such a great spirit, love of life and I loved when she broke out in song. I feel honored to have hosted her in my home, and her smile and singing mill always get remembered. Gail, always prune those roses and when they bloom, may they remind you of your mother’s beauty and grace.

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  15. Thanks, Alvena! Glad she had so many loving friends and family out there.

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  16. Hi Laura, I just read your Gramma Irene’s Obituary. It was lovely and she looked so adorable in her picture next to the article. It hit me when I was reading this, this was the Gramma you mentioned when I first spoke to you on the phone that had sung for the Christian Science Church. I saw that in the article and it made me smile thinking back on that conversation. I wish I would have heard her sing. I know many of the Christian Science hymns.

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  17. Oh, yes! That was her, and that was such a nice synchronicity when you first contacted me. Seems forever ago, doesn’t it? Funny, I’ve had San Luis Obispo on the brain for the past few days, and that’s where your first class was. Big hugs!

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  18. What wonderful memories, I too love roses, and many a bloom in my garden have a friendship history. Love your card. Enjoy rose month, I sure will, my first is blooming today.

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