Posts Tagged ‘Vantries Derbenwick’

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.