I realized that as a person who has moved 26 times in my life, she was perhaps the only constant I could rely on. I could always imagine her watching EWTN or Danny O'Donnell. I could picture her by her computer typing up emails in large font, or watching her screensaver slide show of family pictures. Or else she was at the sink, washing dishes by hand. Because she was always there. She said it was her "fun."
I was blessed to have a final day after they discovered the cancer and just days before she died. During that most amazing day with Grandma, she talked the ear off of anyone who would listen. When we fed her ice chips, which is all she could take in, she said, "You think this is going to shut me up, but it won't." Knowing that she'd worry about our long drive home, we tried to head out while it was still light. I leaned in to say goodbye and tell her it was so good to see her. She said she was glad she could see me, too. "Thank God my eyes still work." She also told me not to feel like I had to go and draw out the goodbye to everyone. I should do like my cousin's son who just went to the door, turned around to everyone and said, "So long, everybody!"
I went to the hallway and cried through my laughter as I hugged my cousin and aunt. The woman was not afraid to die. She was saying goodbye with such dignity and poise. Every silly story about grandmas on motorcycles that she was telling was just a chance to hold on to someone's gaze and someone's hand.
At her wake, the priest spoke of her death in the most amazing terms. Following those few extraordinary days with her family, she started sleeping more. Surrounded by her favorite images our Our Lord, she held on to her rosary and slipped away almost stealthily. She was so peaceful. My 6-year old daughter Lucy said to me, "When I die, I want to die happy, like Great Grandma."
Grandma was a simple woman. She worried about her family, but she left the big job of doing something about it to God. She lived an ordinary life, hidden away from most of the world, just loving her family (which numbered over 100 of us: children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and spouses) and holding us together in her heart. If she suffered, she hid it.
Her sanctity was so everyday. It was hidden in the dishes and in the lawn mowing (which she did up into her 80s). It was the rosary hidden in her pocket. It was never in a voice that said, "Look at me!" (Although she did like a good audience for her stories!) It was even hidden in her passage to the Kingdom that was so gentle that we were convinced it must not have been much of a change for her. A hidden treasure in her home and family, she was already living the Kingdom. Now she just lives it in a new way.