I've been thinking a lot about my Grandma Florence lately. September 20th was her birthday and it seems impossible she's been gone for over eight years already. My mother's tiny, red-haired mom may have looked slight, but she was anything but a push-over. Her house was always equipped with Pringles and malted milk balls, and at least once a visit when you were sneaking some from the kitchen you'd hear the phrase, "You kids go outdoors and play!" in her raspy, I-mean-business-tone.
(Grandma and Me, Christmas 1996)
Grandma Flo spent her life as a nurse and it was truly a job that held a great amount of pride for her. At her wake she was dressed in her nurse's uniform and the number of people who talked to us about her caring for them was astounding. Astounding, but not surprising, as she would sometimes forget a name but could always tell people which room they had been in and what their condition was, even if forty years had passed. She took her duties very seriously.
And while she often seemed serious, she had a softer side too. She loved watching her Cubs and made the best peanut brittle I've ever had... and she loved us all very much. She wasn't one to hug and fuss over you, and there weren't a lot of "I love you's" showered around, but I have a card she sent me after I sang at my Grandpa's funeral where she wrote that she was proud of me, and it means the world to me. I also have a gift from her that I treasure:
This is my night-light of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it's sitting on one of my dressers that was part of my grandparents' wedding suite of furniture. I love being surrounded by things that belonged to people I love, and this furniture and night-light are no exception. Grandma was more faithful to praying the rosary than anyone I've ever known, and she gave me this light along with a cassette tape of how to pray the rosary when I was in high school.
It was shortly after I had stayed overnight at her house... my parents were on vacation with my aunt and uncle and I had gotten sick with bronchitis while they were gone. Ever the nurse, she didn't think I should be staying home alone and so I stayed in her guest bedroom. I was sound asleep and I woke up, scared to death, because there in my room was Grandma Flo in her nightgown saying her rosary. Apparently it was her routine to say her prayers in the guest bedroom and me being asleep in there didn't derail her mission in the slightest.
The part that woke me up, however, wasn't the rosary praying... it was the being-doused-with-holy-water moment. I learned that night that after Gram would finish the rosary she would take her holy water bottle and spray it in the direction of where her children and grandchildren lived while asking God to watch over them. I just happened to be laying in the general vicinity of one of their locations and got a little extra blessing myself...
That's when I realized that while Grandma wasn't one to shower us with hugs, she was definitely loving and protecting her family in her own way. She loved us and prayed for our well-being and happiness with repetition and dedication, and after that I started praying the rosary as well. It's my way of carrying on what she started, and it is still my way of being connected to her.
So when I say my prayers at night, I skip the holy water ritual but continue to say my rosary for Grandma Flo and all the people she loved. And I've no doubt my prayers are heard because while she may look innocuous, I can guarantee she's up there in heaven making sure the right people are listening. :)