Today would have been my grandmother, Norma Munroe’s, 82nd birthday. Tomorrow will be exactly 4 months since her fight with lung cancer ended and she moved on to a better place. She is gone now, but will remain in our hearts forever. It’s painful to look through photos and see her smile or videos where I can hear her laughter because I know that we can never again stop in for a visit and hear her endless witty comments or have one more hug goodbye.
It was heartbreaking to watch grandpa lose what he would call a better part of himself, but I know she would be happy that he has a smile on his face right now and a trip to Fenway to look forward to. It’s hard for me not to wonder if she had a part in helping make this happen, because her mission in life was always to make grandpa happy.
I asked my grandfather today if he considered grandma the amazing woman behind the great man. He said, “No, she’s the amazing and great one, not me. And she was in front of me, not behind”. Looking back, I think they actually stood side by side while continuously building each other up and leaning on each other for support.
I did notice a few little tricks grandma seemed to have up her sleeve though, like their crossword puzzle ritual where she would start completing the puzzle every morning, and then towards the end would say, “Allan, can you finish this? I can’t figure the rest out”. He would take the puzzle, finish it up, and she would always commend him for being so smart. This was every morning for as long as I can remember. When I told her I was on to her and knew she was just letting him complete the puzzle even though she was capable she would deny it, then smile with a wink.
My grandmother was as strong as they come. She remained positive even after her stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis, but keeping a positive outlook was a trait she always had. It amazed me to see that despite the pain she was enduring and the fear of the unknown, she could still manage to put a smile on her face and make a joke. She rarely ever complained, even when she was in pain, although it was pretty bad towards the end. Besides the struggle with cancer, earlier this year she fell and broke her neck and if that wasn’t enough, she started struggling with dementia. Grandpa was so patient, and would answer the same question over and over, after first giving her a chance to see if she could remember on her own.
It was difficult to see her in pain, but what tore at my heart more than anything was to see her afraid those last few months. Fear was not a trait I had ever seen her display, she was someone that would confront a problem, find a solution and would never back down because of fear. She stood up for what she believed in, and wasn’t afraid to voice her opinion, but she didn’t judge others if they did not feel the same way. Our family was so lucky to have someone with so many strong character traits to look up to and to learn from.
There came a time when I noticed she would hold on and didn’t seem to want to let go when we were giving her a hug goodbye. It felt like she was afraid that it might be the last goodbye and it tore at us all emotionally, but when she was no longer strong enough to hold on, I missed those hugs. She had such a deep desire to look us all in the eyes and tell us how much we were loved, and I would tell her that we all knew how much she loved us and that no matter what happens or where we are, we will always be in each other’s hearts.
Our family may be missing our Rock, but I know without a doubt that she would want us to remember all of the great memories we have shared and to feel even now how unconditionally loved we were. I just hope that she knows that she taught us all so much, including how to love without limits or conditions, to give without expectations, to find something to laugh about even if you want to cry, to stand up for what you believe in and fight for what is important to you, and never look down on others unless you are helping them up.
This week is bittersweet because of my grandmothers birthday and what would have been my grandparents 64th anniversary approaching (September 11th). The unexpected displays of generosity by people all over America have helped lessen this pain and I can’t think of anything my grandmother would have wanted more for her birthday – besides to be here to experience our upcoming once in a lifetime event with my grandfather.
Happy Birthday, Grandma. Love you forever!
To my family, the video is not to make you sad, it’s to remind you of something she didn’t want us to ever forget — and it’s because Grandma always liked having the last word! 🙂