These are the words I shared at my Grandmother's funeral last Friday. It felt good to put these words together and to share them publicly in her memory. I was a really lucky girl to know and love this woman. I am so grateful that I got to have her in my life for so many years.
I am Julie Margaret Steele Mahoney, Margaret's eldest granddaughter. I am proud to share her name. It took a few years for me to grow into the regal name of Margaret, but I finally did. And I have always loved being Juliemarg to my family. I have long believed that when it came to grandparents, I hit the jackpot. Each one of them gave me such different and important things. They showered me with unconditional love and attention, and were really interested in the person I was and were an integral part of who I have become.
My grandmother was a beautiful woman inside and out. She taught me how to be a lady. I loved watching her get ready in the morning. Her pin curls, her powder and pink lipstick. These were all a part of the routine that was the same whether we were going to hang out laundry in the back yard or go out for lunch. She made getting ready for the day an art. I am wearing her signature pink nail polish in her honor today. Her smile lit up her whole face and her eyes always twinkled. Even in the last six years when communicating was difficult for her, her smile and eyes said everything she needed them to.
As I've reflected on my memories with my grandma this week, I am reminded that it is almost never the big moments in life that I go back to, but the quiet, just-between-us moments that leave impressions on our hearts. I'd like to share a few of those small precious memories now.
As a nurse, Grandma expressed her love for us in the way she took care of us physically. She fed us healthy food every meal. I could taste her love in each bite. Even my favorite treats were healthy. During the week we spent in Pittsburg each summer, Grandma made orange juice popsicles for the hot afternoons. She poured orange juice into molds. That's it. No special ingredients. But to me they were delicious and refreshing. No one has ever made rice krispy treats the way my Grandma could, though Grandpa's came in a close second. She had just the right ratio of marshmellow filling to rice krispies and she always sprinkled coconut over the top. When she was concerned that our calcium intake was low, she began paying us a quarter per glass of milk and would pay up on our next visit. She knew that we loved Twizzlers and ever concerned about our dental health, one Christmas when we were grown she told us that she'd heard they were discontinuing the production of Twizzlers. We just smiled knowing this was wishful thinking on her part.
I learned how to needle point from her. We would pick out new iron-on Martha Gooch patterns at Wal-mart at the beginning of our week's visit. We would spend our evenings watching television and she would help me undo whatever knot I'd created or demonstrate how to undo an errant stitch.
I had so much fun traveling with my grandparents in the summers as we grew up. I remember how excited we were as the Great Circus Parade began its route in Downtown Milwaukee. We thought it was the greatest thing that one of the elephants was named Margaret. We experienced a fancy hotel when we stayed at the Pfister. We attended a fancy lunch, and I know that Grandma was proud of her eight- and ten-year-old granddaughters who managed appropriate table manners in the presence of strangers.
Grandma was gentle and kind, but one time a man in a truck cut her off in traffic while Sarah and I were in the backseat. The Grandma bear in her came out. She fumed and followed him to the store where he parked. She told us to stay in the car. She walked into the store and gave him a piece of her mind. I really wish I could have witnessed her lecture. I'm glad that wasn't her regular approach to life, but in that moment I saw a fiercely protective grandparent and I felt deeply loved.
As time goes on, I pray that I share more than just a name with her. I want to emulate her hard-working, no-nonsense, kind, and graceful demeanor.
Grandma told me often that she was proud of me and encouraged me to be my best. She loved me despite my quirks and bookwormish ways.
On the last day of each visit, I would get an ache in my throat that wouldn't go away until I burst into tears. I hated to see our visit come to an end. I loved spending time with them so much. Today I don't feel that ache as I say goodbye because I know she is finally at peace and her suffering is gone. But I carry these memories and my love her with her every day. I will miss her the rest of my life.