My grandma was an amazing woman. She survived the Great Depression as the middle child of five in her family. She survived World War II and served as a nurses aide and helped my grandfather find his way to healing after a devastating explosion in his family’s bakery.
She took on a new skill at the bakery, becoming known for her intricate cake decorating and incredible bread. She made cookies you couldn’t stop eating, an amazing éclair dessert and the best peanut butter pie you ever wanted to taste. And her egg nog is legendary!
She never knew a craft she didn’t want to try. Her Christmas tree was decorated with hand tatted snowflakes and all of her grandkids benefitted from her skills with crocheted vests, blankets, scarves, hats and more.
There was never a weed in her flower beds, her roses were huge like her tomatoes, and her wisteria bush made people stop and stare.
When she started having some trouble speaking, her doctors and dentist assumed that it was a ill-fitting denture plate. After a year of misdiagnosis and steadily worsening symptoms, they decided it must be something else. Finally, they determined that she had ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
She seemed to progress quickly after that. Losing her ability to speak without slurring or eat without choking. Next went her legs and ability to move without a wheelchair. Soon after her arms and her ability to create. Towards the end, she was left with a body that defied her. Still there with an active mind and beautiful spirit, but no way to express them.
At the same time, I had my twin boys. They were a little over a year the last time I got to spend time with her. I could tell how much joy those boys brought to her. Her eyes just danced when they were there.
I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t spend as much time with her as I could have. It was so hard to see her like that. I couldn’t look at her without thinking of all the years of joy and love and light she brought to all of us. And it made me so sad.
I have seen a lot written about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge this week. I know there are people who did it for the fun of creating a video and sharing it. I know that water has been wasted.
But I also know this…millions of people have heard of a disease that they may not have been familiar with before. Millions of dollars have been raised to strike out a disease that is so unfair and so horrible. For those reasons alone, this was an incredible effort, and I say bravo to the folks who came up with the idea.
Thank you to everyone who has donated or taken the challenge. Thank you to my mom for taking such amazing care of grandma before she died. Thanks to all of you for letting me tell my story.
And thank you to my grandma for helping to shape the woman I am today and for being such an amazing role model. I miss you and love you so much.