Almost a year ago, my grandmother died. She was 99 years old. Having a grandmother alive until you are 50 years old is a great gift. She was an amazing lady. As a girl, she lived in a dugout and traveled by covered wagon. She was a cotton farmer’s wife and a mother, which is all she ever wanted to be. She lived out her dream. She loved her family well. She loved Jesus and spread His message. She talked about Him like He was a friend and part of her family.
I learned about grace, forgiveness, prayer and faith by watching her live her life. As she got older, I watched her suffer through the loss of her husband and her daughter. She was very honest about her grief. It was hard to watch her hurt. Yet somehow she came through it and chose to keep living her dream. She enjoyed her grandchildren and great grandchildren. To me, she was Grandmother, but to the next generation she became Grandmother K. My 3 year old daughter called her Grandmother Cake. She loved that!
So many good memories of her are connected to the holidays. Every Christmas Eve as a child, we were at her house. We always opened Santa’s gifts on Christmas Eve. She would explain that Santa always came to her hometown in the Panhandle of Texas first. He had to start somewhere, right? In the midst of the noise and the chaos of her children and grandchildren opening gifts, she would sit and soak it all in with a smile on her face.
Christmas day she worked her magic in the kitchen. She was a terrific cook and would try to make everybody’s favorite. The tables were beautiful with flowers and tablecloths and the kitchen was full of women making so many amazing dishes. All the dishes would be lined up across the cabinets and then the real fun began. The line wrangling and cutting and arguing to see who got the first shot at her black eyed peas, cherry salad or pecan pie. My uncle and aunt would try to eat all of the olives and homemade pickles before the others. Each year, as the family grew, the newest family member got to go first and the good-natured complaining would begin again. The year I got married, I hung on to my husband and finally made it to the front of the line!
She modeled how to be a woman to me. She and I live in very different times and I didn’t always agree with her, but I loved to watch her live wholeheartedly. She was a daughter, mom, wife, Sunday school teacher, friend, employee, grandmother… She fished, quilted, canned, loved football, loved Lawrence Welk and Billy Graham and would stomp you in a card game with no mercy.
When she turned 90, she went rafting with her kids in the Rio Grande River. She joked that if she lived to be 100, she wanted to jump out of an airplane. At her 99th birthday party, she delivered the punch line to that story saying, “Well, I never said the airplane would be in the air!” She died 5 months before she got her chance. As a celebration of her life, my oldest sister parachuted out of an airplane 10,000 feet off the ground in my grandmother’s place.
The ache of her absence feels very real now, especially as the holidays approach. I would love to walk in her door and hear her say, “How in the world are you?” I never lived in the same town with her and I never saw her that often, but she still was a big part of my life. I hope to be that to my grandson, who is 5 and lives far away. That would be her legacy to me.
Katrina has been married to her best friend for 30 years. She has three daughters , three sons, one son-in-law, one grandson, and one daschund who follows her everywhere. She enjoys reading, working out, quilting, football, baseball, and living in sunny south Texas.