Grief Turns 30…

Grief is a very strange thing. Like most people, I find grief at the strangest times, for the strangest of reasons. That said, I don’t “grieve” the way many people do — living with the hope of eternity for most of my life, even before I was truly a disciple of Christ, I see death less as an end and more as a temporary parting. It may be years or decades until we are reunited with our loved ones again, but the parting is no more permanent than a loved one moving to a foreign country. So when I do grieve, it’s not a feeling of agony so much as it is a longing to see someone I miss dearly.

Imagine my surprise, then, that I should become so fixated on my grandmother tonight, who died when I was 12!

Carol Wayeshe was an amazing woman — my very first hero, if I may say so. She had a rough, rough childhood, the vast majority of which I don’t know and she didn’t tell me. She had difficult marriages and difficult children — not surprising, as she was a difficult adult. She was twice the hippie of hippies half her age. She was quite irreverent for a Catholic, a very strong, liberated woman. Had I known her as an adult, I can imagine I’d disagree with her on any of a THOUSAND subjects. But even as a kid, I knew that she thought I hung the moon 🙂

She virtually DEMANDED that my Mom join the military to support me, as neither abortion nor adoption was an option. In any argument, she gave no quarter. She expected responsibility, obedience. As logical and thoughtful as my Mom turned out to be, Grandma was fiery, passionate. She told me jokes that would be considered extremely offensive today, as if they were our little secret. She taught me songs that she HAD to have made up, and I can still recall every word, even today. She gave me my very first Bible, and inscribed the inner flap, “Jeremy, this book will keep you from sin. Sin will keep you from this book.”

She died fighting cancer, but I can’t really say that cancer beat her. It’s more like she took pity on the fearsome beast and acquiesced, giving up a life that it couldn’t take forcibly. Thankfully, she died well before Jimmy Swaggart announced his sins to the world — that would’ve well and truly broke her heart.

She instilled in me a love for the classics — not art or history, but comedy. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were her dynamic duo. Nobody could sing a lick like Bing Crosby, and nobody could dance like Danny Kaye (White Christmas is still my favorite Christmas movie because of her). She was secretly in love with George Burns, and Carol Burnett was her comic heroine.

In fact, that’s what got me to thinking about her tonight — a recent episode ofHawaii Five-0, where Carol Burnett guest starred. I laughed and thought how much Grandma would appreciate the role she played, much as I always do, but I didn’t get nostalgic until Burnett sang.

And did she sing! At age 81 (the same age Grandma would be this year), Burnett sounds just as crystal clear as she ever did. It was as if her voice hadn’t aged a day since I used to watch her with Grandma on the Carol Burnett Show, with her trusty cohort Tim Conway (another favorite).

I’d love to sit down and write all the stuff I remember about her, now while I’m still young enough to do so and my kids — her great-grandkids — are still young enough to care — but to be quite honest, I don’t know that I’d capture the half of it. Suffice it to say that my Grandma was a real piece of work, and once in a while, I see her the way I did over three decades ago, and would like nothing more than to hear her sing “I’m Up Here In The Nuthouse” or tell a Polish joke or try and convince me that soy burgers are NOT unedible. I’d still disagree, but I’d do it with a smile on my face 🙂

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