Monday, April 21, 2008

In Loving Memory


Lenore Carlson Henninger
October 15, 1915 ~ April 21, 2008

Recently I received an e-mail from a friend in which I was asked to "sum her up" in one word. I found this task extremely difficult. We are, by nature, complicated and multi-faceted, and to describe a person with one word is to exclude so many more. I found myself recalling this e-mail these past few weeks as my grandmother struggled valiantly, honorably, against her final foe and I wondered what "one word" might "sum up" a person so grand and a life so well lived. It came to me in an instant. Love. I cannot think of another person who so exemplifies love as my grandmother did. Who loves life as much as she did. Who gives love as easily and unselfishly as she did. Who is as loved as she will always be. Love, pure and simple.

From the outside looking in, my grandmother did not have the easiest of lives. By all accounts, she enjoyed a happy childhood (perhaps with the small exception of the time she became sick from eating too many blueberries, thus causing an aversion to the fruit that followed her to the end of her life). She was the fifth and youngest surviving child of Swedish immigrants and my great aunt enjoyed lovingly teasing her from time to time about the fact that she was spoiled as the baby. However, tragedy befell the family with the death of her brother, Clarence when my grandmother was only 14. Over the next two years, she watched her mother fight, first heartache at the tragic loss of her son and then cancer. She lost her mother at the tender age of 16. My grandmother recalled being excused from high school every Friday in order to do the laundry for her father and brothers. One could not mistake the resolute pride in her voice as she spoke about "doing what had to be done" and helping her family in this way.

Upon graduation, my grandmother met the love of her life, my grandfather, when she caught the eye (and the fancy!) of the young piano player at a dance club called the Rose Garden. Theirs truly was a match made in heaven. In addition to identical birthdays, they shared the same plucky, happy go lucky spirit. I never witnessed a cross word between them. Their marriage spanned well over 50 years and produced two daughters and a lifetime of happy memories.

I am one of five incredibly blessed people to call her Grandma. She was the type of grandma that fairy tales and happily ever after stories are made of. Hers was the house I chose when childish notions of "running away" from home occurred. After she would obligingly come to pick me (and my packed bag) up, I knew I would always find a sympathetic ear and a good snack around her kitchen table. She had the gift of making all seem right in the world again. And she always had orange circus peanuts and a cookie jar full of (store bought, vanilla sandwich) cookies to eat. That kitchen table was the center of my grandma's home and the place my heart still yearns for in times of trouble. She never missed a band performance, school play or sporting event that her grandchildren were involved in. When my family's home was struck with lightening and required major re-building, my grandparents took us in for almost a year. My grandma did most of the cooking and also took care of the three children during the long hours my parents spent working and overseeing renovations to our home. While we were definitely a bit cramped in space, I remember that time as a very happy one. My grandmother always let me crawl in bed with her after my grandfather would leave for work. It was the safest place on earth.

My grandmother rejoiced with the addition of each of her 6 great-grandchildren. She kept a picture of each of them on a shelf that she could see as she ate her meals. She enjoyed hearing about each of them and relished the time she spent with them. Just last week as I visited with her, I told her again of our plans to adopt our second daughter from China. Although communication with her was difficult, she smiled when I talked of our adoption and I know she was so happy.

In addition to her family (and all of our extended activities), my grandmother was active in many church activities and a member of the Fireman's Ladies Auxiliary. For a time she enjoyed participating on a bowling team. She had the easy ability to laugh at herself and the absurd situations life throws our way at times. She often told me that I needed to "keep my head up and a smile on my face." Simple words with profound meaning that I have come to rely on more and more with each passing year.

Today I lost one of the most special people in my life. I am relieved to know her suffering here on earth has ended. I am comforted by the fact that at this very moment she is in the loving embrace of her family and my grandfather and countless friends who have been waiting for her.

Surely angels dance tonight in heaven ~ for my dearest loss is their most precious gain.

Rest in peace, Gram. Rest in peace.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for you loss. Kate, you really have a way with words. I feel as though I have known her all my life. If there is anything that we can do, please let us know.

xoxoxo,
Kevin, Laura & Emma

Jennifer said...

Kate,

Your Grandmother sounds like she was an amazing woman. You were truely blessed to have her in your life. I am truely sorry for your loss. Take care.

Love, Jen

Danielle said...

Kate,

I am so sorry for your loss. I have been checking your blog and my email in case you touched base.

This post is so beautifully written. I'm thinking of you, and am going to email you after I finish working on your blogs right now.

Lots of love,

Danielle

Laurie said...

Kate,

I truly enjoyed reading all about your dear Grandmother, and I am positive there are dances going on in heaven! You are in my thoughts tonight.

Laurie

ADELE said...

Your sweet grandmother sounds exactly like my grandmother. I am sure the two of them have met by now in Heaven. This post truly touched my heart and made me reflect and remember sweet memories when my grandmother was alive. I know you are blessed to have such wonderful memories of her. I am so sorry for your loss. I am praying for you.

Heather said...

Kate,

So beautifully written.

Yes, surely the angels are dancing.

I cried, not because of the loss, for she is on the streets of gold where pain lives no more and her saviour has come to greet her, but for the amazing woman she helped you become, for the life lived with dignity and grace and for the time she spent doing all the things that mattered. May we all learn from her example.

I had grandparents who cared not to spend that type of time or energy on us... I have always mourned that - you are so richly blessed to have had this space in time.

I am so sorry for your loss and lift you tonight in prayer as you grieve.

So sad for your family, sweet friend...
Love,
Heather

Kim Olson said...

Kate,
I am sitting here bawling at work reading about your beloved Grandma. You definitely should write for a living! You are truly talented.

Kim

LaLa said...

I am so sorry Kate...she sounds like a wonderful Grandmother..you are truly blessed!

missy said...

Hi Kate,

I just read about your dear grandmother. She sounds like an amazing woman and was so full of life. I know she will be dearly missed. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Hugs!

Jboo said...

What a loving tribute to your grandmother! My sincere sympathy to you and you family. Take care.

Janet

Bridget said...

I am so sorry about your Grandma. She sounds like a sweet, wonderful woman. What a sweet tribute your post was! I wish you all the best.

Sharon said...

What a beautiful post. I am so sorry for your loss! i was just thinking about my own grandmother yesterday. I am so glad she got to meet her great granddaughter and see the special path you took. God bless youthrough this time of grief.

Kellyann said...

Your grandmother was truly an inspiration in your life and help mold you into who you are today. For that you really and truly are a blessed woman to have had such a great woman in your life and family. I am sure that you will miss her terribly as will the other members of your family. I hope you take the time needed to truly remember the good times and allow yourself to grieve the great loss you have just experienced.
Know we are here if you need anything.

Denise C said...

OH Kate, I am so sorry for your heart break. This post was so very touching and beautiful ...such a precious way to honor your grandmother! I know she's smiling! You obviously have many of her fine qualities...you are such a sweet friend...and I am blessed by your kindness and sweet thoughts!!! I will be lifting your family in prayer as you continue on ...on this side of heaven....May God grace be sufficient for all of your needs...is my prayer sweet friend!
Love you,
Denise

Erin said...

Kate, I am a bit behind reading... I am sad for you. Your grandmother had the face of a kind, wise woman. I was very, very touched by her life. She lived such a wonderful life, and brought so much joy to so many. We can all hope to deal with sorrows in the beautiful way that she did. I'll bet she would be happy with the way you told her story. When I am a grandmother, that is just the way I want my grandchildren to feel about me! Surely she will watch over you and your little family from Heaven!

Jenn said...

Kate,

I'm so sorry to read about the loss of your grandmother. She sounds like someone I would love! Love for her oozed from this post--and a picture of her was perfectly painted.

Lifting you and your family up in prayer!

Blessings,
Jenn