Life to the Fullest

eloise bw collage 1

eloise bw collage 2

I’ve already posted this week about family.  About our home and it’s history and about the rough trail that led us to being the next generation in line to take over the family farm. I mentioned the failing health of Grandma Eloise (Matt’s paternal grandmother), but just after that post on Wednesday evening she passed away peacefully with family surrounding her.

She lived to be ninety-five and 15 days old. I’d say that’s a long, full life.  Right up until the end she was sharp as a tack, asking that we change her hearing aid batteries just on Tuesday because she couldn’t hear everyone who was pouring through to visit her.  And when I say pouring through, I mean pouring. When we would go to sign into the visitor’s log at the nursing home, every single name before us on the list was also there to see her. She had so many vases of flowers that we could see her 4th floor room at the hospital from the street.  The nursing home even had to move her to another room because she had too many visitors.  What a wonderful problem to have.

And this wasn’t a new problem.  She had a revolving door of visitors coming by her house at all times.  She used to leave her screen door open all day long and everyone from the UPS man to the church deacons would stop in (usually with cakes and sweets).  Sometimes she’d act exhausted from all of the visitors she’d get in a day, but I know she loved it.  The reason they all continued to visit was the same reason why I loved her too… she was the one of the most kind-hearted women on the planet.  She was a secretary at the local school and knew everyone in town.  Even when I would drop off my dry cleaning, they’d ask how she was doing. She was as kind to a stranger as she was to her grandkids. The meanest thing I ever heard her say was how someone else’s green beans were ‘a little soft’.  And her kindness was in spite of (or maybe because of) living a tough life.  The wife of a farmer, she herself also worked in the fields.  She lived through the depression, the recession, and everything in between.  And worse of all, she lost not only her husband, but both of her children.  Something no mother should have to deal with. But she remained to have the most positive outlook, and was grateful for so much.

After her daughter died (who lived with her) we bought her house, allowing us to watch over her from our house just next door.  This allowed us to become very close in the past three years, and although she wasn’t my Grandmother (and I have one who I’m pretty crazy about), she grandmothered me anyway.  Telling me I needed to eat more, or layer up in the winter, or giving me the day’s weather forecast.  She would jokingly refer to us as her ‘neighbors’ or her ‘landlords’ when introducing us to her friends.  She would mail us cards, in the actual mail, from next door and she gave us more food that we could ever humanly eat – still trying to take care of us even when she was cooking from a wheelchair (with a mirror on a stick, no less). I spent afternoons sitting over there hearing about the family history, or just watching Dancing with the Stars when Matt was out of town and she’d call me to come ‘have some girl time’.

Honestly, it was easy to think about the difficulty of caring for an elderly family member, about the hardships that go along with it and to be overwhelmed with the responsibility, but looking back, I would take that time with her again in a heartbeat – and I know Matt would too. With her husband, children, and most of her friends gone, we made it our primary goal to lessen that void.  To make her heart feel full of love even with so many people missing from her life. All we wanted was for her to be surrounded with love and with family in the home she’d lived in for 75 years.  Towards the end (the last three weeks) we had to make the tough decision to move her to a nursing home, which crushed us because it felt like such the opposite of what we wanted her to feel.  But luckily, that revolving door of hers kept right on turning.

It’s funny to think about how the ten years I knew her were just a teeny ten-percent of her life.  The photos above are all ones I pulled yesterday while we were sorting through her house and they all just tell such a story.  I know her story will live on in each one of the people she’s touched, and I can only hope that I can tell her story with my life too.  Whether it be in how we maintain this property, how I share her life with my (one day) children, or just how I live a life of kindness and gratitude – just like she did every single day.

We love you, Eloise!




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