They say that if a family has an old person in it, it possesses a jewel. Well, Nan was just that. A jewel. A gem. A beautiful soul. She was full of life and spunk up until the very end. Nan was sassy, classy, and a bit of a pain in the ass-y. I’m sure that she has put each one of us in our place at least once in our lives. I know that she is cursing me at this very moment for calling her an “old person.” Nan was hard-headed and stubborn as hell. Her long and unrelenting fight to stay here with all of us is proof of that. Nan was nothing if not feisty, flirty, and fabulous.
One of my favorite memories of Nan happened two Christmases ago. We had planned a girls’ trip to go see the Christmas show at the American Music Theatre. During the show, Nan had taken a liking to one of the male cast members. She kept gushing about how handsome this man was and what a great singing voice he had. She sounded like a school girl with a big time crush. After the show, we were all taking pictures in front of the beautiful Christmas tree they had on display upstairs. Without a word, Nan suddenly took off down an entire flight of stairs, with her oxygen tank in tow, to meet the man from the show. Apparently, she had spotted him downstairs in the crowd and made it her mission to go meet him. She sauntered right up to him, introduced herself, and began laying on the Connie charm. She even had someone take a picture of her with him. Nan never could resist a handsome man.
Aside from being a shameless flirt, Nan was an amazing mother and grandmother. She would have done anything for her daughters, Jerie and Diane, and her favorite son, Jeff. She loved spending time with them and their families. Nan also loved to spoil all of her grandchildren. Every year for Christmas, she would give each of us $100. She would always find new and creative ways to package it. Sometimes she would fold or roll the money up and hide it in something. Other times she would wrap it up in a big gift box to trick us into thinking that it was something other than money. Nan loved to be the center of attention at all of our family parties. She loved to be loved and spoiled by her family. She loved to spoil herself by buying jewelry from QVC. Although, I don’t think she ever wore most of it. She almost always decided that she didn’t like it anymore as soon as it arrived. She loved her new bedroom set that she really never got to sleep in. Nan loved grilled cheese with tomato soup. She loved pound cake and celebrating her birthday. She loved to watch General Hospital, Dancing with the Stars, and anything on Lifetime. She loved doing word searches and crossword puzzles. Even at the age of 89, she was sharp as a tack. She never lost her wit, her sass, or the Connie charm.
Grief is not just an emotion, but it is a state of being, a state of mind. Grief is a deep, dark hole that will consume you and swallow you whole if you let it. Grief is the sadness, pain, and emptiness that you feel in your heart when you think of the person you have lost. It is the ache in your bones and the weight on your chest. It is the tears that well up in your eyes and stream down your face, burning your cheeks as they flow. Grief makes it hard to move forward, but even harder to stay in one place. This is the point where I’m supposed to say that Nan wouldn’t want us to be sad or to cry over her death. But honestly, I think that Nan would want us to cry a little bit. Not a lot. Just to shed a few tears. Just enough to prove how much we love her. Just enough to show her how much we care. But, I ask that once you’ve shed those tears and have dried your eyes, that you not allow the grief to swallow you whole. That you not allow the sadness and pain that you feel in your heart to overcome the memories that you have of Nan. That you not allow the grief of Nan’s death to be sharper than the memory of her life.
Every time I would say goodbye to Nan, I would say, “Be a good girl, Connie.” She would always respond with, “Lauren, you know I try, but it’s hard sometimes.” I’m sure that Nan is trying her best to be good now, too. I’m sure that she is playing with all of her dog and cat friends. I’m sure that she is walking around like a champ. And, I’m sure that she is already nagging and bickering with my Pop Pop, Gunk, who has been waiting over ten years for her to join him. As my Mom would say, it isn’t goodbye. It’s see ya later, alligator. After a while, crocodile. Be a good girl, Connie. We love you.