A lot of people don't want to talk about death. You know, I don't blame them.
It's scary. It's painful. It's all so unknown.
Yesterday my Grandma passed and I felt like this is a topic that is weighing on my heart. So here's your chance to bail.
Growing up, Vivian was a neighbor across the street from us. She and her husband, Herb quickly became "Grandma and Grandpa". We were vaguely aware that they weren't our biological grandparents but they were ours. We knew no difference and blood wasn't even relative.
My mom and dad both worked, a lot. My biological grandparents weren't around. My older sister was away and my brother and I were a handful being only a year apart. Grandma and Grandpa stepped in, being the village my parents needed to successfully raise us. They picked us up every day after school in this blue pickup that had a cover over it. We would beg to ride in the back even though there was no air flow and we were sweating bullets. There was always a musty smell of fishing equipment and tools. But there was this cool glass door on the back that was like the best fort opening ever. Our portable fort. My grandpa taught us to drive in that truck, before we were even able to reach the pedals.
They accepted us into their family without hesitation and honestly, probably would have had a few words for anyone who had an issue with it.
They never missed a birthday party. They always had special candy for us on Halloween. They knew our favorite snacks and always had a stockpile of them. My grandma taught me to love Days of our Lives and used Stefano as a learning objective. She taught me how to bake sugar cookies and fry chicken...and attempted to teach me to crochet. My grandpa played "pull my finger", taught us to crush beer cans for recycling, and pulled out the 'good stuff' that he fermented in a special cabinet for celebrations.
My Grandma rolled her eyes and playfully patted my Grandpa when he was ornery.
"Oh, Herb. You quit that."
My Grandma saved my ass. Literally. In middle school I tried to move furniture and busted a hole in the drywall. I was so scared that my dad would be furious and lucky for me, she came over within the hour. She told my grandpa to get over there and fix that drywall before he got home. And he did. Not sure if my dad ever found out about that. Sorry, dad.
My grandma was the first person to sit with me when I found out about my parents divorce. She came down the stairs (hard to do with her back and bad knees) and just sat with me. She never forced me to talk, but was always willing to listen.
She was the first person in my life who just sat and listened to me vent. Without saying a word of advice. No matter how long. When I was younger it was irritating. I used to get so mad that I couldn't rile her up with me. I wanted her to feel all the emotions with me and say I was right in feeling that way. (I had a lot of emotions. And was very long winded.) And she would just sit.
And then she would speak.
"Kin. You can't control other people's actions. You only got control of yourself. You worry about yourself and do the things that make you happy. They're already worrying about themselves. You worry about you."
And then I'd continue because she didn't "get it"...but she knew. And I didn't get it.
As I grew up I realized how solid she was. She was fire, don't get me wrong. She had spunk and I could always make her laugh, but she knew a lot more than she ever let on.
I just had to learn to listen, too.
She helped me. She taught me. She told me my tattoo was going to look like a dinosaur when I got pregnant. (and it didn't...much...maybe a baby long neck Dino) She never thought I needed to change but loved me through every change I made.
For no other reason, than she had decided we were hers. That was all it took to be family.
Grandpa passed Jan. 17, 2006. Grandma died Jan 16. 2019.
To pull this into focus..what did I do when I heard? After the shock. After the initial feelings pass...
I looked for their photos.
Photography is about having those special moments that mean so much to you. Especially when a part of your life disappears. Memory fades. Details get cloudy. But I have these little blips of this incredible woman and can remember the huge impact she had on my life. Clearly.
Luckily my grandma's generation liked to get headshots of themselves to give as gifts. So she is already on my family tree.
Don't ever think that photographs aren't worth it the money. Don't ever hesitate to be in the picture. Don't ever wonder if someone will appreciate a photo of someone they love as a gift.
They will. It will mean the world one day.