Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I've Become My Grandmother

In memory of my dear friend Shirle C who taught me grace and patience.

It was her morning ritual.  With coffee and toast, Grandma would read the obituaries in the local paper and plan her day-- around funerals and calling hours for people she knew and cared about.  

We lived in a small town and there were usually three or four announcements in the local newspaper every day. Grandma had lived in the town her entire life and well, she knew folks, lots of folks, and it was her intention to pay her last respects to everyone of them.  It's just what you did for your friends.

As a young girl, I thought this was strange-- planning your day around "calling hours" at the "Funeral Parlor". But I liked the idea of sending your friends off to heaven in a respectful and loving manner.  

After Grandma finished her coffee, she'd often baked a cake or make a Jello mold to take to the family of the deceased.  Her apple cake was legendary and her Jello was always a favorite in the summertime.  Folks appreciated her cakes and her kindness.

When someone in our family passed away, the whole town would do the same thing Grandma did for everyone else.  They'd bake cakes, bring Jello and pay their respects at our house. Apparently they had the same morning ritual of reading the newspaper's obituaries.

When I was grown and moved to the "big city", I never read the death notices in the city newspaper.  I didn't know anyone that would pass away in the city without me knowing before I read about it.  And, I found it strange that in major newspapers, only famous people had Obits written for them, the rest of the people had to buy the announcements that were always printed in tiny type.  That doesn't seem right to me.

But now, well, times have changed.  I'm fifty-something and I'm slowly losing friends and attending more funerals.  It's made me realize that I've started my Grandmother's morning ritual.  I now read the Obituaries in the Los Angeles Times, The New Times  and Variety and I often know people who have passed away.

It's sad, I know, writing about this.  But it strikes me as coming full circle.  Today I'll bake my Grandmother's apple cake to take to the family of a very dear friend who passed away after a short battle with cancer.   I am heart-broken over their loss and I hope the cake, in some small way, brings them comfort.  

It's just what you do for your friends.  

Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna
If you liked this post you might also like my friend Jane's blog-- Jane at the Garden Gate


  1. The caring does become full-circle when you yourself are a caring person...

    That cycle of life/death never seems important until we get there ourselves - and then, oh my, then those gestures mean so much...

  2. A lesson carried down through generations.

  3. oh my gosh i could have written this myself. i used to sit on my grandma's lap and she'd read the "obits" as she called them out loud. we'd rock and talk. i always read them now and have for as long as i can remember. i feel like it's the least i can do for someone in their last act. i read them when we are out of town too and there is no way i could know anyone. sarge laughs at me but i still do it!

    thanks for visiting me. i'll come back and read more when i have more time. he has a dr. appt. this morning.

    smiles, bee

  4. It used to be when I was younger, if I happened to glance over the obits, I'd only really take a second look at the ones who seemed real young, and think, "how truly sad".

    Now the ages of the "young" are starting to get older as I age. ;-)

  5. Thanks ladies, for your kind words. xxoo

  6. Oh, that's a reallllly nice post! Very well written too! People used to say I was weird for reading the obits. Especially when I read about people I didn't know. lol. BUT...when I started reading them outloud my kids listened. Many obits are very nice and it's amazing how many young and old are in there and the things they've done / experienced in their lives.

    Nice post!

  7. This is nice, and I do believe that paying your respects at the funeral home or at the family home is a social grace that really needs to be cultivated because we'll all need to do this at some time.

    However. I do have to mention that some older folks -ahem *coughmymom*cough -make well, a habit out of going to funerals. More like a hobby. Ok, in her case - it's an obsession.

    She pretty much looks for any small connection to to the deceased to head to the funeral home, as in, "Well, I think I knew her mother's teacher's hairdresser. Or at least I knew who she was. Once. So I better go see the family - they'll be expecting me."

    But you know, at her age, a funeral is a social occasion. There's lots of emotion, there are flowers and singing and food after. And the family's appreciative, even if they have to wonder who that little lady over there belongs to. So, it's good.

  8. That was so beautifully written. When I lived in a small town and I was much younger, I looked at the death notices in the paper quite often. I always thought it was sad that my grandmother's friends were dying one by one. She lived until she was 95 so she had few friends left. Now I live in a much bigger city and I rarely look at the notices. If I do, I usually look at the ages of people. Slowly they are reaching my age. We become a bit more sensitive to our own mortality don't we? Isn't it amazing what we all have in common around the world - as Annie says the circle of life touches us all the same way no matter who we are and where we are from. By the way I can't choose a post to feature they are all so good, do you have a favourite?

  9. Joanna,
    This is such a sweet and beautifully written essay. It brought me back to simpler times with my own grandparents, Scottish immigrants who lived in a close-knit neighborhood of caring people -- like the one you described. I kinda miss those days, and am always looking for neighborhoods like that ... Thanks for a lovely read today.

  10. Thank you so much for stopping by my site today and especially for leaving a comment. Making new blogging buddies is always fun and welcomed!

    This was a beautifully written post and one I could relate to as well. As a nurse in a smaller city, I often recognize names in the obituary...and I read it everyday, faithfully.

    How nice that you are carring on the tradition of your grandmother by blessing other families at their time of loss...such a lovely, heartfelt thing to do.

  11. I am right there with you. I read them too. And I love to cook for people. We are our grandmothers. But then again, I can't think of anyone else I'd rather be:)

  12. Ha, This happens to everyone when they reach a certain age. I think reading the obits is just another rite of passage.


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