Last week, my self portrait included my kids, my mom, and my grandmother — it was the last photo I would ever take of my grandmother. She passed away last Thursday. My kids told me that is the single most important photo in our family right now, and I agree.
My mother asked me to write the eulogy. I have never written one before…so I stared at my computer and did a lot of typing, deleting, staring, and typing. Words would swirl around in my mind…then nothing…then an outpouring.
Every day at 2:00…no matter what the weather was, how cold, how hot, we would stop what we were doing and enjoy a Greek coffee together and then read each other’s grounds. Sometimes we agreed it was silliness (usually when we found clowns, unicorns, or masks) but others we believed. We believed the roads – they always went up and they always were open. It was always something good – we would look for things to apply it to! Last weekend, I spent two days with Yia yia and after our first cup, she brought it to me to show me her roads. I looked and told her a story of her roads, and while we were looking I saw an angel. It was a beautiful white angel with a halo and I told her someone was watching over her. We were both silent after that – I think we both knew.
Yia-yia was never afraid of dying – having survived the deaths of her parents, two husbands and two miscarriages; she remained strong and those experiences made her the woman she was, the woman we all looked up to. Two years ago, after her first diagnosis of terminal cancer, she told me of dreams she was having where my Papou would appear in her dreams angry. She said that he would never say anything, just look at her with anger and throw and smash things. I told her that I thought Papou was trying to tell her not to believe the doctors…it wasn’t her time yet. And it wasn’t – this was Thanksgiving of 2010. Last week, she told me that she prays to God and asks Him to be kind to her family and not let them suffer, the way she did when my Papou died. Her words touched me because she didn’t ask Him for her, just for us.
Last year, Dave and I took Yia-yia to the 25 Martiou celebration at our church. Yia-yia sat next to me with a huge grin on her face. I looked at her and said “would you have ever guessed that you were going to see your great grandchildren reciting their poems for 25 Martiou?” She looked at me with a dreamy smile and said “I never thought I would see all of my grandchildren, let alone great grandchildren. God has been good to me.”
In ancient mythology, Ariadne was a princess who helped Theseus through the maze with a ball of twine. She was the one who knew the secret of labyrinth and she knew that if you tied one end of the twine at the beginning, it would magically bring you into the middle with the minotaur, then you could easily find your way back out again. Yia-yia was an avid knitter – when Tom & I were little we used to sit and watch her knitting needles fly through her nimble fingers and with a “click click click”, a sweater would magically appear. We thought it was magic. Years later, she taught my daughter, Alexandra, how to knit. Just as her namesake did, Yiayia gave us all the magic of Ariadne’s twine in helping guide us all. Yia-yia saw all three of her daughters marry and raise families of their own, she managed to babysit and help take care of all 7 of us grandchildren and then attend my & Tom’s weddings; and she has 4 great grandchildren…yes, she managed to babysit my girls at times as well. She would come visit for a weekend and tell me, “you have shopping…go and leave the girls.” It was a statement, not a request. I can only hope to have her strength when I am in my 80’s!
Last week, I spent a couple of days with her and met one of her nurses. After introducing myself, Yiayia smiled and said “this is my granddaughter, I have both of my granddaughters taking care of me this weekend. I like it”. I joked that Yia-yia used to take care of us when we were little and now is our chance to take care of her. She bragged that she has her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to take care of her and she is happy. Nothing about her illness; just that her family is with her.
We used to tease Yia-Yia about not remembering our birthdays – we would have to call her the day before to remind her to call us the next day. The off chance that she remembered to call, we laughed over it and congratulated her. She passed away on my 40th birthday…we joked that this was her way of remembering. But I think she gave me the greatest gift, an angel to watch over me – that was the best birthday gift ever.
Rest in peace, Yiayia, you are already missed