My grandmother died this morning in what I would call a celebration of a wonderful life.
She was 102.
Just a week ago, all eight of her living children were with her as we honored the recent marriage of Cheyenne, one of her 26 grandchildren. My mother – the oldest of five daughters and the third child of the nine – preceded Grandma in death by 13 years, and Grandad’s been gone almost 14 years.
Alice Ruth (Elder) Summers was born March 28, 1911, in Leoti, Kan., and married Grandad, Henry David Summers, one day before her 18th birthday in 1929. She lived through the Depression and raised children in the Dirty Thirties, a farm wife who was as much of a farmer as any woman who lived in the ruggedness of western Kansas.
In 1972 when my family moved from Leoti, she and Grandad moved from the farm into our home. She lived in that little house until her mid-90s and has spent the last few years at the Wichita County Long Term Health Care Unit. Even after a century of living, her mind was sharper than most retirees, and she shared that gift with all of us.
Though we moved away from there four decades ago, Leoti always has been my home. When I was a senior in high school, I returned to Kansas and lived that year with my older brother while my parents, sister and her oldest daughter lived in New Orleans – they returned to Leoti in 1988, just before my senior year in college.
With the folks more about 1,000 miles away, I spent weekends and long breaks from college with Grandma and Grandad. I piddled, mainly, because there was a big lifestyle difference between the generations. Still, they tolerated me and the ants in my pants, and they loved me for it.
Grandma had the biggest heart of most anyone you would ever meet, and she loved sharing that. One wall in her nursing home room was covered in photos of her family members and loved ones, a true testament to the people she’s reached in her 102 years on this Earth.
Neither of my children got to meet my wonderful momma, but I’m so very thankful they got to spend time and love on her momma. She has been a blessing to me all my life, and I will miss her. But she lived an amazing life, of which most of us would envy.
While I will miss Grandma Summers, I am comforted by the realization that today is just the first of many celebrations of her wonderful life.