Elia “Grandma” Huffman 1921-2012

My Grandma was wise. She knew that in order to feel better sometimes you have to risk feeling worse. She had the strength to make her own decisions and the courage to follow her own path.

On December 23, 2011 Grandma took her last bite of food. In spite of Christmas, New Years, and birthdays she tasted only liquids for the next 75 days to prepare for surgery.
On March 7 she made it through 6 hours of surgery beautifully, and as soon as I saw her in recovery she reminded me to wash my hands after leaving the hospital. Classic.
Grandma spent the next 27 days in the ICU fighting every single second. I sat with her everyday listening to opera, reading newspapers, holding her hand, even dancing to make her smile. Even when she was sick, she was ridiculously sharp and clever.
On April 1, Grandma let us know she was exhausted and she decided to stop fighting.
On April 2, after 90 years of living Grandma passed away peacefully.

My grandma and I had an unspoken language full of shared laughs and similar glances.
A need for solitude and plenty of space to think.
A love of potato chips and a stash of chocolate.

Our similarities, once noticed, were too many to ignore. I saw myself in her.

I savored her wisdom.
I searched for morsels of truth that might somehow keep me from discovering them the same way she did, from 90 years of pain and sweat. It’s impossible, I know, but her words are still close and I think of them often.

Her voice was horse and blunt. She didn’t speak in “darlings” or batches of homemade cookies. She spoke in the cursive “F.Y.I.” letters on newspaper articles. She spoke in dated, yet completely genuine, fashion advice about my need for brighter colored clothing. She spoke in carefully curated grocery lists complete with an asterisk that adorned her love of coffee yogurt. She spoke her own language, she spoke love.

Death is inevitable, our bodies will begin to fail and our minds will fade. There will be a moment when we stop fighting and our breathe will soon follow. It may take seconds or days, but it is unavoidable. It’s also okay. Tomorrow will happen and so will next year. The thing we must remember is that today is when we get to choose, because some day we will either look back and remember those stunningly gorgeous sunsets or that fear.

Things change. always.

Me: “Grandma, if you could give your 27 year old self any piece of advice what would it be?”

Grandma: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Me: “But Grandma, how do you know what is small?”

Grandma “Colleen, everything is small. everything.

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Grandma & I reciting her fav poem, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” by Robert W. Service (watch on YouTube by clicking here)

(We didn’t plan to wear matching outfits, thats just the sorta thing that would always happen with us.)