Thursday, September 5, 2013


In the middle of August, on what was probably the hottest Saturday of the whole summer, my dad's family gathered together in the small town where I grew up and we had a memorial service for my Nana--my dad's mom.

Nana was diagnosed with lung cancer back in the spring.  We knew it was bad.  Nana made up her mind that she wanted to attend the family reunion over Memorial Day, be the featured quilter at Bushwhacker Days in June, and meet her youngest great-grandchild when my cousin had her baby in July.

Cancer was no match for Nana's willpower, and she did all of those things.

But then it was August.  Things got really bad really fast, and Zuzu and I made a mid-week trip home to say good-bye to Nana.  Even after that last trip, and after the memorial service, I don't think I will fully realize that Nana isn't here until we go home for Nana's Christmas.  I just can't quite picture it without her there, wearing that same Christmas sweater, her voice always carrying across the room--shouting over a game of dominoes, getting all riled up when she's teased by one of her grandsons-in-law, announcing that she loves us all but she needs a nap.  

Christmas:  When Nana forces everyone to pose for photos so she'll have something new to scrapbook!  You can see Papa is thrilled.
Nana was a big personality, a big presence.  She threw herself into her passions--sewing quilts, making scrapbooks, watching basketball, playing the slot machines at the boats, bragging about her grandchildren--and did these things with much creative energy.  She had no problem letting the boring things go--things like dusting, vacuuming, cooking--as she immersed herself in her hobbies.  (As a result, my aunt started hosting family holidays because Nana didn't want to bother with making her house presentable.  That meant she had more time for quilting, so we all got beautiful quilts for Christmas gifts.  It was really a win-win.)

I used to joke that Nana preferred the grandkids she gained through marriages over the grandkids who were actually blood-relatives.  The truth is that Crafty Cousin Amanda was always Nana's favorite (although my brother was a very close second), but it was also true that once you were in the family one way or another, there was no escape.  She was now Your Nana, too.  Even my high school boyfriend called her Nana.  I always loved getting a voicemail from her in her very distinctive voice:  "Brooke.  This is Your Nana."

At family holidays, Nana was always starting a game of dice or dominoes.  She was fiercely competitive, had no patience for those who got distracted by things like dessert, and she was not the kind of grandma who believed in letting the little kids win.  When I told my best friend from high school that Nana had passed away, she said, "I'll miss hearing stories of the funny and inappropriate things Nana would say."  Nana didn't have much of a filter.  Let's just say that a little name-calling over a game of dice was not unheard of.

At the family reunion in May.  I love the way Zuzu is looking up at her.  That dude who's not David is my brother.
Nana was stubborn and opinionated and kind of a spitfire.  She was also loyal and loving and she peppered her speech with the best adjectives:  "Isn't that marvelous?" she would say in response to good news.  Her verbs were great, too, and one of the last things she said to me, in a voice barely above a whisper, after I'd told her that Zuzu and I had to go back to St. Louis but we'd wanted to come and see her, was, "I'm so thrilled that you did."

Visiting Nana in July.  She lost her hair from chemo so she's wearing a fuzzy little cap.  Zuzu missed her morning nap so she snoozed next to Nana the whole time.
Her memorial service started at 11 o'clock in the morning and honestly it was so hot that I couldn't even really be sad about Nana because I couldn't focus on anything but the sweat that was literally pouring off my great-uncle's bald head.  Just as I was getting totally grossed out by my brother's soaking wet with sweat dress shirt, and squirming under a trickle of sweat running down my own back, there was a ruckus over to my right and we all realized that my cousin's husband--who had worn a suit jacket for the grave-side service--had gone ahead and passed out from the heat.  Big guys fall hard, and at 6'4", this one crashed.  

Nana would never have wanted for anyone to pass out from near-heatstroke at her funeral, but at the same time it seemed to sum up her personality--totally memorable, in unexpected (and kind of hilarious) ways.

Doesn't she look like someone who knew how to have a good time?
How do you sum up a life like hers?  Well, my aunt gave me all the info and I pieced it together here.

Photo quality is not great, but don't you love that chic veil and dark lipstick?
Nana would have gotten a kick out of seeing all the names of her kids, grandkids, great-grandkids listed (there are more than a few!).  She certainly filled up an incredible number of scrapbooks with our photos, newspaper clippings, letters, and drawings.

The best part of the day was sitting with my great-aunts, Nana's sisters, and listening to them tell stories about their childhood together.  (I'll have to post some of their tales another day, but suffice it to say that Nana was strong-willed from the very start--this appears to be a dominant trait in my family, as anyone who has ever butted heads with any of us could tell you.)

I would love for Zuzu to have this dress and this hair style.
I'm so glad Zuzu got to meet her Nana, and I'm so glad I have plenty of stories to tell her about the Nana who loved her so much but only got to hold her for a little while.

My favorite picture of Nana and Zuzu.  Zu was just two months old.
We miss our Nana, and we're so glad she was ours.


  1. Loyal and loving spitfire? Sounds like Nana lives on in you my friend. Such a sweet picture of her holding a sleeping little baby Caroline. Sorry for your family's loss.

  2. That last photo is more precious than ever.

    I personally love Nana and her personality as I feel like she and I are kindred spirits. Although she was probably more fun than me...the me that I am now.

    She's lovely and I'm so glad I got to know her through the beautiful words you wrote.

  3. Such a light! A spirit! Brooke, I read this twice. A beautiful tribute to one heck of a lady. Love to your family.

  4. She sounds like an amazing woman. I really enjoyed reading your beautiful tribute! So sorry for your loss.

  5. Such a beautiful post and a beautiful Nana.

    Big hugs to you.

  6. I'm sorry your Nana isn't here now. I hope she is loving and holding Eliza just like in that last picture with her and Zuzu.

    I've had a message saved in my voicemail for the past year that I can't erase that begins "Hi Julie, it's your Nana. Papa and I were just thinking about you..." I'm lucky to still have my Nana, but soon memories and stories and old voicemails will have to be enough. I am so glad you have wonderful memories!

  7. Your Nana sounds like one of the best Nana's around. I love me a good grandma.

    Both of my grandmothers passed away ears and years ago now. But I love hearing about other peoples grandma's.

    Thank you for sharing her. I'm sorry for your lfamily's loss. She will be missed.

    Love the pic with little baby Zuzu. And like Julie said, I can imagine her with Eliza the same way. As wonderful as that scenario might be, I know the heartache is still the same.

  8. I wrote my grandmother's obituary too - it was difficult, but I was glad to do it - to write something a little more than the standard bio list. You did a beautiful job, and it made me both sad and happy to see Eliza's name there.

    What a great Nana. She sounds so much like my grandmother who was such a talented quilter, and a dead serious game player (Scrabble and Rummy etc.) I miss those family games (disputes and all).

  9. <3 Nana sounds absolutely charming.

    I love a Nana who others love so much they refer to her as theirs. love that.

    And Zuzu snuggling with her is precious.


  10. I'm so sorry for your loss. :(

    Nana sounds like an amazing woman, who knew how to live life to the fullest. I wish my grandparents were still alive to meet my daughter- they always had amazing stories to tell.

  11. Sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing her with us, it sounds like you had a wonderful relationship.

  12. Both my grandmothers have been gone quite awhile now (38 & 14 years), but I still miss them terribly. Sounds like you have some wonderful memories to lean on. (((hugs)))

  13. How many roads can we walk together? I lay my grandpa to rest Thursday morning. There is something about that generation I swear. I have always been lovingly referred to as a chicken shit. I feel so very fortunate he was able to meet my boys and so glad he is at peace now. Thank you for sharing your Nana with us and I am so sorry for your loss. ~M

  14. AWWW I'm so sorry about your Nana, she seemed like a really amazing lady! So glad Zuzu got to meet her!