Mary Sandell
March 11th, 1923 - October 2nd, 2008
Lazy Sunday with Grandma
Taking it easy on Sunday with my Grandma, back in the day.

Hi Grandma,

    "This sucks."

    Those two words would always get a laugh out of you. The words became our battle-cry when I used to say them to grandpa when he was sick with Parkinson's Disease. You would chuckle and ask him to repeat them -- you'd tell him they were fighting words and they'd help him get through the bad times. And the first thing you said to me, at his funeral, was, "This sucks." And you wanted me to say it back. And through teary eyes I did. And of course that made you laugh; through tear-filled eyes of your own.

    You had a way of laughing at the most inopportune, inappropriate times. At least the times seemed inopportune and inappropriate until I heard you laughing your way through them. And then I realized those times were the times that needed laughter the most.

    When my other grandmother died twelve years ago you attended the funeral. You saw me there, walked up to me, extended your hands ... and laughed. "This sucks!" You exclaimed. And for the first time that day I felt I would be able to get through that loss. For the first time that day I genuinely smiled. And I made you promise me you wouldn't take your turn for at least 10 more years. I said I needed, "At least a decade." And you laughed again and said, "I probably won't make it through the next ten minutes." That was vintage Mary.

    But you were a fighter and you gave me more than the decade that I requested. Of course now that doesn't seem like it was long enough. And this time you won't be at the funeral laughing at the most inopportune, inappropriate times. The times where we need laughter the most, because without it there's nothing we can do but feel sorry for ourselves and cry.

    "This sucks!"

    Now you can retire those words. Why not? Where you're at you won't need them ever again. The last time I saw you I said we'd run away and visit Byerly's Restaurant every morning and Red Lobster every night. You smiled slightly and said, "That would be nice." We never did get to run away together, but now -- like I heard you saying you wanted to do so many times before -- you went home to Grandpa.

    I can imagine the two of you drinking coffee together early in the morning at the great Byerly's in the sky, taking walks at the Glenwood Park that would never have the gall to install parking meters or change its name to something appalling like, "Theodore Wirth," having an early lunch at Reed's Drug Store, which is still serving "malteds" and burgers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and capping off your day with a nice, home-cooked meal. Or, on those days where you don't feel like cooking, having a dinner at the Lincoln Del, Bridgeman's or Red Lobster. I can see the two of you up there saving the rest of us a seat, because for both of you the more was always the merrier.

    Yes, you have no more use for those two words that made up our battle-cry. But would you mind if I held onto them for a while? Because I think I'm still going to need them. As much as I want to live by your example, there's a bond that has been broken and I don't think I'm going to be able to chuckle my way through this one. I lost the person that laughed me through the tragedies and without you it would just seem to be an inappropriate giggle at an inopportune time.

    Somehow a part of me couldn't quite believe it back when you told me you were going to live forever. Another part of me still knows you weren't kidding -- because as long as I breathe -- your wisdom, your insight and that unique sense of humor will live on. If only I could still share it with you. It's so hard to believe you are gone. I miss you and, dear Grandma ... this sucks!

Love,
Alex