My paternal grandmother died on Friday. It's the first loss I've experienced in my family as an adult. She was having a really hard time breathing because of COPD that had recently gotten much worse.
She raised four kids in Philadelphia and Brigantine. She did not know her own family until my father tracked them down in her late 70s. She had been put in a foster care home when her mother abandoned her and her father. Her father remarried and had other children and she got to meet her half-siblings. She made herself a family when she married my bricklayer grandfather. She lost a son when he was a teenager in a violent incident and lost my grandfather when he was 62 to heart disease.
She used to work in the cafeteria at the Children's Seashore House in Atlantic City, NJ. When my brother and I were kids and living on the island, we used to take a jitney or ride our bikes on the boardwalk to go visit her. She would always give us a snack and money. We always enjoyed being able to enjoy the Brigantine beach when we visited her there. She always had little dogs she enjoyed like crazy. She loved everyone in her family and never got rid of anything anyone gave her. Her house was always full of pictures. She loved recounting the numbers of grandchildren and great-grandchildren she had.
She made a life for herself, working her whole life, and always tried to do for her family as much as she could. The children and I visited her before Christmas. Although the real test will be the services we attend this week, the children and I have been OK. I think it hasn't hit me yet, but when I see all of the cousins, and my aunts and my dad, it is going to be hard.