The Light of My Life

Goodbyes are never easy. In fact, they may be among the most difficult tasks we are forced to contend with in life, as we become so used to having those we love surround us, as a part of our world. And when they leave, well, that world comes crumbling down.

My grandmother – my “Gramma” as I used to call her when I was a child – recently passed away after a long illness… making that particular parting all the more painful for me, and for our family. She was everything you imagine when you hear the word “grandmother” – a shining example of love and affection, beaming with pride and doting on all her children and grandchildren with the kind of compassion that made you feel, quite simply, very special.

As a child, I remember countless afternoons spent at Grandma’s house… playing in the backyard on the swings, splashing around in my very own inflatable pool, running through the sprinkler, standing at my tiny lifelike kitchen set, pretending to cook those great gourmet meals I had so eagerly watched her create for the family time and time again… then there was movie time and watching Yankee games, all while snuggled up on the couch under one of her handmade crocheted blankets – and we can’t forget the sleepovers, those fun long weekends as a kid when you felt like you were away on the best vacation, a home away from home.

So many memories, of holidays spent gathered around the big dining room table, of “helping” Grandma bake her famous Christmas cookies (basically watching and waiting and then sneaking a couple as soon as they came out of the oven), of marveling at the gigantic Christmas tree and the beautiful decorations… of hoping that, one day, I would be lucky enough to have a house as beautiful and as full of love as Grandma & Grandpa’s.

And lucky I was, to have two people who adored me and gave me everything a little girl could want growing up. But it wasn’t ever about the material possessions; it was about the intangibles, the traditions, all the special moments… priceless.

There they were in the audience at every dance recital, beaming from the stands at my high school and college graduations… Prom pictures? Taken at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, complete with a hand-crocheted, marabou-trimmed cape to perfectly accent my prom gown. Birthdays? Always a part of the celebration, sometimes even including a homemade cake baked courtesy of – who else? There are very few constants in a child’s life, but for me, it was always Grandma and Grandpa.

In 1997, we were blessed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of these two special people, to honor the love that had stood as a shining example of what “happily ever after” could mean… should mean. How lucky we all were to witness their renewal of vows, words which truly meant something, words lived by for 66 years, for better or worse, in sickness and in health.
Once in college, I enrolled in a Family Literacy class where one of our projects was to interview a family member, record and transcribe the conversation, and illustrate certain family traditions through words, photographs… my very own scrapbook of sorts. At the time, it seemed like just another grueling assignment, a major undertaking I wasn’t particularly keen on. I chose my grandmother, never foreseeing how meaningful that decision would become.

Just a few weeks ago, following my grandmother’s passing, I dug out that cassette recording of our interview and eagerly listened to the hours of conversation, smiling as I recalled that day over ten years ago. Even more than the questions and answers and the information exchanged, there was the voice, the humor, the details, the love… it’s all there, forever preserved. How grateful I am for that class, for that project… for that precious memory.

At a certain point, the song “You Light Up My Life” became something of our “thing,” that special bond between grandmother and grandchild, with those words surfacing in many cards exchanged throughout the years, as well as the pages of my yearbook – there, in black and white, as an everlasting reminder of our special bond.

That connection, and all the memories that come with it, shall never be broken – not by illness, and not in death. Because, goodbyes, as they say, need not be final. Grandma, you will always light up my life… ‘Til we meet again.


{Published: July 31st, 2013}

Jamie Lynn RyanComment