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In Giving We Receive

In Giving We Receive

by Sandra J Filer

“Grandma time was very special time. A time of leaving the ordinary to step into the enchanting.”

My grandmother and I shared a magical relationship. Grandma allowed me to dream. Never having a daughter yet always wanting one endeared me to her. As I was growing up, my Grandparents would frequently baby-sit. Once Grandpa departed for the day, all the dazzle came out. The bedroom closets were filled with baubles, beads, shoes, fur coats, and hats. A seemingly endless bounty of treasures awaited me during my magical visits. Something I remember very well is the time I spent on the floor reveling with her earring tree. For hours, I was allowed to play with Grandma’s earrings, mink coats, and sparkly slippers. I can fondly remember Grandma smiling and laughing as I would twirl around in all of my magnificence. During this time of total elation, I was also completely enraptured by the vision of my glamorous self in her full-length mirror. “Grandma time” was very special time. A time of leaving the ordinary to step into the enchanting. Our relationship flourished.

As an adult, I would travel several times a year to stay with Grandma in Florida. Rather than play with an earring tree, I was now allowed carte blanche to wear whatever jewels were available in her endless chest of drawers. We also greatly enjoyed getting all dressed up to dine out together. In preparation, I would fix her hair as well as touch up her makeup. The annual trips to Florida were escapes for me. They became a time for connection. A time to play. A time to laugh. A time to experience the unconditional love of a Grandmother.

As she began to age, our adventures lessened. Our visits became a bit lower key. At the end of each visit, I would quietly walk out to the end of her beautifully painted driveway, late at night, under the big moon and all the stars to pray that the trip would not be my last. One day, it was. After a fall, Grandma’s mobility decreased significantly. Being so far away logistically made it difficult to ensure that she was safe. The time came when a very difficult family decision was made to move Grandma into an assisted living center in Michigan. This was a trying time for everyone. My fun, magical Grandma was aging rapidly. And, worst of all, she was not happy!

Arriving at the retirement center, seeing her room for the very first time, was sobering to say the least. On the surface, we all celebrated how wonderful her small space was. How perfect it was for her. (I believe we were all doing this more for ourselves than for her.) There was a growing sadness inside of me. All I could visualize was her change from waking up in “paradise” (as she described it) to wearing diapers and eating when being instructed to do so. Touring the facility, we all saw, in my judgment, some lonely elders. It was then that I vowed to return to Texas and volunteer at retirement centers. If my Grandma was in Michigan with Grandchildren unable to visit, then there were Grandparents in Texas that needed adoptive Grandchildren too! So, that is what I did.

I began volunteering by offering facials to the residents. This led to calling bingo, attending field trips, Halloween story telling, Wal-Mart runs, etc. I fell in love with the elder residents and visited often. During bingo one day, I met a woman that reminded me of my Grandmother. The resemblance was uncanny. Mrs. Stewart not only looked like my Grandmother she was also a serious card player. They both stashed Saltine crackers in their wheelchair bags. They each kept score of things in a tiny little notebook. And, Mrs. Stewart seemed to have the exact same expressions on her face using her hazel eyes as my Grandma! Naturally, I was completely drawn to her. We became fast friends.

One day, on my way out the door to conduct facials, I received a phone call from my Father. It was April 30. This would be a day I would never forget. I was told that my Grandmother had fallen down. After further evaluation, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. With my heart breaking, I poured more love into the residents. One day, preparing for the King and Queen Ball, my favorite resident was on the Court. Mrs. Stewart was a contender for resident Queen. I had the privilege of preparing her skin and doing her royal makeup for the competition.

Once finished, she looked into the mirror with huge tears in her eyes. She said, “Oh my, is that me? I look beautiful.” I said, “Mrs. Stewart, you are beautiful.” As I was cleaning the table and putting away my items, I saw her wheelchair go by. Then I looked again to discover her backing up. Dead center in the doorway, she was watching me. I said, “Mrs. Stewart is there something I can do to help you?” Her response changed my life forever. For it was in this moment that I realized how the seemingly smallest acts of kindness can bring love and light into this world. Mrs. Stewart looked at me and said, “I just wanted to tell you that this was the best day of my life.”

As I walked out to the car, I wept. I also filled up with love. This experience fueled my desire to share with others what a difference we can make by connecting. My Grandmother and Mrs. Stewart left this Earth within 90 days of each other afflicted by the same disease. I am so grateful that the love my Grandmother showered me with as a magical little girl resulted in my passing on that love to Mrs. Stewart and others.

I love you both – Grandma and Mrs. Stewart. May you both be winning at bingo in Heaven.

Live. Love. Play. Prosper.

~ Sharing the magic of Life and Love through the eyes of a happy goddess.

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