I lost two people very close to me in the last few months. My paternal grandmother that we affectionately called Noni passed away in February this year and my graduate school housemate Sanford passed away in December 2013.
Sanford’s son Ralph let me know he went peacefully at home. “He exited as gracefully as he had lived.” And he certainly did live gracefully. Of course the list of ways he showed grace to me is quite long. Here’s a few snippets.
I remember fondly the scores of evenings we spent discussing our days, current events, and whatever else was on our minds. I will miss his signature dishes: Viennese goulash, chicken paprikash, and a fine cut of halibut or sea bass. Of course we would have bitters before dinner, wine with dinner, an espresso after dinner, and then for his midnight snack we would have vodka on the rocks, half a beer, Triscuit crackers, pineapple, and dried sausage.
He absolutely loved meeting all my graduate school friends all over the course of the year and was amazed at how many parties I went to. He was so affirming. I remember getting all dressed up for a party and I asked Sanford how I looked. He exclaimed, “Wow! You look perfect!” Here got us lobster for my graduation dinner. He also went into the cellar and found an expensive bottle of champagne for us to share.
When Noni died I was back in Thailand. I found out first that she had gone to sleep in hospice care and knew it was soon to be over. In times like these I have trained myself to find the closest person I can and cry it out. I asked the secretary to talk in the meeting room and before I could finish telling her my grandmother was dying I burst into tears.
After crying with the secretary, I went to teach my class. Despite the subject being math and logic for daily living I started with a quick note about loss and the importance of community and supporting one another. “How many people here have lost someone they love?” I knew one young woman in the class had lost her boyfriend just the year before and a beloved student passed away earlier this year as well. Many hands went up. I teared up as I shared about my grandmother and how precious life is. I could see a few of my students tearing up as well. This will go down as a special moment in my teaching career.
Noni was an amazing grandmother and I am so thankful for all the times we spent together over the years. I remember running around her house as a kid and watching as her house seemed slowly to shrink as I grew up. I will always remember the Italian wedding soup, watching TV together, the many sleepovers we had at her house, and the dozens of pictures of us she kept on her fridge.
I am so thankful to have had both Noni and Sanford in my life. They blessed me incredibly, and I’m better able to serve the world and live in peace because of them. I am also thankful to be a part of a community that supports one another in times of loss.