On July 18th one of my heroes passed away. My Grandmother June Gimse was 90 years old and had suffered several strokes that took her memory from her, so her passing wasn’t totally unexpected but somehow it was.
I never thought she could die. In my head Grandma is larger than life. Maybe that’s why it’s taken me so long to put anything about her down on paper. Everything I say or write seems so pale and inadequate to the task of describing her or my love for her.
Grandma enchanted me. I think that’s the closest I can come to an accurate description. Don’t get me wrong, I have not created in my mind a revisionist perfect person. Far from it. She was remarkable in the way that she was perfectly imperfect.
This photo of her angel is an awesome illustration of what I mean. Notice anything different about this angel? I took this angel home when we moved Grandma into the nursing home. A small memento that I could keep near me to remind me everyday of Grandma. But something about it bugged me. Every day. What was it?
Then one night I saw what was bothering me. Her wings. They’re upside down.
Grandma had apparently broken the angel’s wings off (or maybe it was one of the grand-kids who did it-I may never know) and she repaired it. The fact that they’re upside down is just so her. It’s fixed. No, it’s not perfect but life is not perfect. Something that Grandma knew so well.
Grandma faced so many set backs in life. Her husband died leaving her with 3 young girls to raise. A father-in-law who owned her home who tried to take the home away from her. No education or skills. And a world that told her to give up her girls because there was no way she could raise them on her own. Everywhere she turned someone was telling her, “You can’t succeed.”
This is why she is my hero. She worked several menial jobs to earn money while she put herself through college so she could become an accountant. She took her father-in-law to court to keep her home and won. She kept her girls with her and raised them all.
This was not the life she had envisioned, but she never pitied herself. She never lost her faith in God. She never lost her sense of humor, of love, and of compassion. When she got knocked down, she would rise. If the world threw another curve her direction she would meet the challenge the best she could. Her favorite song was Keep On The Sunny Side and she lived it.
Grandma didn’t believe things couldn’t be done. There was always a way. It may not be the best way or the most perfect way, but she would find A way. She went after what she wanted in this life.
She inspires me. Her strength in the face of what to me is unimaginable circumstances is the thing that legends are made of, or heroes are born from.
Her angel watches over me everyday and reminds me that life isn’t always perfect. So put your wings on anyway you can and get to living with what you have.
I love you Grandma.
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