To those who came before

Post by Lynn DeVasto for the Kind Kindred series.

photo of Lynn and her grandmother: 8/1/2007

August 1st would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday. My Mom Mom was a blue eyed redhead with “woozie” hair who was the bravest woman I know. She left an abusive marriage at the age of 55 during a time when good Catholic women just didn’t leave their marriages. And then? She re-created her life. She got a job with Ford, retired from there and took care of her mother until the day she died. And then? She traveled the world and took a job at the Senior Center helping the “old people”…most of whom were younger than she was, but only in years. She lived and died in the way that she demanded, and she taught me to live with fierce grace.

She was the one person who stood up for me. On numerous occasions, she chased my stepfather down, demanding that he treat me with some measure of kindness. It didn’t really work, but I never forgot the realization that she knew I was worth that kindness and love.

Randomly, but not without its own importance, she is the reason I love monkeys. She bought me a stuffed monkey that used to ride around on the back of my bike with me. She also told my son not to eat like a monkey because he was dipping his bread in residual spaghetti sauce. Which brought on and continues to bring fits of laughter whenever we think of it. Silly family monkey jokes? Yep, and it’s my hope that every family has its own monkey-type “you’d have to be there” kind of jokes! Want to win my heart? Just bring me a monkey and I’m yours forever!

My grandmother and I loved and fought. Born in 1914, she lived in a world where one did not often associate with people outside their culture and she didn’t seem to appreciate or understand that I didn’t see color, race or religion as important defining factors. Still, she was the one person I knew that I could stand up to regarding these and any other issues and state my opinion about. And, oh, did I like to state my opinion! Sometimes loudly, and probably more often than not in my younger days, obnoxiously. But I knew that she loved me and I always knew it would be okay. She was the one person, in my teen years, that I would take a mixture of buses and trains on many weekends to spend my time with. She was the one person that I knew I could call past 10:00 p.m. on any night to talk about anything that happened to be on my mind.

At the age of 93, and on dialysis for 5 years, one day she woke up to the realization that she was having a heart attack. Later that same day, lying in the hospital bed, she explained to us that she didn’t want to wake up one day to find out that she was a vegetable. Once again, making us all laugh and cry and realize that somehow, indeed, she would know if she was not living a viable life. She told us that she had decided to discontinue dialysis and hoped we would not be mad at her for leaving us. Mad could not begin to enter our minds, and now it was our turn to return her unconditional love. My cousin and her fiancĂ© were getting married in a month, and they went into high gear and got married in her hospital room the next day. We brought her Burger King burgers with extra salt on them (just the way she liked them) and Cold Stone Creamery ice cream each day. The nurses reprimanded us; apparently we were hastening her demise. Truly, we didn’t care what they said, and despite their dire warnings, she lived twice as long as most people do in similar situations. We were blessed that we had time and were able to say our good-byes in our individual ways. She died peacefully and was not alone, as my new cousin-in-law was with her, having grown to love her as though she was his own, which indeed, she was. Through the imperfect beauty of her life and death she taught us that family is a combination of acceptance, commitment and what you make of it, that love is invaluable and that to live your life in the way you choose is the best gift you can give not only to yourself, but to everybody that surrounds you with love.

To healthy and happy,

Lynn DeVasto is the owner of Live and Love Your Life, which helps you deal with the trifecta of Food, Fitness and Feelings. She has taken her experience of losing 90 pounds and her certifications in Personal Training, Holistic Wellness Coaching, Sports Nutrition and Barre to create a premium coaching experience. This allows you manage your health in a way that works for you instead of against you. Click HERE to get her juicy tips to Live and Love Your Life!

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