In Seattle, there are two seasons in which it is at its most glorious – spring and fall. In the spring, the fresh, green leaves emerge from their winter slumber, promising new life, bright, sunny days, and a warmth that lightly kisses your skin. In the fall, the same leaves turn into brilliant shades of reds, oranges, greens, and more shades of gold than there are names. Every breath is you take is filled with the crisp, clean mountain air that suddenly is inescapable.
On the morning after my grandma died, my husband, Erik, and I were awake at our usual time, just before dawn. As we always have, we opened our heavy curtains to greet the new day and watch the sun rise over the Cascades. The first rays were just appearing, casting a soft and quiet hue over the mountains. Minutes passed and the rays grew stronger, until suddenly there was a burst of bright light extending its reach far past the Cascades and streaming through our window. The rich, golden sun, the same color my Grandma always gravitated towards, was intertwined with the sky, with its soft, dusty blue that matched the color of my Grandpa’s dinner jacket he often wore while dancing with Grandma. Music quietly played from our alarm and as we lay there, taking in the moment, we each could see my grandparents dancing across the tops of the Cascade Mountains, toward Mt. Rainier, before pausing in Downtown Seattle for a cup of the coffee they both loved.
Over the past several days, I’ve had the honor of speaking with many of Grandma’s friends from all over the country, and they described her as elegant, graceful, vivacious, caring, generous, and exquisite, but honestly, how do you describe a woman who was very clearly all of this, yet so much more?
In her last email to me, she said, ‘Lots of things remind me of you… you are always on my mind,’ and the feeling is mutual. So it’s no surprise that one word, one song, comes to mind that I feel sums her up best…’Unforgettable’ by Nat King Cole. Since I can’t hold a note, not to mention that I’m not here in person and would never subject anyone to sing for me, allow me to indulge in the lyrics for a moment and see if you don’t happen to agree…
Unforgettable, that’s what you are
Unforgettable though near or far
Like a song of love that clings to me
How the thought of you does things to me
Never before has someone been more
Unforgettable in every way
And forever more, that’s how you’ll stay
That’s why, darling, it’s incredible
That someone so unforgettable
Thinks that I am unforgettable too
Music has always been a natural part of her life and it spilled over into her writing, as she published books and blogs alike. Her words were lyrical, full of meaning, of life, and of love and laughter. The thrill of being published was equal to that of dancing with my Grandpa and I’ve the pleasure of seeing the light in her eyes as she read the acceptance letter from a publisher and while floating across the dance floor in an evening gown fit for royalty. She was like a ray of sun that melted hearts with her kind words, her funny jokes, and her advice that was always useful. Simple pleasures in life such as pulling carrots from our garden, composting, the feel of the earth under my nails, the smell and taste of morning coffee, lipstick and high heels, spraying on perfume and getting ready to greet the night will always remind me of her. Sitting at my desk, the sun streamed in warming my face and I sipped my coffee, relishing the feel of her near, if only in spirit.
Along with the rising sun, my day progressed and I found myself drawn toward music such as Sinatra, Gloria Estefan, and anything with a good beat to dance to. In the city, it seemed as if everyone had been touched by this sudden spring of dance and frivolity, and though it happened to be Friday, it seemed to be more than just the normal reaction to a fast approaching weekend. The light hearted spirit of Grandma appeared to be spilling over from Heaven, encouraging everyone to celebrate life, just as she had every day of hers.
In the evening, while sitting on the dock, we looked out across Puget Sound as the sun began to sink behind the Olympics. I gazed at the glint on the water that had the same look as the glint in Grandma’s eyes when she was her young, mischievous self, and I knew she was looking down on me from Heaven above. The day’s party was coming to an end and I knew she was anxious to go, so I said my goodnight’s and watched as she slipped beyond the Olympics to the after party that was waiting for her.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance!