Thursday, June 11, 2015

My Grandmother

Ella Elizabeth Straup Rohan was born April 28, 1925 and died June 3, 2015. She was my grandmother, my father's mother.

That must have been a wonderful heavenly reunion, when she was reunited with her son, my father, who died in 1983. Alfred James Rohan was born April 22, 1941 and died May 9, 1983. He was her first born.

Now, I'm not going to run through the entire family history because let's be honest, I have no idea of all the details. I wasn't even born until 1975. I do know my grandmother married quite young, had three children, and then divorced. She met my grandfather, Walter Charles Rohan, and it was my dad who asked him when he was going to marry his mom. Walt formally adopted Ella's three kids, which is why my maiden name is Rohan. I was 16 when I learned that I wasn't a Rohan (descended from royalty, btw) by birth, but by adoption. :)

Grandma took care of Grandpa during multiple health crises, often giving up church service and attendance opportunities to care for him. He died December 23, 2003, at age 90. They were good together and I loved them both very much.

It wasn't weird to me, growing up, that I had two sets of grandparents. Everybody did. It wasn't until I was an adult that I recognized the strength, caring, love, and openness that it took for the adults in my life to maintain family relationships after my parents' divorce. We got care packages from Grandma and Grandpa every Christmas, full of treats and gifts. Grandma made me dresses, skirts and blouses, hand crafted crochet items, hand made bead and wood curios, and sketches and drawings. I grew up thinking my grandma could make anything, do anything, and at her funeral my aunt only confirmed that. She said, "My mom could do everything but two things--drive and knit."

Ella never drove. She never learned. She relied on Walt to drive them anywhere until his eyes got bad, and then her kids stepped up. She loved music and art, could play the organ and the piano, and sing like an angel. I have many fond memories of Grandma at the piano, but even fonder memories of her at the organ.

She was always loving and welcoming to us whenever we visited. She never differentiated between my mother, her ex daughter-in-law, and her other kids. She talked of my dad often.  I never, ever doubted their love for us. Ever. She was uber supportive of my writing and always bought books to distribute to family, as much as she was financially able.

Grandma lived a full life, and she went quickly. She didn't linger or suffer, which is a blessing. I was really okay with her passing, even though I will miss her presence in my life. I did really well during the viewing--until the closed the casket. Then it became final. Real. And I started bawling. We didn't really do a traditional funeral for grandma, but a viewing and then brief graveside service. Grandma's favorite hymns were part of the graveside service, we sang at the direction of my incredibly talented aunt Lori, Grandma's youngest daughter. And I couldn't contain the emotions that welled up in my eyes and ran down my cheeks.

Grandma always struck me as being very private about her own life. And the details that slipped through the family cracks are how many sibling she had, where her parents were buried, anything about her parents at all, or her nieces and nephews. I met a bunch of them at the funeral and I'm counting that as another blessing, another gift Grandma left me. I was able to take pics of my great-grandparents' headstones for our family history, and I got to reconnect with that side of the family. It even led to a job lead for Bryan (we've been unemployed since the end of April), another blessing. Another gift.

Yesterday was a beautiful, spiritual, emotional day. And I'm so grateful that I was able to come. I only wish I could have brought the entire family along.

Goodbye, Grandma. Thank you for being incredible. You've left a legacy in which I think you can find joy.