Marilynn Esther Benedix Gage (1922 – 2013)

This past week has been hard on my family. We had to say goodbye to an incredible woman, my grandmother.

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It started last Tuesday, when she was admitted to the hospital for what they originally thought to be a UTI. Things quickly turned for the worse, and by Wednesday evening she was gone. Just like that.

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Half of my grandmother (it’s the only older photo I have) with my parents. Yes, my parents are hotties.

Less than a week later, the funeral was done, and we were getting back to life as usual.

Life goes on. A sentiment at once promising and heartbreaking.

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December 2012, reading to Natalie, 11 months old.

She’d been declining in health for the last 2 years, waffling between her home in Maine, my mother’s home here in Massachusetts, and finally, a rest home in Worcester for her final year. There she was visited daily by her daughters, grandchildren, and great grandchild. I am eternally grateful that she was so present in Natalie’s life, the brief amount of time that was in the grand scheme of things.

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From June 2012, when Natalie (6 months) and I took care of her in Maine for 3 weeks.

She was the only grandmother I knew. My father’s mother died before I was born. Some may feel sorry for themselves, and I wish I could have known my other grandma, but I never felt deprived or lacking in only knowing Grandma Gage. As a matter of fact, I considered myself luckier than most. Now I have the extremely difficult task of keeping her memory alive so that Natalie will know who this loving, elegant lady was. When the opportunity arose to speak at her funeral, I jumped at the chance. Not only so I could tell others how blessed I was to have had her as my grandma, but also to create a record for myself and Natalie in the years to come, while the emotions were fresh.

Briana speakingI prayed for the right words, and here they are:

“Hi, my name is Briana, and I am a ‘Gage Girl’. For those unfamiliar with the term, it was lovingly coined by the men who have joined our family through marriage. What defines a ‘Gage Girl’? Well, we are notoriously running a little behind schedule, we are all beneath the average height for a normal adult woman (some more so than others), we like tea with our cream and sugar, and we bounce our feet in unison when sitting on the couch like a troop of vertically-challenged Rockettes. Grandpa would be proud. [side bar: Grandpa had a soft spot for the Rockettes.] But growing up a ‘Gage Girl’ meant so much more than that. After all, these men married us for a reason. We were brought up by the best, whether directly or indirectly.”

mom_janet“As a new mom, you question every choice you make in raising your child. I wish Grandma had written a book, because she has built a legacy that I only dream of rivaling when my days here are over. But in a way, she did. She kept notebooks of quotes and thoughts that appealed to her or made her giggle. In rifling through one of them, I came across this:

Mom: prays, laughs, gives hope, believes, cares, blesses, supports, comforts and encourages.”

Natalie_cuddle” Grandma did all of those things. Her faith was rock solid, and it shone through her service to her church, family and friends, her quiet grace, and her thoughtfully crafted prayers over home-cooked meals. Her smile lit up a room, and she’d sit quietly for a half hour only to chime in with a witty joke or funny anecdote from her youth. Laughter fills our family gatherings. People were drawn to her because she cared so much for others. Everyone was important. To be a Gage meant knowing you were unconditionally loved. She was proud of each and every one of us, and she showed it. Whether she was announcing our visits in church, remembering the little things in one of her many handwritten notes to us, or wanting to know the latest in our acting, music, gymnastics, writing, schoolwork, family and careers. We’ve all had our trials, our bumpy moments, but she was always there to love us. It didn’t matter if you were her child, grandchild, great grandchild, spouse, steprelative, just a date, or the person she met at the post office…you were FAMILY.”

salute“As I grew older, Grandma and I found more ways to relate: our enjoyment of recreating history (though she admitted she and the other ladies at the Revolutionary War camps would seek refuge overnight at the hotel), our love for mystery novels, or most recently, over war stories from being a new mom. I see now that so much of who I am, who we are, is founded by her. How she raised her children and therefore how her children raised us.”

present“Proverbs 13:22 says ‘a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children’. Well, we are all vastly wealthy thanks to this good woman. Thank you, Grandma. Because of you, your inheritance will continue to bless many generations to come.”

Now excuse me while I go use up a box of Kleenex.

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Seven Months

You are growing by leaps and bounds these days.

You’ve become so interactive, and I love your personality. You’re such a happy girl, though the sweetness is currently replaced by a chew-crazy monster. EVERYTHING goes in your mouth, including mama…we’re trying to teach you that people aren’t for chewing. Nobody likes a biter.

You’ve been having a great time at Grammy’s day care, playing with all your friends. When I drop you off you’re ready to have fun, but you always greet me with the biggest smile at the end of the day. Thank you for making me feel so special.

Your new favorite thing to do is pull yourself up to standing. Sitting isn’t enough for you anymore. We’ll be playing on the floor, and you’ll reach for my hands (which, of course, I’ll give you) and up you go!

But pulling yourself up means you’ve had your share of tumbles too, something I’m learning just comes with the territory.

You are into everything you can get your hands on. You aren’t crawling yet, but you’ll get up on all fours and reach as far as possible with your tiny fingers.

I love to listen to you babble. You’ll test out your whole range, from sweet little “singing” to all out shrieks.

And you’re always so proud of yourself.

Eating is progressing as well. We’ve started giving you puffs that will dissolve in your mouth and you love them! At first you’d get pieces stuck in that awkward spot where you couldn’t swallow it, but it wouldn’t come back forward, but now you are chewing like a pro.

You are such a blessing my darling girl, and your dad and I are so happy to be your parents. It’s hard to think that a year ago you were a bloated belly and still “the peanut”. Our lives have changed so much.

The Gardell Summer Bucket List

I found The Happy Family Movement blog through my Making Things Happen Alumni group and I can’t help but want this for my budding family. There are only so many summers to make memories together in, and with a penchant for procrastination, I don’t want to let those “I want tos” slip away. And since we’re on a super budget these days, this will be the Budget Bucket List.

  1. family picnic
  2. visit Monhegan Island
  3. take Natalie to the beach
  4. take Natalie to a lighthouse
  5. go camping
  6. go to an outdoor concert
  7. Date Night: go to a drive in movie
  8. Olympic Games BBQ
  9. take Natalie to the zoo
  10. take a family portrait
  11. find 5 geocaches
  12. find 5 letterboxes
  13. create a geocache
  14. create a letterbox
  15. take Natalie swimming

More may be added as ideas come to us, but I’ll keep the list in the sidebar and keep you updated as we check stuff off.

So do you have a summer bucket list? Do you have a Pinterest board full of activities for you and your family to accomplish before the school bell rings again in the fall?

Hippity Hoppity Easter Came and Went

One of the downsides to starting your own family is having to split your holidays. Trying to create your own traditions while maintaining the ones with your different families can be exhausting and stressful. Luckily, we’ve been blessed that previous traditions have allowed us leisure time with both families on Thanksgiving and Christmas. But Easter’s always been tough. We split lunch with my family, dessert with Sean’s, and crawl into bed exhausted at the end of the day.

But this year plans were changed. Unfortunately it lost us our time with our extended families, but we were able to gather our immediate families together at our home and enjoy ourselves, instead of dashing around Central Massachusetts.

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Natalie got loved on from sun up to sun down. She was the cutest baby at church, and she actually spared her Easter dress from the usual onslaught of drool and spit up, and wore it all day.

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My mom made an amazing spread of ham, au gratin potatoes, green bean casserole, etc etc and so on. It all disappeared from my plate in a glorious blur.

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 My beautiful sister brought her boyfriend…Image

…and her adorable foster kitten. The resident fur boys were a little put out, but they got over it when we left a bit of ham in their food dishes.

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And this is the part where I brag on my baby girl. She couldn’t have been cuter in her little dress and flower headband. Oh, and the dress had POCKETS! 

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I die.

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As my last point, can I bring your attention to her little toes? She clenches them around anything that comes near them, and cups her feet together, so ladylike.