My grandmother who we lovingly called Mona recently passed at the age of 96, three years after the death of my grandfather, her husband of 70 years. It was not just a marriage, but a 70-year romance, up until the bitter end.
The gifts of their romance continue to bless our family. This romance became the foundation for a long, enchanted life together.
At first, when my grandfather was shipped off to war, he wrote her love letters every single day, promising they would be reunited. The letters were anything but negative and dreary. They were optimistic, playful; the stuff dreams are made of. Those letters were in essence the blueprints of their dreams—their dreams of their life together and how they would build on their love.
And those dreams came true. He came home to her and they built their life, and our family foundation. Four children, a long standing relationship with their community and church, countless celebrations, trips and adventures, followed by six grandchildren (myself being the oldest), and now two great-grandchildren.
This is the end of the end of the greatest generation that ever lived, and my grandparents embodied that generation fully.
My grandfather worked at filling stations and delivered groceries to support his family during the depression when his father’s workload decreased—he was 11 years old. Despite some hefty responsibilities placed on him at an early age, he never raised his voice or complained a day in his life. He really could not believe his luck in this life he was blessed with. He had a spark in his eye and his mysterious wink would light you up. His energy was overflowing and he never met a stranger.
My grandmother, a tough and whip-smart Swedish lady, had a strong constitution which carried her aging body well into its 90s. She only knew how to show up over and over again for her family, laughing and playing the entire way. She was reliable. She loved a good time and had as many as she could pack into her life. If she were born today I think she’d run a company but instead she ran our family, and she ran it well.
This is the list of “What Mona Taught Me” that I read at her memorial service. Being the eldest grandchild, I had the blessing of observing her and taking notes for 37 years. We had a strong connection and thankfully, I was aware enough as an adult to know exactly how lucky I was to have her in my life.
What Mona Taught Me:
Always dress up and show up. Put on your best outfit, some great earrings and get yourself there.
Travel. Explore. Don’t be afraid to get messy, tired, or uncomfortable.
Play. Whether it’s cards, tennis, or swimming, never forget how to have fun.
Love. Tell your family you love them every chance you get.
Go out. Never decline a cocktail party or social event. Show up with a smile.
Be a good friend. The friends that you support, encourage and love will be there for you when you need them. Don’t leave anyone out.
Focus on the positive and keep moving forward. Enough said.
Be proud of your family and honor their accomplishments.
Teach your children to be independent, and when it’s time for them to go, let them. If you’ve done your job well, they will always keep you close. The love and nurturing you have given them will come back to you.
Surprise them. As a woman, it’s nice to be pretty and stylish, but a whole lot more interesting to be smart, articulate, and have something to offer.
Be confident. You don’t have to talk about strength or tell people you’re strong to be the strongest one around.
Don’t complicate things.
Never miss an opportunity to laugh. Laugh at a joke, laugh at your family, and laugh at yourself.
Know what is important. Things are nice and money can make life easier. But nothing is as valuable as the people you love and the memories you create.
Live. Don’t just exist. Get up in the morning with a mission.
Every day is a gift.
Author: Anna Versaci
Apprentice Editor: Tammy Novak / Editor: Renée Picard
Image: via the Author