My grandmother died last Thursday, and today was the funeral and burial. She was 94, cogent to the end, in decent enough health for her age, and she died peacefully. I loved her, though I probably could have shown it better in all kinds of ways. I know she thought the world of me, and that makes the preceding sentence really hard to read again right now.
Of all the memories that come back at a time like this, there's one that for me comes back more vividly than any other. Along with her siblings, my grandma used to take care of her mother, we called her "Busia," at the end of Busia's life. When I was about 11 or 12, a year or two before Busia died, we were visiting, and my grandma had me go with her to go take care of Busia one day. Busia was about 82 or 83, had had diabetes for most of her life, and the diabetes at this point had led to her feet becoming severely ulcerated. Grandma would go over and wash and dress Busia's feet. Rather than have me wait in the front room or something like that, grandma insisted I come and look at Busia's feet, not from a distance, but up good and close. I remember the look in Busia's eyes. I remember the feet. I remember my grandma, on her knees, washing and dressing Busia's feet while she sat in a chair in her kitchen. She made me look at my great-grandmother's ulcerated feet.
I was just a kid, and I know I resisted going into that kitchen and looking. But grandma knew that, kid or not, I was certainly old enough to know something real about this world, about this life, and about doing what needs doing. And for that direct pointing at reality, more than for anything else I can take from her life, I am indeed most grateful.