All the years of my life, until my grandmother started her decline in the last two years of her life, carefully chosen cards arrived for me at every holiday. The Jewish ones, yes, and the secular ones – Valentine’s as much as Hanukkah, Halloween and Rosh Hashanah, Passover and Mother’s Day.
Grandma Sheila remembered every moment, every anniversary, every emotion, and documented our connection with a card she read in its entirety in the Hallmark store, and then wrote in her glorious script, My Dearest Lynne, Love Grandma Sheila.
Over the years, the signatures changed – back when Grandpa Artie was alive and I was a child, the signature was G&G, meaning Grandma and Grandpa, which was our shorthand when writing letters from camp, so we didn’t have to spell it all out.
And when the great-grandchildren started arriving, she became Gigi, for great-grandmother.
I’m sure I didn’t appreciate fully how much love went into the selection and sending of these cards. I’ve saved some and tossed others. There is a file in my basement of cards from my grandmother.
And certainly there has been a tiny tear in the celebration of these moments in recent years, as she has not been able to mark the momentousness of it all with me.
Today, as I tore open a card that arrived from Oceanside, N.Y., atop a pile of cards from the same address, I realized that my grandmother has remained in my life in another person. Judy. Lovely Judy, the nanny who came to us when Shaya was 2 and I was divorcing his father.
Judy moved in to our lives when we needed her, listening to my emotional ups and downs, caring for my children, guiding us through the moments of our new lives, rebuilding and building anew.
She knew my grandmother. She knew my family. And Judy was with us until we no longer needed her quite as much, and at that moment she moved to New York to live with her sister across from the ocean.
And yet, every holiday that approaches is accompanied by cards from Judy, with very similar designations. Today’s wished a Happy Passover, with Dear Lynne & Dan, and Love, Judy, as bookends of celebration.
As I read the card and held the lyrical script in my hand, I realized, my grandmother is still with me. In new form. Grandma Sheila is, yes, with me in so many ways – her spirit resides in my heart and she announces her presence at so many different intervals.
But in the living, in the flesh, I still have Judy. We all do. And what a gift that is.
To have people in our lives who guide us and love us and remember us even as we don’t remember ourselves. I didn’t even stop to wish myself a happy Passover amidst all the tumble of preparations. I’ve been running like mad for the past week to get it all done.
And Judy’s voice, her loving caress, her remembering of all of us as a family filled with love, arrived to remind me to slow down, to savor the moments, and to love fully.
My grandmother used to tell me, you do too much. I waved her off every time as an old lady who just didn’t get it.
Recently, I realized she was 100% right. I have always done too much. And it’s tripped me up in the process.
Judy is there now, to help me get on the straight and narrow. To help us all remain in love, in light, as a family, in the moments that matter. And I am eternally grateful.
This life is only as good as the love within it.