Helen James, 1925-2012

sorry for the radio silence, i’m not gone…just taking a breather.

when i alluded to an emotional week on one of my previous posts, i was dealing with a precarious situation with my grandmother.  two weeks ago, she had a massive stroke while eating lunch with her friends.

she held on for several days, but passed away last tuesday, march 27th, one year and one day after i lost my grandfather, her husband of nearly 60 years.

since then i have been in pennsylvania helping close out her home and attend her service and come back home, but it still all feels pretty surreal.  my Nana, Helen James, taught me so much.  with her i learned to bake, to garden, to sew.  i remember her telling me stories while i laid in bed about her childhood, my mom’s childhood, and my own babyhood, and i would touch her elbow while she talked and ask why her skin was so soft there.  her voice had a habit of switching octaves every so often, dropping deep and then coming back up with no real rhythm but was still kind of entrancing.

last month my 87-year-old Nana made the trip to my wedding.  when i walked into my bridal shower the day prior to the big event, she was one of the first people i greeted and she immediately teared up, as she had at my high school and then college graduations.  “this isn’t a time for crying, Nana!” i told her.  “this is a happy time!”

“i know, i know,” she said.  and we had a great shower, beautiful rehearsal dinner, and then ceremony together. she gave me her own copy of The Joy of Cooking, which i will always treasure.   i asked her to read an irish blessing to us at the wedding and she said she would love to, “because, i do read in church all the time and my voice still projects quite well, you know.”

she choked up for the beginning of the blessing but soldiered on, needing a pause to turn the page and regain her footing. after the ceremony concluded we took pictures together, some candid, some posed.  i will be forever grateful that she was able to come to my wedding not just for me but because i knew how big of a deal it was to her.  she planned out her outfits starting in december!  i will always miss her and am still shocked to not include her on my emails-to-grandparents with wedding pictures, but i am so lucky to have had her teach me so many skills that i will always have and hope to pass on to future generations of my own.

she was the child of missionaries, the college and then master’s graduate, the mother of adopted girls, the teacher, the volunteer, the traveler, the proud grandmother, the doting wife, the caregiver, and the wonderful sister.  we miss her so much already.

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