Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In Loving Memory of my Grams: October 24, 1911 - April 8, 2013

My grandma died last night. It’s seems somehow stupid to feel such a painful loss when for 10 years we've been saying, “Well, she could go any time, you know. She’s 90… she’s 96… she’s 101.”

101 years of life for a spectacular woman. It makes me so proud to be her granddaughter. A woman who “did it all” long before feminism even existed and she did it without all the fuss and fanfare. She was educated, refined, dignified. She was a teacher, a mother, a wife.  She married a farmer and had 5 sons, 2 of which she outlived. 

She flawlessly, in this admiring granddaughter’s eyes, combined career and family. Artist, teacher and beloved matriarch.  5 sons, 18 or so grandchildren and 20 or 30 great-grandchildren in her lifetime, with more on the way. 

I remember my father telling me that he never once heard his mother yell. 5 boys and no yelling? She was a saint. I had the good fortune of growing up next door to her. My grandparents were our only neighbors. 

We’d sneak in and watch her teach art lessons, breathing in the delicious smell of oil paints and varnish. Nicking a butterscotch candy – permission granted by the gorgeous twinkle that rarely left her eyes. 

Her rosy cheeks were always lifted with a happy smile. Indeed, she had one of the brightest spirits I've ever known. Strong, rarely cross, always with a sunny attitude and a positive outlook. Her laugh, a glittering cackle, infectious. 

I wish I knew more of her story. Wish I had listened harder; written it all down. Wish I had made more time to spend with her this summer when I still had the chance. Wish I had gotten around to interviewing her so I could write her biography. There are enough friends, students and family to fill in the gaps, but…
But, I’ll never get to sit with her again. To visit. Long, heartwarming conversations with comfortable, quiet lulls. Pats on the hand full of grandmotherly love.  

And I won’t get to be there to say goodbye. Too far, too broke to get across the ocean to pay my deep respects and to comfort my family, my father, and to reminisce. The tears, the laughter, the joys and sorrows that go along with saying goodbye to a loved one somehow provide solace and closure. I don’t get to be a part of that and it makes me angry. 

Then, I think, if it were my mother or father, sister or one of my brothers, I’d move mountains to be there. Nothing could stop me. But not for my grandmother? That makes me angry too. 

In the end, at the end, I know she understood what she means to me. I took every opportunity to tell her so. To let her know what a phenomenal woman I think she is… was. How much I loved her. That knowledge brings peace to my heart. And though the last couple of weeks were sad and strange, with her signature clarity traded for incoherence as she approached her end, she died as she lived: with grace. 

In loving memory.
Marion Carey Zoner
October 24, 1911 – April 8, 2013


  1. Tamara, I'm so sorry for your loss. This is a truly touching and heart warming tribute to your lovely grandma. 101 years of life! What an accomplishment but even that fades in comparison to the legacy she left behind with you and all your relatives.


    1. Thank you, Jean. Hugs help and kind words too. She was remarkable.

  2. So sorry about your grandma. But what an amazing life and longevity. You will miss her and be sadden by her passing, sure, but focusing on the amazing life she has lived.

  3. That was wonderful Tammy. You did it justice. I love you. Brian.

  4. Tammy you are amazing as she was.. When I traveled across the state's to visit my sister and my niece's and nephew's, I always had to have a visit with Marion, for she would bring smiles, laughter and kindness to me. She was truly amazing.. I loved her also. My thoughts and prayer go out to all of you... Lots n Lots of love. AT

  5. I'm so sorry for your loss. Five boys and no yelling? She had to have been amazing!

  6. Where does everyone keep coming up with 18 grandchildren? Unless there is an illigitimate one somewhere I count 17! (you, me, mike, brian, scott, heidi, donna, gay, dean, brad, bobby jo, jarv, kim, eric, kathy, kurt & nat) and by my count she'll be up to 35 great grandchildren and 1 great great grandchild with the impending births! Nonetheless! What a beautifully eloquent account of our grandmother! Reading my own memories dusted off the heartache as a smile grew across my face and warmed my soul! And I realized the tears that fell were tears of a deeply blissful gratitude for having had this amazing woman as my own grandmother, an icon, a quiet mentor, an unwitting role model and incredibly positive influence in my life!

    Wish no more, because once upon a time I did sit with her and dad and looked through old photo books and asked a lot of questions...and took notes on a legal pad :)

    Don't be angry. Don't feel jaded. Don't even feel sad. Those are all selfish feelings. I am choosing not to attend because, although she is no longer a tangible presence, she does live on. How could she not? There are pieces of her everywhere! On our walls (most notably!), in our hearts and heads, in our own smiles and infectiously happy natures! I'll hear "yoo hoo!" resounding in my head every time I enter anyone's home for the rest of my days! And I'll smile at the memory of it. Why go to say "goodbye" when she hasn't really left us at all? Instead, relish in the wonderful time you were able to spend with her, half a summer most recently! Relish the fact that your children were able to know her and will remember her, so when you say, "Ya know, you get that from your great-grandmother," they will actually understand because they, too, got to bask in the sunshine of her presence!

    Instead, honor her memory with "you hoo's" and smiles, refraining from making a snide remark because a dignified lady such as our grandmother would never even consider such a thing! Honor her by continuing to be the bright ray of light that you are, descendant of the sun herself! I, myself, am painting again and vowed to her that I would become at least a tenth as good at it as my mentor! It is as if we were descended from the line of Eld itself! We must always remember that in all that we do, and make her proud of this amazing family tree that she has grown, and pass on to our own children the stories, the warmth, the love, the generosity, the strength, and the quiet grace of the most remarkable woman who ever lived.

    1. I hope you got my email, because I can't reply to my blog from my phone! What you said is perfect. I can't read it again now, in public, because snot and tears are best shed in private. I love you and can't wait to collaborate on that book!



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