In Memory of Emmer, August 28, 1915 – January 15, 2013

She was my Grandmother, my confidant, my best friend.
She was our matriarch, the queen of our castle, the caller of the shots.
She was my link to our past, my purpose in our present and my hope for our future.
She was a quiet strength and calm in any storm.
She loved a long dinner with her special friends.
She loved to play bridge, and she really loved winning the pot.
She loved fine classical music.
She loved to read good books.
She loved to learn.
She read the newspaper cover to cover everyday.
She never took for granted her right to vote and she never missed voting in an election, local or national.
She loved a good manicure with clear nail polish, because one should never call too much attention to themselves.
She loved a glass of wine in the afternoon.
She loved cheese biscuits.
She loved Hershey’s chocolate nuggets.
She loved coffee ice cream with caramel sauce on top.
She loved homegrown tomato sandwiches with mayo on thin white bread.
She loved salmon colored geraniums on her porch in the summer.
She loved to laugh until she cried.
She told you what she thought, yes indeed, she always told you what she thought.
Sometimes she didn’t tell you, she just groaned her opinion, and that was all it took.
She believed a lady should always be prepared to host guests.
She believed in the value of the past and the power of the future.
She believed tomorrow would always be better than today.
She taught by example.
She taught me the importance of a proper handshake.
She taught my boys how to properly make up a bed with hospital corners.
She taught my boys to pull out a chair and assist women as they are seated.
She taught them the manners of waiting to sit until all the women were seated.
She taught them never to eat until she had raised her fork at the dinner table.
She taught me to look past the outside and peer into the more valuable inside.
She taught me to speak less and listen more.
Her selflessness was limitless.
Her determination was unstoppable.
Her strength was constant.
Her grace and kindness had power that she never understood.
She said she was just herself, yet everyone else saw so much more.
Her eyes and her emotions told stories words could not tell.
She loved her family with every ounce of herself and then some.
My life, and the lives of all who knew her are forever better having known her.
She was exceptional, though she didn’t think so.
She was just herself, nothing more and nothing less.
Plain and simple and absolutely exceptional.
Our love extends beyond the grave.
We miss her every single day.
Our eyes still fill with tears when we talk about her, but the tears flow more from laughter rather than pain.
She is with her groom, her mama (whom she brought into her own home and cared for almost until her passing) a brother who died too early for her to know and her Lord.
She would not come back if she could.
She’s home.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, January 2014

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Sweet Reunions

We coined it the “German Invasion”. My Mom’s brother has been here for the last week with his daughter, her fourth child, his son and daughter in law and their twin daughters. They were all here from Germany for the youngest children to become American citizens.

I can now update my Grandmother’s yellow notepad where she listed all her great-grandchildren and their citizenship status. It was always important to her that all her great-grandchildren obtain their American citizenship duly awarded to them by my Uncle’s natural born citizenship and 30+ years living here before moving to Germany to pursue his career. Though they have lived across the pond we are connected by blood and now we are all American citizens. My Grandmother would have celebrated this rite of passage with her forth, fifth and sixth great-grandchildren born in Germany.

Aside from my Uncle, this has been the first visit for the rest of my family from Germany since my Grandmother died. We were anxious, to put it mildly. How would this feel without our matriarch? Can my Mother and my Uncle carry on their Mother’s legacy the way she would want? Can they keep the bow tied, beautifully bonding this family that has been parted by the Atlantic for so many years? This visit had a purpose; citizenship. But even more personally we each needed to know that the ties that bind go far beyond a grave.

I cannot imagine the difficult and emotional choices my Uncle and my Grandparents made years ago when he moved to Germany for what has proven to be a wise decision as he achieved world wide success. We are now spoiled by free email, Facebook and Skype that keeps us all connected. Over the years as long distance became affordable my Grandmother spoke to her son almost daily and she looked forward to his calls, receiving updates on the day to day life of her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. One week before she died we had arranged a surprise Skype with my cousin, his wife and her 11month old twin great-grandchildren. It was the first and last time she saw them in anything more than still pictures. She barely spoke. She just smiled and stared with happiness that lit up the room. I remember my cousin asking if she could hear them speaking and see the girls. I reassured him that she was watching the screen and was simply speechless in her joy. I will never forget sitting beside her in front of the computer screen that Tuesday morning.

Her presence has been with us over the last couple of weeks. We have laughed at things she would have said. We have tearfully noted her absence and joyfully relished in the knowledge that family remains family, no matter the distance. She formed bonds that will withstand the forces of any tide. We found healing with each other.

She would be happy. She would be beyond happy to see her family together, celebrating another generation, celebrating American citizenship for her great-grandchildren. She would be beyond happy watching her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren getting reacquainted with each other and fall in love with family. She would be beyond happy to see that we are living out love the way she taught us, not letting water separate the love that she bore.

It makes me happy, that in her absence, she is still calling the shots in this family.

© Gatewood Campbell, July 2013

She Was Exceptional

I know loss gets easier with time. I also know that I have to go through the painful emotions, both happy and sad, to get to the easier side. She has left an emptiness that will take time to fill. Her petite stature held together a much larger figure that embraced and experienced life in ways we will never fully comprehend.

She was my grandmother, my confidant, my best friend.
She was our matriarch, the queen of our show, the caller of the shots.
She was my link to our past, my purpose in our present and my hope for our future.
She was a quiet strength and calm in any storm.
She loved a long dinner with her special friends.
She loved to play bridge, and she really loved winning the pot.
She loved fine classical music.
She loved to read good books.
She loved to learn.
She loved Hershey’s chocolate nuggets.
She loved a good manicure with clear nail polish.
She loved a glass of wine in the afternoon.
She loved cheese biscuits.
She loved salmon colored geraniums on her porch in the summer.
She loved homegrown tomato sandwiches with mayo on thin white bread.
She loved to laugh until she cried.
She told you what she thought, yes indeed, she always told you what she thought.
She believed a lady should always be prepared to host guests.
She believed in the value of the past and the power of the future.
She taught me the importance of a proper handshake.
She taught my boys how to properly make up a bed with hospital corners.
She taught my boys to pull out a chair and assist women as they are seated.
She taught them the manners of waiting to sit until all the women were seated.
She taught them never to eat until she had raised her fork at the dinner table.
She taught me to look past the outside and peer into the more valuable inside.
She taught me to speak less and listen more.
She taught by example.
Her selflessness was limitless.
Her determination was unstoppable.
Her strength was constant.
Her eyes and her emotions told stories words could not tell.
She loved her family with every ounce of herself and then some.
My life, and the lives of all who knew her are forever better having received her love.
She was exceptional, though she didn’t think so.
She was just herself, nothing more and nothing less.
Plain and simple and absolutely exceptional.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, March 2013