The last of my four grandparents passed away. Because she is the one that pushed me to be a writer, I owe it to her to show my respects through the written word. So grandma, this is for you.

I always refer to my grandma as the strongest, most willpowered and determined woman I’ve ever known, and probably ever will know. Life threw her a lot of punches, and she fought her way back every single time. To me, she is the symbol of feminism (though she wouldn’t want to be referred to as that). She never whined and complained about her life. She just went out and lived life, and through her actions, she was as equal as any man.

She worked full time while also mothering three children and doing all the responsibilities expected of a woman at that time. The combination was rare in her day, but she did what she had to do. As far as I know, she never complained. She never gave up. She never grew tired. She just did what was needed, and with vigor.

My grandma taught me a lot of life lessons. She taught me very early on that I should make my bed every morning. She said that this small act each morning would start my day on the right foot. Well, guess what? I read a lot of business and entrepreneur articles, and so many of them suggest making your bed for the very same reason! My grandma was ahead of her time.

She taught me that I should never sleep away my day. When I would try to sleep in, she’d turn the vacuum cleaner on. Sometimes, she wouldn’t even vacuum with it. I once peaked outside of my bedroom door and just saw her standing there with the vacuum, waiting for the noise to wake my brother and me up.

She taught me that you can never eat too much chocolate. As a health coach, I tell my clients to avoid sweets, sugar, soda, etc. But I never tell them to avoid chocolate. (I do recommend dark chocolate over milk chocolate!) This is because I am my grandma’s granddaughter, through and through. You can never have too much chocolate, and you can eat dessert first, if you so desire.

She taught me that you should always take pride in the talents that you were given in this lifetime. She pushed me to be a writer, because of my skill with the written word, and it is because of her that I went to school for journalism and am now writing this blog post.

She taught me to never hold back when it comes to showing someone how much you care, or how proud you are. My grandma never glowed more than when I watched her get walked down the aisle at my cousins’ weddings. She won’t get to attend my wedding someday, but she was the proudest one at my college graduation. It meant the world to her to make it to that. (She even went to a frat party with me afterward!) She literally could not have cared more about my brother’s child after she was born. It is all my grandma would talk about to anyone for quite a while. 

She never missed a holiday or a special occasion. She taught me that family time is the most important time. As long as you have family, you are rich. You might not all get along all the time, or agree all the time, but you love each other and support each other until the very end, because that is what family does.

Most importantly, in my eyes, she taught me that it’s okay to be sensitive, emotional and vulnerable at times. But the thing is, she didn’t teach me this until very recently, when her body and mind started giving out on her.

This lesson wasn’t planned.

Because my grandma was the strongest, most willpowered and determined woman I ever knew, that meant she was never weak or vulnerable. She rarely showed her emotions. But when her body and mind slowly began to slip away, she had to rely on the help of others. She had to start admitting to weaknesses. She began to express fear, and she became more emotional.

I never felt closer to my grandma than I did in the past 10 years, because that is when I felt the strongest connection with her. My mom and I would often go swimming at her condo complex, and afterward, we would take her to The Patio for dinner. We would always sit outside, even though it was the furthest walk. She would always mention how beautiful the flowers were, and how nice the weather was, and how good the food tasted. We would always have at least one good laugh, and lots of great conversation.

I have many traits of my grandma, which include her strength, even when I’m only pretending it’s there, and her stubbornness. It meant the world to me to watch her become softer, compassionate and more loving in an obvious way. She truly taught me that the perfect way to be is a balance of strength and vulnerability. I feel so blessed to have seen both sides of this incredible woman.

I will always cherish the many, many, many memories I have with my grandma, both in her Wisconsin home, which was a home away from home for all of us, and here in Illinois. She was my only living grandparent for the majority of my life.

Grandma, we will be fine. Go reunite with grandpa (tell him I say hi!), and the dozens upon dozens of friends and family members that have gone before you and have been waiting for so very long to see you again. Thank you for everything. You will never be the least bit forgotten, and nor will the lessons you taught me. We love you.