“When it comes to recognizing those you love, you don't wait,” a friend recently said.
Lanessa’s first language is eloquence and like so often before, her words struck me with the force of revelation.
That’s why I was grateful weeks later when my parents hosted a commitment ceremony for my grandma, Dorothy, and her boyfriend, Jim, who for financial reasons are unable to enter into a legally married status.
Not only was this romantic fun-filled evening a chance to honor their love and commitment, but it was a chance to celebrate my grandma. She is a woman of unheralded character. She endured hunger, hardship and World War II in Switzerland, her country of birth, before setting out at 17 for the bright promise of a new life in America.
With nothing but youthful endurance, she overcame language and cultural barriers and fell in love. A devoted wife and mother, she raised five beautiful children on a farm, laboring inside and outside the home – the first one up each morning to light the fire.
Eventually her children grew up, leaving for college and careers and starting families of their own, making her a happy grandparent.
With the cycle complete, it looked like my grandma lived the classic immigrant’s tale – and with great success. But the story doesn’t end there. In ways it only just begins.
Years later my grandpa Felix, 20 years her senior, died of cancer. As she tried to ease his suffering, I can only imagine the fear she must have felt watching the slow disintegration of the man she loved, and by extension, the only life she knew in this country.
However, upon being thrust into the role of widow, she proved herself psychologically resilient. Instead of being defeated by loss and grief, she pushed on and bravely embarked on a new life of independence.
And as she healed, she fell in love with a new man, John. Then suddenly unanticipated loss struck again. How frightening and unpredictable the world must have felt, not for the first but second time, as John, too, succumbed to cancer. But in the end my grandma chose not to withdraw from the world.
Despite everything changing again, my grandma carried on, striving to create purpose and connection in her life.
With time her heart mended and she met Jim, another wonderful human being to share her life with.
A string of losses continually reshaped my grandma’s reality, but with discomfort came discovery. Life threw her obstacles and she only grew stronger.
Her resiliency and ability to adapt to changing circumstances taught me a vital lesson: that the end of the life of someone you love dearly is not the end of yours.
This realization helped me put to bed the naive hope that nothing will ever happen, and wake up to the fact that something always does, preparing me for life’s challenges.
Watching her glowing at the wedding altar made me ache with gratitude for her truth and beauty, and for the chance to heed my friend’s sage advice.
Everything changes and will continue to change, except, perhaps, my grandma’s tireless determination to stay on her feet and join the dance of change, deepening her life with each step.
For here she is – 83 years old and embarking on a new journey with a new love!
Grandma, if you are reading this, I wish you and Jim a lifetime of happiness. It will be an honor for all of us to witness your journey together.
Let’s toast this beautiful couple!
Michelle Ryder is a freelance writer living in Bonney Lake. She is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.