It has been almost five years since my Grandmother passed away. With each day that passes, her memory becomes only more beautiful, more meaningful, and more enlightened – she was the most gentle force my world has ever seen. All that she was is everything I hope to emulate. She is who I hope to grow up to be.
My Grandmother grew up on the reservation in Oklahoma, until she was moved to live with family in Oregon. My Grandmother is who I have to thank for my Native American roots that I am forever so proud of. My Grandmother is who taught me about the customs of our tribe, respect for my elders, and how to make a mean Jello salad.
My Grandmother was assertive and kind. She was feisty and comforting. She was rebellious and loyal. To this very moment, she is the only life in which I cannot find a fault. She lived genuinely, she lived bravely, she lived without hesitation.
My Grandmother came from a rich heritage, but was raised in the meekest of conditions. My Grandmother was the first to give, and she loved unconditionally at all times – even when she had every reason to give up and turn away.
My Grandparent’s were together for 65 years before my Grandmother passed away. Six kids, and more grandchildren than they count – my Grandmother thrived from her family. We had celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary the day before my wedding, which was one month before my Grandmother passed away. Maybe it was not intense love until the very end, but there was devotion, understanding, affection, and contentment. Just as Grandma captivated the hearts of everyone around her, so did she capture the heart of my Grandfather.
Their first date was rather serendipitous as they were on a double blind date. The other members of this date were named Duane and Colleen – which are also the names of my grandparent’s. As fate would have it, my Grandmother was meant to be set up with the other Duane, but ended up dating my Grandfather instead.
My Grandmother had every intention of being at the hospital the day that I was born. Though she would have to travel from Oregon to California to be there, it was her desire. Unfortunately, however, my Grandmother was unable to fulfill her wish. Due to a blood clot, my Grandmother and I were coincidentally in the hospital at the same time. As I was being born, my Grandmother had to have her leg amputated for the first time – a second time would follow at a later date.
This surgery was just the beginning of many. My Grandmother suffered many illnesses, surgeries, strokes, heart attacks, and cancers – yet she remained a fighter. She remained strong. She continued with her character of hope. She continued to be playful, funny, and energetic. Despite being tied to a wheelchair, she could not be slowed down. Due to her many illnesses, and her ability to elude death time and time again, her passing was not a shock – but it was a loss entirely.
The last time I saw her was at my wedding, as she passed one month later. She radiated in yellow that day, and even if she was not entirely coherent, her presence hung in the air, and she outdid the sun that day.
This is the woman who supported me, in even my craziest ideas. She cooked only the best food, and was rebellious where it mattered. She came from nothing, but treated others like she owned the world, as she gave whatever she could to whomever needed it. She showed me that life is never too hard to not be kind, to not eat well, and to not dress like you are meeting someone important. She worked hard, she loved all, and she never let a day pass her by without being intentional.
She met many of her grandchildren’s children, but unfortunately did not get to meet mine. Despite this, she lives through him as his eyes are mine, and my eyes are hers, and when I held him for the first time, she is what I saw.
Forever in our hearts, Colleen Joyce Whitecrow.