Thursday, August 30, 2012

Goodbye, Grandma David

Two weeks ago, Jon and I took Alice to Michigan to say our final farewells to my Grandma David. Alice never met her Great-Grandma David in person, but we were able to have some video chats over FaceTime whenever my dad went out to visit, including his last visit over Mother's Day this year.

My dad, his brother and three sisters were all able to be with my Grandma during her last week. They hadn't been all together since our wedding, seven years ago. The entire family was able to be there for the funeral, traveling from Georgia, Florida, Colorado, Texas, and California. We hadn't all been together since a family reunion in 1998, when this gem of a photo was taken, and a firecracker landed on the deck under my Aunt Sue's chair and almost lit her skirt on fire. This trip was a little less explosive - and much less humid, the weather was beautiful.
David Family Reunion, 1998. 
Alice did great with every aspect of the travel. She entertained herself on the plane, did great in the car, stayed up late (really late, like past midnight) without melting down, ate well, and was quiet and well-behaved when she needed to be. We hope that she was a bright spot for everyone during a sad time, and a nice reminder that the next generation will carry a part of us forward with them. I know my dad was especially glad to have her there, and I was glad to have a little bitty someone to squeeze when I was sad. And it was really nice to see everyone all together. After the funeral, all the families took photos, just like the last family reunion. Here, the cousins are doing their best "bear screams" in honor of my Uncle Randy who recently confronted a mama bear outside his house... More on that later, I hope!
Bear screams eventually turned into bear impressions. You had to be there...
My Grandma lived a full and interesting life. I always thought it was so cool that she played the trombone in high school, and that she had a job scooping ice cream (just like me). During the war, she worked at the Willow Run bomber plant doing electrical wiring in the cockpits of B-17 Bombers. After the war, she taught dance lessons at Arthur Murray. When Jon and I visited for Thanksgiving a few years ago, she told us how when she was first married, all the ladies in her neighborhood thought she was so stuck up because she did all her housework in high heels, but ALL her shoes were high heels, they were the only kind of shoes she owned!

My brother made a beautiful slide show of photos from Grandma's life, and with each of her children and their families, and many of her travels after she retired. Here are a few of my favorites...
When Alice sees this one, she says "Alice."
So young and lovely.
Seriously, what a dish!
Papa David, my Dad, Papa Murray, Uncle Don, Gommee
In the photo above, Papa David (my paternal Great-Grandfather) is holding my young dad (looking an awful lot like Alice), and my Grandma's parents, Papa Murray and Gommee, holding my Uncle Don. They all lived together, with my Grandma and Grandpa David, and kids in the Garden City house my dad grew up in. Papa David died during Papa Murray's funeral. The way my dad tells it, Papa David was so distraught that Papa Murray had died, younger than he, that he had an asthma attack while everyone was away at the funeral. My Grandpa David left the funeral to go to the hospital, but I think Papa David died before his son got there. Gomee died when I was four, and my dad wasn't able to go out to Michigan for her funeral because my sister had just been born 9 days earlier.  All three are buried side by side, along with Grandpa David and now, Grandma David.

I think my dad's family has used Casterline Funeral Home for every funeral they've had. My Grandma worked for Dr. Atchison, whose daughter later married a school mate of Grandma's, Fred Casterline. Fred's father started the family business, which is now run by Fred's grand-daughters. They were lovely and helped entertain Alice during the services. She even got to take a few spins in this grand old family heirloom.
Alice in the funeral director's chair.
My dad swept the dirt from his father's headstone.
At the cemetery, we paid our respects to our family buried there. Alice walked around and visited the neighbors as well. I hope she brought a little bit of good energy to everyone resting there. She was very respectful, keeping her voice low and her hands to herself, but she couldn't stop flashing everyone in sight. Alas, it couldn't be helped, and I'd like to think that no one can help but smile at a toddler tummy? You can make her out in the background below, baring her belly...
Alice takes a walk with her Grandma. I chose to follow behind and take photos instead of fixing her dress...

Family photos, back at the house. Alice couldn't stop showing off her "nose wrinkle."
And we couldn't stop laughing at her...

Walking over a bridge in the woods, with Auntie.

Reading stories with Grandpa.
We somehow ended up doing a champagne toast in the garage, at an unreasonably late hour. My cousin explained that while they were with my Grandma in her final days, they were talking about what a party they'd have to celebrate her life, and she said, "Champagne, champagne." So we toasted her years with champagne, in whatever glasses we could find. The next day, Alice kept saying "Champagne, champagne." I hope my Grandma heard that.

Alice had a great time with all of the adoring Grandmas and Aunties around. She especially took a shining to my Aunt Sue and her cool older second cousin, who let her watch things and play with apps on her iPod. Here they are together, Alice sipping some "coffee" like a big girl.

We were so grateful to stay at my Aunt's neighbors' house next door. Alice also had a wonderful time playing with all the toys they had set up for her, so much so that she kept asking to go back there to play. We finally had to bring the little kitchen set over to my Aunt's house. I was glad to see that she played with it for looooong stretches at a time. Don't tell Alice, but I understand that Santa may be bringing a little kitchen to our very own house this year...
On our way out of town, we stopped for a quick lunch and ate at Panera for the very first time. Alice thoroughly enjoyed her grilled cheese sandwich dipped in tomato soup. 

Before we headed to the airport, we stopped by the house in Garden City where my dad grew up. I was hoping to sweet talk the current owners in to showing us around inside. I haven't been back there since our Thanksgiving visit when I was about 12, the house was sold not long after. I would have loved to show it to Jon and take some photos of Alice there. Alas, no one answered the door. I would have taken a few photos with Alice on the porch but she was fast asleep in the car and I didn't want to wake her, so I just snapped a few with my phone before we moved along.
The Garden City house years ago, and today.
From the outside, it looks like the current owners are taking good care of the house, even building a garage and a porte-cochere. Maybe next time we're in Michigan, I can write in advance and make a date to visit the house.

Here are a few photos from inside the house, in the living room just behind that big window on the right.

Me (age 2-ish?), with Gommee, cousin Jad, dad, mom, Grandma and foxy Aunt Bee.
My dad, in the near left, looking ADORABLE and his brother and sisters. I think we just threw away the last of that Christmas tinsel...
Christmas carnage. That lovely, large window is just out of frame to the right behind Gommee.
Our 5:30pm flight was delayed by almost two hours, but Alice did great. She only got fussy in the last hour-ish of the flight. I let her cry for a bit, hoping she'd fall asleep, but she was asking to sit in my lap and I couldn't resist her pleas. Unfortunately, she's not a great cuddler and wouldn't sit still, despite my best efforts, so I had to strap her back in her own seat. We were less than a half hour from our descent, so I asked a stewardess to explain that he had to stay buckled in her own seat, and distracted her with the "real-time" map of our flight. About 10 minutes away from landing, she tucked her chin into her shoulder and fell right asleep, without any fuss. She stayed asleep through the landing; while everyone else disembarked (we were at the very back of the plane); while I picked her up and carried her down the aisle, bumping her against every seat in the plane; while I dumped her into her stroller; while we retrieved our bags, transferred her into the car and white-knuckled it all the way home (our driver was a little worrisome). She only woke up once I pulled her out of the car at home.  All in all, she was a pleasure to travel with this time.
I'm sorry that we didn't make it back to visit again before my Grandma died, and that we didn't get to personally introduce her to Alice. It's hard to get together when everyone lives so far away. I hope we're able to take Alice and her sister to Michigan some day for the grand family history tour. I'm glad we were all able to take this trip and be with the family as we celebrated Grandma.


  1. I just love your stories. from Aunt Marianne

  2. A lovely tribute to a lovely grandma. I'm sure she would have enjoyed every minute.

  3. This was very touching. On a lighter note, you did and awesome job on that dress. I'm so happy I can see it in the photo of just the 3 of you.

  4. I guess that should actually be the 4 of you since both daughters are represented in the full body shot ;-)

  5. Alice did bring smiles when needed! What a joy she was to have with us! It was wonderful to has us all together. Thank you for writing this and the great pictures.

  6. Wow I LOVE the photos you posted. I am sorry for your loss, and love how you celebrate her.


  7. Thanks for all the sweet comments!

  8. So sorry for your loss. My grandma just passed away (in Dearborn, MI) and our 2 year old brought some smiles to the funeral home too.


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