Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mary Jane

Three years ago today marks the day my sweet grandma, one of the most influential people in my life, lost her battle with breast cancer and went home to heaven. She lived to see my mom and cousin turn a year older on the 25th. She lived to see my son Pete turn one on the 26th. Then she went home to live with Jesus forever on the 27th.

To say I am emotional about it, even three years later is an understatement.

I am so grateful we were living in Ohio for the last three years of her life. In fact, we lived just a few miles away. We talked on the phone almost daily and even though she was battling cancer and I had three kids ages 4, 2 and a newborn, we still managed to get together for dinner or lunch almost every week for the last year she was alive.

I remember the day she died clearly.
Early morning phone call from my mom.
The flock of birds above my house.

That last one I need to explain. I hesitated to even include this part of the story for fear ya'll will think I am crazy, but it happened and it is part of it all. After I got off the phone with my mom telling me that grandma had died, one of the first things I heard through my tears was birds. I know that may not strike you as odd, lots of people hear birds outside their windows each day, but, we were living in my hometown in Ohio at the time and the neighborhood we lived in was a very new subdivision. Not a lot of trees around and the trees that were there were skinny and small. Seeing a bird, not unusual, hearing a flock of birds as they flew south, not unusual. Hearing a flock of birds flying just above my house without them flying away, unusual. All morning long in my grief I heard those crazy birds flying above my house until it finally hit me, "Oh, this must be a God thing!"

I believe in my whole heart that God sent those birds to fly above my house, maybe even designed a detour as they were heading south for the winter, for as long as it took for me to get the message...Grandma was flying free. (OK, I have to stop myself from yelling, "Free bird!" right now as it might, just might interrupt the mood of this all) The message was clear... no more pain, no more suffering. My grandma was complete and whole the minute she stopped breathing as only someone in Christ can be. She was as free as those birds.

And this girl in Ohio needed to know that. I needed to be reminded that because grandma was ok, I was going to be ok too.

Even though at that moment I could not imagine it.

Could not imagine the holidays coming up without her there. Could not imagine moving to Texas in a few months without here being there to see us go. Could not imagine a lot of things without her.

But I knew I was going to be okay.

I noticed those crazy birds flying above our house for the next several mornings. In fact, the first day I noticed the birds were gone was the morning after her burial.

Pretty appropriate, I think.

There are so many things I could write about her, but I decided to honor her by posting one of my favorite recipes of grandma's. It is a recipe for a homemade chocolate cake with homemade caramel icing. I used to request it for my birthday or special dinners. Boy could she cook and bake. I will probably never make homemade noodles quite like her or this caramel sauce as perfect and creamy as hers. But I will keep trying. In fact, one of my most favorite things I have of grandma's (along with a chocolate cardigan she wore and one of her nightgowns) is a copy, in her own writing, of all her recipes.

Pretty priceless, I would say.

Hope you enjoy the recipe. It's one she had written out for someone. I am going to include it just the way I have it with her comments and everything.

Take care,

Easy Chocolate Cake
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour Sift these together
6 TAB. cocoa
1 tea. salt
2 tea. soda

Add 1 cup oil (I use canola)
2 tea. vanila
2 Tab. vinegar
2 cups cold water

*Use a fork and stir till smooth. Bake in 9x13 pan at 350 for 30 minutes

Caramel Icing
2 cups brown sugar (packed down)
1/2 cup milk
about 1/2 to 3/4 stick of margarine or butter

*Stir up good and cook one minute after coming to a complete boil. Beat till it begins to get a little sugary look. I take a fork and punch holes all over top of cake and spread some of the icing over cake and let it run down in the cake. Just use a thin layer of the icing. Keep beating it with a spoon till it gets the sugary look. Then spread the rest of it on the cake. You have to watch as it can go to sugar fast. The main thing is not to cook it over the 1 minute. I usually cook it 1 min.+ 15 seconds.
Good luck , (grandma had a smiley face here :)
Mary Jane

You can always add powdered sugar to icing if it just won't go to sugar for you.


Bubba's Sis said...

Oh, big HUGS to you, sweetie! What a lovely tribute to your grandmother. The birds were definitely a God thing! I have lost both my grandmothers now - one 16 years ago and one only 2 years ago, but I still miss both of them terribly, so I know just how you feel. Honor her for the month of October - National Breast Cancer Awareness Month - by wearing a pink ribbon for her! I wear one for my mom - who has thankfully BEAT breast cancer 3 times and is still having fun with me today.

Know that my thoughts and prayers are with you....

Emily said...

Julie, what a beautiful way to remember your grandma! You know, that's one rite of passage I have trouble dealing with - the loss of loved ones. I lost my gremom 3 years ago, she was a special lady, too. Hang on like crazy to the memories you have, think of her often, and keep reminding your kids. Just because we lose them physically doesn't mean they're gone from our lives.

Sending you a long-distance hug...

D... said...

(((HUGS))) This is a beautiful post. No, I don't think you are crazy about the birds AT ALL. It most definitely was a God thing.

By posting, talking, remembering your Grandmother, you are keeping her alive. Thinking of you! Peace and comfort to you.

Suzie said...

Sound like you had a really wonderful grandma

Kristin said...

i remember you telling me about your grandma - we had already moved away a couple of months earlier - thanks for sharing about her and her life. and i must say, thanks for the recipe : ) you know i like to bake!!
thinking of you and sending hugs on this day as you remember your grandma.

Becoming Me said...

Ohhh, what a beautiful post and tribute my friend...