I woke early this morning to a text from my dad telling me of your passing. Today the grief has come in waves. Yours was not a life cut short, and so part of my heart just wants to celebrate your full life that spanned just short of a century. I cannot begin to fathom what it must have felt like to watch the world change from the 1920s until today. I remember sitting in the farmhouse kitchen when I was 12 or 13, getting you to tell me stories about how you came through Ellis Island as a toddler, to a family farm in New Jersey, and what it was like to grow up then. Your descriptions were so vivid that they still dance like paintings in my mind: your Uncle’s farm, the long walk to school...
You married my O’Pa when I was small enough that I don’t remember you not being my Ella. I think I was nearly grown when I realized that Ella was your given name and not a term of endearment like O’Pa or Nana. I am sorry that I didn’t do more to figure out how to share our lives in my adulthood, and that I relied on updates from my dad rather than being better about contact. You were always so warm to me, and in the few times over the past few years when we connected I was so grateful for your grace and understanding of my very Yager failures at keeping in touch.
The news of your passing during quarantine, knowing that you would have faced your last days in isolation, breaks my heart. Dad said when he visited the last day that you were allowed visitors, that you slept a lot; and that later you took great comfort in the arrival of your recliner from your apartment. I imagine the perspective and grace I am sure you had as you faced a world wrought with COVID-19, as your body failed you quietly. I don’t yet know how to have the same grace as we wait for some post-pandemic reality in which those of us who loved you can gather for a ceremony of remembrance. I cannot help but feel the collective grief of all who have lost someone during this time and cannot gather to remember, love, grieve, celebrate life, and be together.
You were my Ella, and you were the last grandparent in my life, so this loss is also weighted with the end of that chapter. I had not prepared for the impact the final loss of this generation in my family would have on me. I was so blessed by the love of my grandparents, and was so fortunate to have had the time we shared. I am doing my best to bask in my gratitude for this rather than sink into the cumulative loss.
I hope wherever we go After, you have gone knowing how much you are loved, and how much your love has always meant in my life.