Monday, July 16, 2012

Grandma Ghrist

Lillian Coven Ghrist

How cute was she? That's a picture of my Grandma Ghrist when she was a young girl. I think it's just the cutest picture. Such a happy, sweet little soul.

My Grandma Ghrist was my dad's mother and she was married to my Pap (hence, the reason my dad has become Pap to all his grandkids). I thought I had blogged about her before, and when my cousin Megan asked if I had a post about her, in my head I was certain that I had one, but when I looked, there was nothing just about her.

I wasn't sure why, but after thinking about it, I'm pretty sure I haven't blogged about her yet because I'm still grieving the loss of her from my life. It's been seven years since she passed away and I still miss her deeply and cry when I think about her. I have a picture of me and her from my starter wedding on my headboard (along with a picture of my Grandma Burney and one of the two of them together). It's still raw and painful to think about.

However, it's time I write about her and why she means so very much to me. In a single sentence, she was the greatest grandma. Seriously. I would not be who I am today had I not had her influence in my life growing up.

I'm a little rusty on her history. I do know that her parents were Frank and Helen Coven. She was born on February 26th, 1916 and had seven brothers (Morris, Clifford, Clem, Frank, Charlie, Robert, and Gus) and four sisters (Lizzie, Bertha, Alice, and Gable). Of all of her siblings, I've only met one (Bertha). I know that one of her brother's died on the boat from France to America and she often talked about her brother Gus (which is why my Gus is named Gus).
My Grandma, Dad, and Great Aunt Bertha

Her father Frank Coven

Grandma's mother and her sister Lizzie

Grandma's mother and her brothers Clem and Cliff

She met my grandfather at a place called Franks (I believe) and I have a picture from one of their dates:
On a date
My grandma with Pap and his mother 

They married on September 30th (but I don't know the year). They had three children, Ellene, William (my dad), and Eugene.
Grandma, Pap, my dad and Uncle Gene

Celebrating an anniversary

My grandma always referred to my Pap as, "Mr. G." There were usually curse words that came before it, but that's to be expected when you've been married for a really long time. ;-)  I will blog about my Pap later, but I don't have any pictures from his childhood.
Pap's Birthday

At the Ghrist Family Reunion :-)

How I remember them most


My Pap

That was his seat :-)

My Aunt Elene and Pap

Anyway... so my Grandma and Grandpa were married for a really long time (over 50 years) and the in 1993 he passed away. Prior to him passing, my other grandma, Grandma Burney, moved in with them and the three of them lived together in Garden City, MI. I'm glad that my Grandma Burney was there for my Grandma Ghrist when Pap died, and they became the best of friends. They had their ups and downs, as all roommates do, but they were friends.

One interesting thing (there are many) about my Grandma Ghrist is that she never learned to drive. I told her that I'd teach her, but she never had any need I suppose. As a result, she never really got to see the U.S. and my dad never traveled as a kid. I think that's why we traveled so much as kids, because my dad never got to and he swore he'd travel with his kids when he was older. Anyway, he and my mom took the grandmas out west one year and they saw Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Waterton in Canada, and other sites along the way. Some of my favorite pictures of them are from their trip with my parents.
Seeing Old Faithful for the first time in her life


Hee hee... Another camping trip

The Grandmas in Canada. 
This is where I picture them today... in Heaven in a beautiful place, together and happy

Buffalo in Yellowstone

Waterton (Canada)

Yellowstone Falls

In the RV

When I was a child, we lived less than a mile from my grandparents. We could (and sometimes did) walk over there or ride our bikes over. It was always an adventure to ride our bikes to Grandma Ghrist's house. Scott and I would go together and usually stop at 7-11 on the way for a Slurpee and snacks.

We spent A LOT of time at her house. We had dinner over there multiple times a week and every weekend we either had pizza (Lana's or Little Ceasar's) or KFC. My grandma would make anything you asked. She was one hell of a baker too... she made the BEST pies!!

My favorite thing that she made was a dish that was porkchops in red sauce (I've since learned that the red sauce was ketchup), peas, and mashed potatoes. The closest thing that I've tasted to this deliciousness is my SIL's beer steak, mashed potatoes and green beans. I always ask Christy to make it for me because it reminds me so much of my Grandma Ghrist's pork chops.

Food was never an issue at her house. She always had ten to twelve boxes of cereal in her pantry and whenever my brothers or I wanted something, we'd say, "Grandma, can we have some cereal?" And she's always let us pick whatever we wanted. She bought our favorites and always had plenty on hand.

She'd make anything you asked. If we stopped over and it was dinnertime, it didn't matter if my mom had dinner ready for us at home, or had other plans for dinner, if one of us kids asked if we could have what she made for dinner, she'd always say, "Get yourself a plate." It was never a problem and we never had "manners" when it came to asking for food. If she had it, we ate it. I don't remember her ever denying me (or my brothers) anything that she had.

Saturday or Sunday mornings were the best time to go to her house. She'd either have pancakes, eggs, or the best thing ever; her famous combination. This sandwich is so good that Scott almost got it put on the menu at Beaver Creek when he was a cook there!! It was toast, mayo, lettuce and tomato, fried egg, fried ham and topped with cheese that melted all over. DEEEEEELICIOUS!!

It's never been a secret that I loved this woman and she loved me right back. I always felt close to her and if the truth must be told, I think I was her favorite. Always was. I adored her and she adored me and looking back, she never made any other child feel neglected or less adored, but I think I was her favorite (I'm sure my siblings and cousins will disagree and say that THEY were her favorite). I guess that's how it should be-- every child should feel like they're the favorite.

I promised her that I'd name my firstborn daughter after her. She scoffed when I told her and I even made a contract. I took the backside of a notepad and wrote a contract and I signed it. I think I was like eight or nine. To this day, I have vowed that my first daughter will be named Coven Lillian. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Here are some of my favorite pictures of her:
Me and Grandma Ghrist <3

My college graduation

With Eamon (Dave's son)

With Scott at my starter wedding

My whole family (this is my starter wedding... we took off my ex-husband's head and put Steve's on there instead)

Before I got married for the first time in 2001, I was so afraid that I'd not have the chance to have my grandmas at my wedding. I was also afraid that I'd never share the joy of watching my grandmas hold my baby. Fortunately, I got married before either of them passed and I wanted them both to know how very special they were in my life. I wanted to have a VIP table for them and they refused. They did NOT want a big deal being made about them. Instead, I made them both wear a tiara because they were so deserving. 
At my starter wedding wearing their tiaras  :-)

The picture that means the most to me-- and is framed on my headboard

I've always felt like life is too short to not tell people how we feel. Especially those that we love-- they should never doubt our love for them. So I wrote her a letter back in 2000 and told her all about my feelings for her. She and I never talked about the letter, but my dad said that she got it (she had told him that I wrote her). In the letter, I thanked her for always making me feel special and loved and for giving me such wonderful memories and an amazing childhood. My times spent with her at her house are my fondest memories and all are equated with happiness and love.

When my Grandma Burney passed away, it was upsetting and sad but somewhat expected. She had been in a nursing home and her health was declining. We all knew it was just a matter of time before she'd leave this world and go be with God. But when my Grandma Ghrist passed, it was out of the blue for me.

The morning that she died (February 21, 2005), I was getting ready for work (it was like 7am or so). Steve had already left for work and while I don't remember who called me (I think it was my mom), I do remember them saying, "You need to come to the hospital. Your grandma doesn't have much time left." And I said, "Are you kidding me???" The response was, "Why would I kid about this?"

I called Kylie from work and gave her my sub plans to the best of my ability since I was frantically trying to get out the door. I called Steve and he said he'd come home and we'd go to the hospital together.

I don't remember driving there, but I remember coming out of the elevator and rounding the corner to find all of my family standing there. I was sobbing and hugged my mom and then I looked across the room and there was my grandma. 

My cousin Terri is the only person I remember standing with and I was there as my grandma took her last breath. It was the most difficult thing that I've ever experienced and when it was all over, I remember feeling empty. It was also the most beautiful, precious, special moment to be standing with her as she left this world. It was a privilege to be there with her and while it felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest, it's an experience that I'm most grateful for having.

Everyone was crying and I couldn't even get a grip. I was a mess and thankfully Steve was there to support me. After she was gone, no one knew what to do. We all just stood there and I remember not wanting to leave her. 

Her funeral was even more difficult to go through than my Grandma Burney's. Probably because she was the last of my grandparents and the thought of not seeing her again for a LONG time was impossible to grasp.

When we had to go to her house and clean out her things... it was nearly impossible. The smell of her house was too much. I remember crying non-stop as we went through her things and my Grandma Burney's things as well.  In her will, she left me her china hutch and all her china. It's here in my dining room and we use the china for random occasions. It still smells like her house. :-)   I was also given one of her watches. I have one of her hair brushes and it still has a few of her hairs on it... call me a weird-o, but I treasure it so much because it has a piece of her on it still. It's in a plastic bag and there are times when I open it and take a whiff just to be reminded of her. I then quickly seal it back up because I don't want to let all the smell out.

One thing that my dad found and gave back to me, was the letter that I wrote her. I still have it and it means so much that she kept it. 

I have many of her dishes. Nothing fancy. Her small green bowls that we ate on so many times as kids, are the same small bowls that Gus eats on. I have some of her other plates and I think of her each time I use them. Again, nothing fancy but they were hers. I have some of her cooking utinsils and my favorite is her baked beans spoon. It's a wooden spoon and she always used it when making her famous baked beans. 

These are the things that I have to remind me on a daily basis of her. I still cry when I think about her too much (I've been a hot mess this entire post and it's taken me three hours to write because I've been crying so much). My heart misses her and I can't wait for the day when I'll see her again.

I know that I'm not the only one who feels this way about her. Scott does too. In fact, this past winter he was at my mom and dad's and was in the garage looking for Christmas decorations and he came across a box with some stuff in it. My nephew Alex  told my mom that Scott started crying when he opened the box and found the Noel train that she used to put out each year. I could picture that train and the wave of emotion that must have come over Scott when he saw it. :-(

I think it says a lot about my parents. They did an incredible job raising us and instilled in each of us, a deep-rooted love and devotion to our grandparents. We honored them, valued them, and made sure they were an essential part of our lives. I attribute my warm-fuzzy feelings and memories to my mom and dad and I'm so grateful that they made sure to keep our relationship with our grandparents an important part of our lives. 

Having Grandma and Pap over for dinner

Dad with Grandma and Aunt Elene at my cousin Justin's wedding

The grandmas at Dave and Heather's baby shower (for Eamon)

At Aunt Elene's house in Florida

This is the spot that she always sat in  :-)

The grandmas at Christmas

At my starter wedding


Sweet playful Grandma

I don't know if I'll ever "get over" losing her. I think with some people, you never get over it. I know she'd love Gus so very much and before she died, she did say that she hoped that Steve and I would get married. There are so many times each day that I think of her or that I'm reminded of her. I'm so thankful for the time I had with her.

This is the last picture I have of her. It was taken in January of 2005 at my cousin Nick's wedding. She passed away a month later.
It's not the best quality because it was taken with my phone, but she was eating cake and was happy. :D

I can only pray that my children are able to develop the kind of love with their grandparents that I had with mine. I pray that they love and cherish their grandparents like I did, and that they're able to have incredible, happy memories of them. I know that my parents loved and respected their parents so very much, and this passed down to our love and respect of them. I'm thankful that my mom and dad made it a priority to make sure that we knew how very special grandparents are.


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Thank you for sharing! I'm extremely close to my fathers mother. She is in failing health and dont know what I'll do without her. In some ways i think it should be easy because in many ways we have lost her due to her dementia but i know i'll be nonfunctional when it happens. She no longer remembers how to answer the phone or who i am w out introduction. I wish I had written a letter to tell her how I felt when she really could have understood.

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