5 years ago this month, my grandmother died.
It was the second day of May. Remember it like it was yesterday.
We were at the University of Utah hospital, circling her bed and holding hands. In one minute her hand was warm as the fire burning in her home every Christmas. The one in which we burned all the wrapping paper, so it sizzled for hours.
In the next, she was gone.
I was incredibly scared, as i had never seen death before, a human dying.
She was our Tayta, our matriarch. Our bearer of family tradition.
How would we go on without her?
We knew it was time, SHE knew it was time. We all gathered around her bedside, knowing we needed to up the morphine, relieve her from her pain.
in a circle we stood.
She looked at each one of us, pointedly, in the eye, and said, “well, team, what do you you think?” At that moment, there was no think. there was only feel. there was only the intolerable sensation of knowing that within hours my grandmother would not be alive and i didn’t know where she was going.
I don’t believe in God. i just don’t.
But i do believe in life beyond this one. So in my heart and soul, i knew we would one day be reunited again, whether through the Christian God she believed in or the agnostic one in which i did.
So this Mothers Day, i would like to pay tribute to the women that without whom i would be a lost, sorrowful soul. This bloodline runs deep, it runs strong, and it runs pure as the white fallen snow.
To my Great grandmother, who i never knew and died too early for me to ever feel the paperthin skin of your hand, and the 4 generations of women to whom you passed on your strength. To stand underneath your painted face with the 4 women that have molded me, i am honored.
To my Grandmother Tayta, who’s hand i was holding for her last breath. who’s spirit i see in the stars, who’s strength upon which i call everytime i question myself.
To my mother, who gave me the courage, strength, punishment, and nourishment to grow my own wings and fly. I love you, i adore you, i am me because of you.
To my stepmother, who embraced and loved me at a very young age as her own, and who befriended my mother so that i may have 2 women who loved and raised me in different but equally beautiful ways as a young girl.
To my stepson, Austin, who calls me his “coolest stepmother” as if there is a choice. Dude, what can i say… you simply rock.
To my friends Danielle, Angie, and Teri who adopted children that without your love, may have never known the gift of a mother.
And finally to my daughter, Savannah, who, more than my daughter, is truly my teacher. i look forward to a life of learning from you with each breath i take.
To all of you insanely amazing women who collectively embody the word “Mother,” i am honored, with all my faults, derailments, and misgivings, to be amongst you.
Tell your story.
Have this day.
Once again- beautiful. You have me crying- again….
Oh Andrea, I have goosebumps. I’m crying. Today was my birthday and 7 of my 8 kids were here as well as six of my grandkids and one that is on his way. I look at them and I know without my mom and my grandmother I, in no way, could have been a mother to them all. Your post was beautiful and so very inspiring. Thank you.
Your wonderful sentiments expressed on this Mothers Day — your rememberances of your grandmother – move me to add something I wrote five years ago at about this time.
I was not able to be there when Tayta died, but Jane and I were able to be there for her memorial service. At some services, the minister will ask for comments or rememberences from members of the congreation. Not knowing if this would be the custom, I wrote a few words – and as it developed – congregants were not asked to make such comments. In light of what you have written, I thought I would share this with you now.
Marie Louise McMullen
MARIE LOUISE STREHLAU. BORN IN OHIO IN 1916, SHE WAS THE YOUNGEST OF THE FOUR STREHLAU CHILDREN. THE BABY. SHE’S BEEN KNOWN TO US BY MANY NAMES. MARIE LOUISE, MARY LOU, TAYTA, MCTAYTA, MRS. MCMULLEN, SISTER,
AUNT DOLLY, – – – MOTHER. SOMETIMES PRONOUNCED, MO TH ERRR.
IT WAS THIS LAST THAT I THINK DESCRIBED HER BEST. MOTHER. SHE DEFINED THE WORD.
BIOLOGICALLY, SHE HAD FOUR OF HER OWN CHILDREN, BUT SHE MOTHERED MANY MORE. SHE USED TO TELL ME AND MY BROTHER, THAT WE WERE HER FIRST BABIES.
FIERCLY PROTECTIVE OF HER OWN, SHE WAS WISE, SUPPORTIVE, POSITIVE, STUBBORN, ALWAYS THERE WHEN YOU NEEDED HER – SHE WAS —- MOTHER.
HER OWN MOTHER DIED WHEN SHE WAS 8 YEARS OLD, AND HER OLDER SYSTER, – MY MOTHER, – BECAME HER MOTHER.
SHE TOLD ME HOW AFTER SHE GRADUATED FROM HIGHSCHOOL, DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION – WITH TEARS STREAMING DOWN HIS FACE – HER FATHER PUT HER ON A BUS FOR NEW YORK CITY TO TRY TO FIND A JOB AND MAKE HER WAY IN LIFE.
MY PARENTS AGREED TO HOUSE HER FOR A PERIOD OF TIME, AND TOWARD THE END OF THE AGREED PERIOD, SHE DID FIND A JOB. SHE GOT PROMOTED, TRAVELED AROUND THE COUNTRY, MET THE YOUNG REVEREND HORACE MCMULLEN, AND STARTED THE PROCESS THAT BRINGS US ALL TOGETHER IN THIS PLACE TODAY.
IN RECENT YEARS, I HAVE TRIED TO COME TO SALT LAKE CITY AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR TO SEE HER, KNOWING THAT ONE DAY, THIS DAY WOULD COME.
WHEN I VISITED HER LAST OCTOBER, SHE TOLD ME SHE THOUGHT SHE HAD ABOUT ONE MORE YEAR TO LIVE. I HOPED SHE WAS WRONG, BUT AS IT TURNS OUT, SHE WAS HALF RIGHT.
BY ANY MEASURE, SHE HAD A FULL AND REMARKABLE LIFE.
SHE HAD A STRONG FAITH IN GOD AND IN AN AFTERLIFE.
SHE USED TO SAY TO ME THAT HER HUSBAND LIVED IN THE HOPE OF AN AFTERLIFE, BUT SHE LIVED IN THE CERTANTY OF IT. FOR HER SAKE, AND MINE, I HOPE SHE WAS RIGHT.
TODAY, AS WE MOURN OUR LOSS, AND CELEBRATE HER LIFE, HOW WONDERFUL IT WOULD BE IF EVEN NOW, SHE IS RENEWING AQUAINTANCE WITH HER BELOVED MAC, HER SISTERS AND HER BROTHER, HER PARENTS, AND OTHER DEAR DEPARTED FRIENDS AND FAMILY. I HOPE SO.
AND SO, MARY LOU, TAYTA, SISTER, AUNT DOLLY, MOTHER, I BID YOU FARWELL. REST IN PEACE. THANK YOU.
oh Uncle Bert. i just love this. it is a story a never heard. i never knew that about her father putting her on a bus… i can’t imagine the strength it took her to lift her chin high and succeed, and in that meeting Jiddu. thank you so, so much for sharing. it means so much to me, and can’t even imagine how much it means to my mother, Laura, and Dan. If if the certainty of her belief is true, she is now rejoicing with Uncle Gary as well.
thank you more than words can express.
I am a graduate of Aleppo College class of 1969, and Rev. Horace Martin McMullen was the President of my college from 1954 – 1958, when I was in elementary school. Recently I started looking into the history of my college, and came across your beautiful tribute to your grandmother. Is it possible to have a picture of your grandfather, and also a family portrait. I am building a tribute website for my college, and would like to have his picture and a family portrait on my website.