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January 21, 2012

I Hope Kak is Dancing With Charlie: Tribute to a Beloved Grandmother

Kak & Charlie on Wedding Day
Hubs' beloved grandmother passed away two weeks ago. She was 91 and an amazing woman - strong and courageous. She lived alone since her husband Charlie died 20 years ago.

She and Charlie moved into the old brick farmhouse over 50 years ago.  That is where she wanted to spend her last days and she displayed incredible determination and strength to achieve that goal.

Kak, as the family called her, got her wish, passing peacefully in her home with one of her sons and grandsons at her side.  My husband was on his way to be with her but was still 15 minutes from her house when the call came that she was gone.

Kak wasn't well for the past year,  but she managed alone in the house with the help of her son and his wife who lived nearby. During this time she also managed another amazing feat of strength and will power. She created a method for her sons to be sure her treasured antiques were passed on in the family.

Plate labelled with my name
Kak laboriously wrote names on tape and labelled all the beautiful antiques, furniture and family heirlooms in her two-storey farmhouse.

What she couldn't label, she wrote out by hand - a huge list of items (an inventory really) with a description of each, and who that specific item was to go to. Her list has notes such as "Painting of young girl in rose coloured dress, antique oak frame - for Susie" 

You'd have to have seen Kak's home to realize what a monumental task this was. She had a beautiful home filled with antiques - furniture, china, paintings, clocks, etc. I wish we'd taken pictures of the rooms while they were intact. 

In the last two weeks before her death, one of her grandsons came to stay with her to help with her care. Under her direction he wrote out dozens and dozens of labels to attach to small items she had not yet gotten to.

Together they went through drawers of postcards, cards and letters she'd been saving since the 1930s. He spent afternoons reading her old postcards to her, an activity that seemed to bring her great joy. Memories were triggered when he read these notes from friends and family long dead.

One of Kak's Ladies
Sadness overwhelmed us as hubs' unpacked one of the boxes with items Kak had labelled for him. Holding her beloved "Ladies" - from her collection of Royal Dalton Figurines - was hard to do.

The realization that these Ladies, so beloved by Kak who knew every  name of every figure, would never be displayed in her home again, or dusted lovingly by her hands, hit hard. But we will treasure those items forever.

And so time moves on. Items loved and treasured by Kak are being distributed to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Hopefully they will continue to be treasured and passed on in the family as Kak wanted.

It is the natural cycle of life but it's not easy accepting that Kak's time on earth has ended and that her treasures are now in our safe-keeping. Her torch has been extinguished but how lucky we all were to have had her in our lives. She'll always be in our minds and hearts.

I hope you're dancing with Charlie, Kak!


Becky Jamison said...

What a beautiful tribute you've written to an obviously wonderful woman! If we could all be so lucky to have a grandmother who'd planned and had consideration for her family before her passing. That grandson was blessed who was able to spend those last weeks with her!

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Yes Becky, the whole family adored Kak. I met her 16 years ago and she was delightful.

I'll miss not sending her my monthly letters and photos through the winter, and our phone calls. She liked getting the letters and pictures of what we were doing and our farm animals.

She'd passed the point of being able to make phones calls (she couldn't dial fast enough and couldn't get the hang of auto-dialing) or write letters

Hubs was visiting her once a week but had to quit the last two months due to his own illness. I'm so glad that hubs' brother was with her the last 2 weeks but I know hubs wishes he could have been there too.

Lauren Mahieu said...

Thank you for sharing your tribute. Kak sounds like an incredible lady. She was so fortunate to have such a devoted family, allowing her to be at home in that beautiful farm house.

Terri said...

Kak sounds like the kind of woman we all would have liked to have known. Your tribute to her is just wonderful Lorine and I know she would be smiling if she could read it.
I hope you are given an opportunity to copy some of the postcards and letters she saved - as I know how precious they will be in the years to come.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.