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Grandma Glo and Cool’s mother. | Courtesy Reagan Cool

My grand­mother, the champion of fru­gality, never failed to scold me for walking into her house with a latte, when “there is per­fectly good coffee right here in this pot!”

Also the champion of labels, with every con­tainer in the fridge labeled with the date it was opened in her hand­writing, my grand­mother could make one box of wine last at least 8 months. You can probably imagine the fear with which I entered their house with a brand new bottle of Italian liqueur in hand.

I con­fi­dently set the liqueur down on the counter, poured myself a glass, and offered Grandma Glo a taste. I ner­vously chat­tered about its Catholic origins and the funny monk-shaped bottle while I waited for her reaction. To my amazement, the lecture I antic­i­pated never came. Instead, my grandma pointed at the top shelf of the China cabinet and asked me to pour her a glass. Com­mencing that night, Italian liqueur became our special dessert ritual.

My grandma’s health dimin­ished as the summer pro­gressed, and she passed away last week. It was a good death: slow, holy, and sur­rounded by family.

In my grandma’s final days, I watched my mom joy­fully comfort, feed, and bathe her mother. In each humble act of com­passion, I caught a glimpse of the ten­derness with which she once served me. Sitting on the edge of my grandma’s bed and gently stroking her hair, my mom softly remarked to me what an honor it was to par­tic­ipate in the well-round­edness of the circle of life. A slow, natural death extended to my mother the oppor­tunity to take care of the woman who took care of her for so long.

The evening after my grand­mother passed away, my mom turned to me and burst into tears. I took her for a drive until the tears passed — a trick I learned from her when she would load up the car to lull a crying baby to sleep.

Tears poured down our cheeks that we couldn’t have stopped if we had tried. In a turning point of our rela­tionship, I was the one driving, the one trusted to take the right route, and get us there safely. My mom shared, between choked sobs, the most mean­ingful expe­ri­ences with her mother. Stories I had never heard and that I’m con­fident no else had, either.

She revealed to me the char­acter of a woman made of grit and the beauty of a heart wildly open to life. She reminded me of the accom­plish­ments of the fierce woman who so delighted in a small glass of liqueur.

For the first time, it was my duty to hold together the pieces of my mother’s broken heart, just as she has done for me from the childhood sadness of a broken toy to the grief of a broken rela­tionship or lost loved one. In this cir­cular right of passage, I saw the strength of wom­anhood passed down through the gen­er­a­tions before my eyes.

When my grandma became too weak to eat or talk, I decided my grandma deserved one more taste of her favorite drink. I poured a glass, explained its sum­mertime sig­nif­i­cance to all the rel­a­tives there, and gave my grandma a small taste. The crowded room burst into laughter when she nodded in response. We passed the glass around, each sharing in the joy of some­thing so simple.

Let us toast to her with Italian liqueur, with home­keeping, and stain-fighting, and the fearless defense of the family. It will be many years before her savor is for­gotten. Cheers.

Reagan Cool is a senior studying the­ology and a columnist on faith and religion.

Columnist Reagan Cool with her mother and sisters. | Courtesy Facebook