Yesterday Great-Grandma B. left mortality and reunited with her sweetheart on the other side. The children were naturally upset when I broke the news to them. It seemed to help when they admitted they could be happy for her now that she wasn't limited in an old, frail body, and that she could be with Great-Grandpa B. again. We decided to write down all the things we would remember most about Grandma. It brought tears to my eyes to read what they wrote - some of them surprised me very much. They noticed and will remember things about LaRee that I did not know they were aware of.
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1. The Red Chair [Grandma's reddish/brown recliner she always sat in]
2. The Cows [her plush toy cows from Chick-Fi-La that all the grandkids played with when they visited her apartment]
3. He drew a picture of a table with a heart on it. He said it was her living room table's glass heart box that we were always warning him not to play with.
4. Her curly, red hair. [I said, "Like yours?" He said, "No, my hair is orange. Grandma's hair was red. Red is prettier than orange."]
5. That she died. [When he wrote this I said, "Yes, she died. It's sad, isn't it?" And he said cheerfully, "No, not really. She was lonely all the time and now she's not!" It's so black-and-white for little children. A good reminder to us that death truly is a natural part of the great plan of happiness and that our eternal experiences extend far beyond it.]
6. I Love You. [He wrote this because I said, "Let's write something that we remember grandma saying to us a lot."]
7. We Eat Donuts. [Usually visiting Grandma meant we were taking a treat over to share with her and often it was donuts or cookies]
8. He drew a picture of a small Christmas tree because in December he and I went over and set out/decorated her little table-top Christmas tree together. Grandma gave him instructions on where to put the decorations - she liked things "just so".
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2. She smelled like flowers
3. She had toy cows
4. She was a generous person
5. She had a blue dress
6. She had a pretty smile
7. She gave out candy
8. She had red hair
9. She had a red chair
10. She had a Christmas Jar that we put the toy cows in
11. She had light blue cups
12. She had pictures on the wall
13. She was so pretty
14. She felt smooth (I loved this one because Wyatt always liked to sit by her and hold her hand)
15. At Heritage Place there is a fish tank
16. At her door it says "LaRee Bauerle"
17. She had a red rocking chair
18. She has curly hair
19. She has glasses
20. She sounded old
21. On Valentines Day she was at the hostbital [Wyatt's spelling]. I felt sad.
22. She has a sliding glass door and in front there is a white curtain.
23. In her living room grandpa had a white chair.
24. She has a black T.V.
25. We go there for a parade [July 24] and we have a hot dog dinner.
26. At Christmas we have a Christmas party!
27. But This year we had it at the church!
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1. She smelled like vanilla perfume.
2. The boys would always play with her cows.
3. She would sit in her soft red brown chair.
4. She was generous.
5. She always had treats ready and out.
6. She had soft hands and red auburn hair.
7. She had a quiet, soft, kind voice.
8. She looked great in every color.
9. She had turquoise cups.
10. She had a glass table with things that we couldn't touch!
11. We would always go and see the fish at Heritage Place.
12. She had a Shirley Temple doll and flowery bed in her room.
13. She died in a hospital of an infection.
14. Last I saw her was on Valentines Day of 2012 in the ER room of Lakeview Hospital.
15. In the hospital her skin was so white. It made me feel like, "This is really goodbye. I'll see you in heaven." I was sad.
16. In her apartment, she had a picture of herself in her beautiful wedding gown.
17. She had a great view of the backyard in Heritage Place.
18. I loved going to the parade with Grandpa B. He was always so enthusiastic!
19. At the parade we would go and eat a yummy hot dog together.
20. I loved having Grandma's choice of chicken nuggets at the Bauerle Christmas Party.
21. In the light blue cups we would have root beer.
22. I miss you Grandma B.! You were so kind and sweet, and so full of love.
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I regret not taking her sooner, not letting Charlotte and LaRee have more time together, but I will be forever grateful that we had at least taken Charlotte to visit LaRee for the first time exactly one week before her death. I am saddened that Charli will likely not remember Grandma, but we will be sure to tell her stories, and share Grandma's love FOR her with her. Normally I would not post the picture below because it's just a couple days before LaRee's passing and naturally isn't the most flattering of her. She took pride in her appearance and I know she wouldn't have appreciated a public posting of it. But because these are the only two photographs we have of Charlotte with her great-grandmother, I treasure them both and I know she will, too. Charlotte's middle name is Maree, named after two exemplary women in her life: Her grandma Dixie Marie, and spelled with two E's after great-grandma LaRee. LaRee was a survivor, having been on her own at an extremely young age. To me she lived her life in a way that exemplified what it means to press forward with faith, continuing with dignity and love, reaching out to everyone in complete acceptance. I married into LaRee's family, but not once did I ever feel less than if I had been a grandchild born in blood. She was a woman of resourcefulness, of gratitude, of perseverance, and of hard work. The last years of LaRee's life were painful, both physically and emotionally. Her spirit was confined in a body that had been worn down by years of service, work, and age; her heart felt a void created by the passing of her eternal companion almost exactly three years prior. And yet LaRee set an example of endurance and faith - two more qualities from which we hope all our children will draw strength. It is my and Brett's desire that these qualities of LaRee's will be remembered by Charlotte Maree every time she considers her middle name and what those two E's represent in her life. I hope Charli will strive to honor LaRee by being hardworking, grateful, extending love to others, and accepting and working through life's trials with faith.
As for myself, my grandparents were all gone before I was married, and for much of my younger life they lived far away. That's not to say I did not feel their influence or love. Quite the opposite, in fact; but it was a different experience for me to have a "grandparent" relationship as an adult. I always felt loved by LaRee. I don't know how to put it into words, really, but I guess the best way to describe it is how would it make you feel to visit someone and have them react as though your presence was what they had been waiting for all day, that the small things you do (and believe me, anything I ever may have done truly was small and insignificant, and shamefully not as often as it should have been) -- but what if someone made you feel they were "big" things to them? I believe LaRee made a deliberate point of overexpressing love and gratitude simply because she had a desire to make those around her feel good about themselves. She treated me in a way that made me want to be a better person - made me want to serve people around me. That, to me, is a true teacher and disciple of Christ...someone who inspires those around them to be more Christlike. A part of my heart feels empty. During the two years that I experienced the inner turmoil of trying to decide whether or not to have another baby, LaRee's calming influence was invaluable to me. On more than one occasion I dropped in on her unannounced because I felt conflicted and upset and needed somewhere to go where I could just cry and feel loved - and she had come to mind. Her tender rebuking when I shared feelings of frustration about life's challenges or her generous vote of confidence when I expressed uncertainty in trying to decipher the whisperings of the spirit: all of those things I regret not specifically thanking her for because otherwise how could she possibly have known what strength or clarity she had given me? When we knew her life was coming to an end, there were quiet moments I caught myself giving into the self-pity and the tears came because I knew I wouldn't have her in this mortal experience anymore. But then seeing her at the hospital Friday afternoon and realizing how much her body had been through, that a life had been fully lived and that the necessary covenants had been made; that it truly was part of Heavenly Father's merciful plan for the next step to be taken...at that moment all I felt was immense gratitude that I'd even had LaRee in my life at all and I wanted nothing more for her release from it all. I know Brett felt the same way as his emotions have been close to the surface. He has very tender feelings for his grandparents and I know he will miss her very much. It will feel strange not having her here, but I rejoice in the time we had with her and the mercy of her passing. I pray we can live in a way that will honor her legacy.