My very special Mother-in-law of 33 years passed away last year on October 1st. Ella was born only two weeks before the anniversary of her death so this post is in celebration of both the birth of baby Ella and the Life of Grandma Pat.
Patricia Ann Vernon-Cole, a wonderful mother to 5 children, grandmother of 11 grandchildren and great-grandmother of 7 was truly the matriarch of the Vernon-Cole family. This strong woman of integrity, determination and unconditional love is greatly missed. We miss her paintings and the artists paraphernalia strewn about her house, her love of gardening and animals, and the vegetable soup she would make when we’d visit.
If I could talk to Pat today about life and death, I can imagine what she would say… Well you know, that’s how life goes. And it’s not a bad thing. One person leaves this world and another comes into the world; that was the Lord’s plan from the beginning.
When we first learned of Pat’s cancer it was only 2 weeks before our trip to Europe. Pat, being the pragmatic person she was, assured us there was no reason for us to miss the trip. At that time we all thought she had many months and possibly years to live. While in Europe Steve’s brother kept us abreast of Pat’s condition. He conveyed her message, “enjoy a bowl of soup in a garden for me”… and so I did. Steve was working and I toured alone during the day so I found a quiet little cafe in a small village with a garden patio and ordered a bowl of soup at Pat’s request.
The cancer progressed more quickly than expected and when Pat took a turn for the worse, Steve notified his coworkers and we changed our flights to leave the next day. All three of our children and 1 grandson were able to make it to Washington from California to see Grandma Pat. For her final weeks she was surrounded by all 5 of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, other family and friends. We spent quality time sharing, reminiscing, laughing and crying together.
The very last words she said to Noah before he left to go home to California was “See you later alligator”. Rachel and I were in the store one day and picked up a t-shirt that said “later alligator”. We looked at each other with understanding and bought the t-shirt in memory of Grandma Pat.
I remember once when talking to Pat about a project I was working on she said to me, “You want to finish the job, but you are not enjoying the process”. She was right! And that is how she lived her life. She didn’t anticipate or worry about the end or the outcome but enjoyed the process of living. While in her 50’s, single, with two high school aged children at home and holding down a full-time job she successfully completed college and earned a Master’s Degree in Education. In her 60’s after the children were grown, she moved to Adak Alaska by herself where she worked for 4 years. Then at the age of 83 we received a phone call letting us know of her plans to go skydiving!
Rachel took a picture of this quote by Charles Swindoll that had hung for years on Pat’s refrigerator alongside the many photographs of her family. The perfect summation of Pat and the way she chose to view and live her life.
The other day we received a package in the mail from my dear sister-in-law Claire. She sent us a set of lanterns just like the one’s that had hung in her mother’s hospital room. This was her way of sharing a little bit of Mom with us. So in loving memory of Patricia Ann Vernon-Cole and in celebration of Ella Marie Johnson we hung the lanterns where Ella can see them. She will look at the pretty bright colors and we will tell her stories of her special Grandma Pat.
When I saw this poem by Rabbi Alvin I. Fine it made me think of Pat and her life’s journey… to life everlasting.
Birth is a beginning and death a destination;
But life is a journey.
A going, a growing from stage to stage:
From childhood to maturity and youth to old age.
From innocence to awareness and ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion and then perhaps, to wisdom.
From weakness to strength or strength to weakness and often back again.
From health to sickness and back we pray, to health again.
From offense to forgiveness, from loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude, from pain to compassion.
From grief to understanding, from fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat, until, looking backward or ahead:
We see that victory lies not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage, a sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning and death a destination;
But life is a journey, a sacred pilgrimage,
Made stage by stage…To life everlasting.
This post is linked to Grand Social