I would love to blame it on the fact that I witnessed both a raccoon and cat get hit on two separate occasions, or that I went to a bathroom at a rest stop on the way to Indiana from Ohio and a second pair of underwear fell out of my pants, or that the rejections on my latest manuscript are the nicest, most complimentary I've ever had, making this writing thing as heart wrenching as when Aerosmith temporarily broke up. But no.
One week ago today, the woman I lived with off and on throughout the years, the woman who taught me how to be a human, the woman who made me understand what LOVE means, my sweet Gram, passed.
For those of you who follow me on any of my social media hangouts, you know she'd been sick awhile. The beginning of the end was official about a year ago when she moved into the first nursing home. There will be some of you, like me, who will see this news and think "she was old; it's what old people do--they die." Or "what a great grandma she must've been." And it's really difficult to put into words, to explain to those who don't know, who this woman was to me.
She. Was. Every. Thing.
For seven days now, I've awakened in tears, the feeling of her in this world...gone. No matter how much we all braced ourselves, said our goodbyes, nothing could have prepared me for this loss. Nothing. The air has been pulled out of my lungs. She was that necessary, that vital, to my life on this earth. Even miles away, just knowing she was there was enough to help me breathe and that thing, breathing, is hard enough already.
Even right in the middle of writing the obituary and eulogy, of helping pick out the flower arrangement for the top of her casket, of choosing the songs for the service, of transporting all the funeral flowers and writing thank you notes, there's been this one thing I can't seem to grasp:
She's really gone.
One thing you may or may not know about me is, when it comes to death, loss, my development is severely arrested. Try as I might, I can't connect the series of events so they make sense to me, so it hurts less. It's not in my vocabulary or thought process to lose such a valuable piece of me and have any sort of peace with it. If you've read anything about grieving the loss of my absentee biological father some 7 years later, you can imagine how broken I'm feeling right now, losing the most significant person of my lifetime.
Mary "Elsie" Carvin, 87, Jonesboro, went to be with the Lord at 5:54 a.m. on Saturday, February 28, 2015, at Marion Rehab and Assisted Living following an extended illness. Elsie was born in Scottsboro, Alabama, to the late Jasper and Ethel Evans. She married her one true love, James Carvin, of Big Springs, TN, in 1946 and was married to him for 44 years until his passing in 1990.
Elsie retired from Foster Forbes Glass Company after 30 years. She loved being with her family and was known for her delicious biscuits and gravy. She enjoyed watching WWE wrestling, Law & Order, and other crime shows on TV. She also enjoyed reading John Grisham books, doing puzzles with her sister, popping bubble wrap, and laughing all the time at anything. Her vivacious spirit and love of life will be missed immensely by everyone who was fortunate enough to have known her.
Elsie is survived by her two daughters, Sherry (Terry) McCann, Marion, and Kathy (Randy) Craig, New Castle; adopted son, Jimmy (Betty) Brown, Decatur, TN; five grandchildren, Amber (Clint) Callahan, Anderson, Amy Columbus, Jonesboro, Micah McCann, Marion, Candace (Erik) Ganger, Covington, OH, and Jacob (Leigh) Woodard, Wondunna, Queensland, Australia; 13 great-grandchildren, Blake, Brett, Brooke, Jasmine, Amiya, Ivy, Leyton, Preston, Sophia, Lilli, Sullivan, Payton, and Grace; one great-great-grandchild, Skylyn; sister, Margaret Dale Wesling, Marion; brother, Robert E. (Pat) Evans, Plant City; and many nieces, nephews, and friends.
Those also preceding Elsie in death include her brothers, Albert and Jesse Evans; sister, Annie McKinley; and grandson, Joshua McCann.
The family will receive visitors on Thursday, March 5, 2015, from 3-7 p.m. at Needham-Storey-Wampner Funeral Service, Storey Chapel, 400 E. Main St., Gas City, IN.
The Funeral Service will be at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 6, 2015, at the funeral home with Pastor Eddie Cantrell officiating. Burial will be at Riverside Cemetery in Gas City.
Donations may be made to the funeral home for funeral expenses.
Online condolences may be made at www.nswcares.com.
Most of you know me, but for those who don’t, I’m Kathy’s daughter, Elsie’s granddaughter, Candace. I’ve been writing most of my life, both personally and professionally, but, aside from the obituary, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever written because my Gram was literally, loved by everyone who met her, and there’s no way I can even get this close to right. But I’ll try.
1998 was the first time I said goodbye to her. I slept in the ICU waiting room while we prayed for her to pull through but little did I know how much fight she had, or how many times I’d frantically drive to hospitals many, many, MANY more times to say goodbye, over the years. She lived all nine of her cat lives and often said “you can’t kill a hillbilly.” But even through her pain, she never complained while caring for and thinking about others around her. She was the epitome of compassion and empathy.
What I’ll miss the most, though, is her sense of humor and ability to laugh at every situation, no matter how frustrating, confusing, or painful. A good example of this, was this past Monday. While funeral planning shouldn’t be a time of happiness, those hours spent pouring over every detail of Gram’s final send-off felt more like an episode of Seinfeld than a grief-support group. Maybe that’s not normal but it was the first I’d laughed, or maybe even smiled, since the news of her passing. And this, I know, would make her so proud of us because she wouldn’t want us wasting tears over her.
Some of my favorite memories are the simplest. I still very clearly feel her slipping on my shoes those early mornings before school. Or the smell of her as she hugged me. Or the way her hand felt on mine when she’d pat pat pat. Or the days she’d bring me waffles in bed and Grandpa would say “you’ve got her spoiled,” and Gram would reply with “well, it’s little,” followed by a kiss on the forehead and another pat pat pat on my hand. Those days were my favorite days in life and I so wish I could have more of them.
Going to her house meant there’d always be Coke in the fridge and bubble wrap on her bed. It meant Law and Order marathons at night—the ones with Jerry Orbach—and pizza on Sundays. It meant the best fudge on Christmas and the good luck meal on New Year’s Day (which I never ate). It meant feeling safe, secure, and loved, no matter what the world thought of me. It meant she’d be there through job loss and my first, second, and third broken hearts. It meant when the world was crumbling down around me, she’d be there with her arms wide open. No questions asked.
In elementary, she’d let me play in her makeup and curl her hair. In middle school, she’d pick me up and take me to Fazoli’s, where we’d share breadsticks and gossip about what’s happening in Star magazine, which she referred to as “the paper.” In high school, she’d find an old guitar of Grandpa’s that I’d get re-strung, so I could learn the Law and Order theme song. Just for her. She gave me self-confidence, believed in me, and made me think I could do or be anything.
In my adulthood, even after moving to another state, I couldn’t see her as much as I wanted, but there’s never been a moment she wasn’t with me in some way—mostly when I’m driving because I’m really just grateful I’m still alive after all those years of riding in a car she was driving. The state of Indiana thanks whoever finally took her keys.
Last May, when things started going downhill again, I went to see my hero on Mother’s Day. In all the fights she’d fought and won victoriously, I’d never seen her so weathered. I knew then, all those months ago, she’d surrendered and couldn’t fight another war. And I’ll never forget, as she looked at me with those long, thick lashes and said “I’m ready to go. I just want you to be okay.” I remember feeling choked up, doing everything possible not to cry in front of her. So I smiled and said “I will be.”
I lied. Because we all know a world without Gram is not okay at all.
I wrote something before all this happened where a fictional character, kind of inspired by Gram, says “the heart breaks harder than bones,” and though losing her is the very essence of this sentiment, I also know what she’d do in this situation—she’d comfort everybody else. In fact, I looked back on her Facebook timeline, which was like losing her all over again, and found this post she’d put on my wall after a surgery I’d had. Though, I know at the time, she was sick, herself. She said:
“Candace, honey, I can imagine what you are going through . I feel so bad for you. If it helps a teeny little bit, I love you and am praying for some relief from pain.”
I strive to be that kind of person. To live the kind of life filled with so much love and so little regret. To give more than I receive to laugh more than I cry. Because those are the all the little things that were the sum of the greatest woman I’ve ever known.
After a lot of tears and scrolling, time froze and for a moment, it felt like she was still here. And then I finally reached the end of her Facebook timeline, and found the exact message I want to leave you with, from Gram, herself. From April 2011 she said:
“I miss my sister, Annie Lee, and I miss my beloved husband, Jim. He will be gone 21 yrs. April 26th. Sometimes it’s like they went outside and will be back soon.”
So, friends and family, when the days feel hard, like right now, just tell yourself she went outside and will be back soon.
Thank you to all who've reached out. The truth is, no, I'm not okay. Not even a little. I feel her absence as much as I felt her life. This will take some time (like forever).
If you find it in your heart, please consider donating towards her funeral expenses directly to the funeral home. Being sick took everything from this generous woman and we struggled to give her a proper send-off. And even though we couldn't afford much, she deserved the world.
Now to get this m-effing book agented and sold so I can help pay off the funeral expenses and celebrate my Gram through the character I've based on her. I can hear her now: "I'm proud of you, babe. Be sweet." To which I would reply "no way," and she'd laugh...the rascal.
I love you, Gram.