It has been exactly one month since one of my favorite people in this world passed away. Though it is still very difficult for me to talk or write about, I wanted to share a little bit about my kindred spirit, my role model, my friend, my grandmother: Corinne Georgianna Treml.
Grandma was a magical type of person. If you met her and gave her even a minute of your time you were bound to have a new friend for life. She brought unbridled joy and endless enthusiasm wherever she went.
Throughout my life, we shared many moments of uncontrollable laughter, sometimes to the point where our cheeks ached and our stomach muscles cramped. If anyone came upon us during these fits of laughter – with our tear-soaked, bright red, scrunched-up faces – they would have thought we were crying hysterically. I credit the development of my abdominal muscles to all the laughter Grandma and I shared.
My siblings and I were very blessed to have Grandma and Grandpa Treml so actively involved in our lives. They never missed a performance or special event, they went with us on family vacations, and when my parents wanted to go on their own vacations, Grandma and Grandpa would stay at our house with us. I always looked forward to having them babysit because it gave me the opportunity to hear Grandma’s stories. Most of the time she told funny stories, but from time to time, she would tell scary ones. Those were always a treat. Grandma had some very frightening ghost stories and on several occasions, we would both get so drawn into her stories that we got goose bumps and watery-eyes due to fear. Moments like those solidified my love for storytelling, as well as my love for scary things.
For Grandma, storytelling was a natural thing. She had a way of taking ordinary information about people, sanding away the dull spots, polishing up the remarkable features, and displaying them for all to see. She did this for everyone she loved. If you had asked her about me, she would have told you that I look like Sharon Stone, am an up-and-coming writer working on my breakout novel while also working as a freelance artist/graphic designer and running my own dog rescue out of my house. She was our biggest cheerleader.
One of my fondest memories of her cheerleading was when I participated in my middle school’s performance of The Music Man. I played the very minor role of Woman # 3. I had three lines and was basically a background decoration throughout the play. Grandma gave me the prettiest blue dress with white lace for the performance. I still remember the dress rehearsal when the actress playing Marion The Librarian snootily told the teacher that she should be wearing my dress since she is the lead actress. Later, when I told Grandma about it she said “You may not be the leading actress, but you can still dress like one!” After the opening night performance, when the entire cast came off stage to greet the audience, Grandma excitedly approached me and exclaimed “You stole the show!” Even though I knew I hadn’t, her confidence in me always made me feel like a superstar. It still does.
Not only was Grandma the biggest cheerleader, best storyteller, and most uplifting person to be around, she was also the most glamorous grandmother I’d ever seen. She was the kind of lady who never went anywhere without perfect makeup, perfect hair, and nice clothes. She told every woman that an outfit is never complete without lipstick. That has always stuck with me and I find that I feel naked without my lipstick on.
Even well into her senior years, she had the reputation for getting all dressed up and “dancing the night away.” Without fail, she was the last person left on the dance floor at the end of the night. Her bright spirit and beauty had a way of taking up all the space in every room she entered. She was absolutely impossible not to love.
Even after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she still got dressed up in fancy clothes with perfect hair and makeup for every doctor’s visit and treatment. She wanted to show the doctors that she was full of life and not willing to give up. While many people with terminal illnesses become discouraged and withdrawn from life, Grandma never stopped making plans. Whether she was planning on attending one of her many Red Hat Society events or planning another trip to Hawaii, she refused to stop looking for ways to continue enjoying her life. The last thing she said to me was “I’m sorry I’m not feeling well, honey. Next time you visit me we will paint the town!” She was true to herself until the very end.
Her memorial service was at maximum capacity and though we were all devastated by such a major loss to our lives, we found ourselves laughing through tears as we listened to stories about Grandma’s glorious life. She really knew how to live and love. She left all of us with an amazing life model.
I want to share one more thing with you. It is a promise made by my grandfather to my grandmother at one of the most pivotal moments in their 65 years of marriage. This promise is so special that just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.
Not long after Grandma was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Grandpa started having some health issues of his own. After undergoing several tests, their doctor called them into his office for the bad news: Grandpa had terminal cancer and would need immediate hospice care. The doctor told them that most likely Grandma would outlive Grandpa. They were devastated. Grandma began to cry and when Grandpa tried to comfort her, she told him, “I can’t live without you. You can’t leave me!” Grandpa, being the calm and collected man he is, held her hand and said, “I’m not going anywhere. I promise I won’t leave you.”
He kept that promise. He took care of Grandma in the house they lived in almost all of their lives together until the morning she passed away. She left her body around 8am on March 14th while sitting in her favorite chair, less than ten feet away from him.
She is now inside a beautiful urn on their mantle. Grandpa touches the urn and talks to Grandma daily. Every time I see him do this it reaffirms my belief in the power of love.
The day after Grandma passed away, my mother and I found many of her handwritten notes with quotes and poems she wanted to remember. On one of these notepads, Grandma wrote down a quote from the novel Tuesdays With Morrie, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.” I find it to be very comforting and true, especially when I look at Grandpa. His strength and courage throughout this very difficult time would make her very proud. Grandpa is the kind of man all men should look up to. Their love story is inspiring. Grandma did everything right in her life and I am so proud to be her granddaughter.