My Grandma Hilton, my dad's mother, passed away last June from Alzheimer's. It was sad to see her go, but with Alzheimer's...loved ones leave much earlier than when they actually pass on. It is a cruel disease because you don't get the chance to say goodbye...they kind of just fade away before your eyes.
Grandma was a very mannered and proper woman. She loved to try and teach us manners and etiquette too. She had her pet peeves...things that just drove her crazy! Things like people wearing sandals, even casual ones (she especially hated flip flops!) without nylons. She did not like to see people's knees...she said they were too ugly to be seen! She hated it when leggings came into style, especially lacey ones! She loved to say things to me like, "I hope you don't wear stuff like that, it's very un-ladylike!" I never did...in front of her!! And then later in my teenage years, I did do it in front of her to prove to her that she could not tell me what I could and could not wear...I do have rebellious streaks in me for sure! We did not always see eye to eye, but I know everything she did because she cared! I remember having a sleepover at her house and seeing her trying to put up drapes on the curtain rods and hearing her swear for the first time...I really thought it meant the world was ending!! I absolutely could not believe my ears!! It's funny though, I seem to be one of the only grandchildren who ever heard her swear...I must have just brought the best out in her!
Grandma was raised on a farm by good parents who were very inactive members of the church. Her dad could swear with the best of them! She loved going to church though and she would often walk there with just her brother or sometimes she would go with the neighbors. She married grandpa in the temple. He was called on a mission after they got married and before their first son was born. He saw him for the first time when he was 18 months old. They sacrificed over and over again for the church. They served several missions in their later years and were as strong as steel in their testimonies. Grandpa is a sealer at the temple. He has sealed so many of his grandchildren to their spouses and almost all of the adopted children in my own family. (There are 6 adopted children between me, my sister, and my brother's kids!! It's not a strange thing to be adopted in my family!!) The legacy Grandma and Grandpa have given their family is one of strong faith and devotion to Heavenly Father and to our families. I am sure we will never quite realize the total impact that they have left on our lives. We are eternally grateful for their examples.
A few weeks after Grandma died, we had a reunion in Bryce Canyon with my dad's side of the family. It was strange to see Grandpa there without Grandma, but you could tell that he had a great sense of peace about him. We always hold an auction at the reunion where we auction handmade or baked items...and sometimes just even crazy things we find around the house...to raise money to pay for the next years reunion. Grandpa brought several things from home that were Grandma's to auction this time. He auctioned some of her beautiful silver pieces and things she had made. They were things that just reminded us of Grandma. One item that he auctioned really caught my eye, it was a pair of black and gold cowboy boots that I had never seen before. She wore them in the parade on the 24th of July up in Granite (above Sandy) when she was the Grand Marshall with Grandpa when he was the Stake President there. The boots looked just like new. They were super cute and now, 39 years later, they are totally back in style!! They are a size 6 1/2...I ran up and tried them on, they fit perfectly, we must have had the same size feet!! I bought them. I love them.
After the auction, I asked Grandpa to tell me more about them. He said that he bought them for Grandma and she did wear them in the parade, but she rarely wore them after that...I really think they were too flashy for how conservative she was! My uncle Joe came up to me after I bought them and told me that he has memories of them sitting at the front door and that he would put them on when he was a kid to run outside for a minute. They still had a little dirt on the sole of them...it's special dirt, it's from the Wasatch Resort at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon where they have lived forever!! They live in Wilford Woodruff's summer home...really!
I shared some very special moments talking to Grandpa about those boots. At one point, he took me over to his new Jeep Cherokee (his very favorite kind of car...he has had several, all brand new!) This one has the in-dash navigation system. He told me that he had my uncles put pictures of Grandma throughout her life on the hard drive in the computer on the dash. There was one of her as a young woman...signed, "Love, Ruth"...she was GORGEOUS!! He had one of their wedding day, one when the kids were young and some of her from about 20 years ago. He showed me his favorite picture and told me that he often drove down the road looking at her beautiful smile and talking to her. He said that they have had so many great conversations. He loves her so much and can't wait to be with her again.
I asked him about the last minutes of her life. She died in a hospital bed in their living room. Her kids that could make it were by her side throughout most of the final hours. During the last hour, it was just Grandpa and Aunt Su...their youngest daughter. He said her breathing was labored for a long time and then it just stopped. He ran to her and kissed her and hugged her and said, "Are you gone?" and then he kissed her again. When he looked up at her face again, he saw a tear roll down her cheek and he knew she had gone home. He said, "What a tender mercy from the Lord it was to see that tear fall." It really was...she was at home again and she was finally at peace and free from the Alzheimer's.
Grandma was a very special woman. There weren't many at the auction who could have fit into her boots. I felt like they were mine...like they were the perfect thing for Grandma to leave me. I know she would have wanted me to have them. It felt good to wear them to church today...it was very special and sentimental to me. I will wear them for years. They are amazing quality...Grandpa would have nothing less for Grandma. They almost still have that new leather smell. I love that they are black and pointy-toed. I love that the gold flashes through the black. I love that she left them for me. It felt so good to be in Grandma's boots.
Written December 13, 2009