We spent most of the weekend with Stagg's family and friends and heard so many memories and stories. Saying goodbye to Grandma was really hard but everyone pulled together and the services and reception were really lovely and she would have been pleased.
I entered the Stagg family after Grandma was not mobile, but she was full of love and life for her family and she welcomed me as if we knew each other all our lives. The whole family totally accepted me and welcomed me to their huge network, especially after we got married (two years ago next month). Grandma couldn't dance like she used to but she was very mobile emotionally and had a great love for company and people. She was of a generation that believed in family, neighbours and friends all getting together for any occasion. In this way, she really reminded me of my grandmother who was similar in her extended capacity for opening their homes to everyone. On any given holiday during the course of the day a trail of family would appear and check in with each other, even if it was only once a year. This kind of draw seems so rare these days when people must move all over for work, or separate due to dysfunction or lack of focus, interest or the false feeling that we have "lots of time".
Grandma seemed to know that "time" was best spent with others...making food, serving food and sharing food with each other...for any excuse or reason. Grandma would light up when Stagg and I entered the room as if we were the only people around. She really had that special quality. As soon as Stagg saw her last week, she asked "Where's Candy?"
Stagg's cousins had made a poster board of photos from over the years and we're going back a hundred years of family picnics, celebrations and just household happenings. it was really amazing. there was Grandma in her sexy 60's dresses. there was Grandma in a halter top at Disneyland! there was Grandma in her flowers and lace for communion, in black and white photography. There is Grandma and Grandpa when they got married. It was amazing to see Grandma up and about...doing the polka at a church picnic. A whole life recorded hanging out with everyone who came to her final visitation. Among the stories and memories shared was that Grandma and Grandpa danced on The Lawrence Welk Show!!!
Whenever i would go to visit Grandma, I would sit on the floor beside her big comfy chair where she watched all her "stories" and hold her hand. The tv was always on full blast and she really had a lot of opinions about popular culture, politicians, and was sure to share them.
One of the main reasons that we have stayed in Chicago was because as soon as Grandma heard that Stagg was in love with a Canadian, she was so afraid he'd move far away. It has really been an honour to be here and to have been so accepted by the matriarch of his family. One of the most overwhelming feelings the past couple of days was a sense of dread that we wouldn't see the same people we have seen because Grandma's house was a meeting place.
Grandma's children created a weekend of beautiful respect for her life, and we were all able to make sure we not only said goodbye to Grandma in style....but that we could also touch base with each other. Sometimes, it seems like we lose the importance of "rites of passage" in contemporary culture. There is a reason on so many levels why we have these "rites of passage" occasions...and one of them is to remember to stay in touch.
I don't care what anyone says...spending time with the people we love is the most important thing we can do. Staying loyal to our friends and family as best we can...despite all our various flaws and follies is one of the most life-affirming acts.
it is so easy to get tricked into the illusion that "we have lots of time"...or that friendship or relationships with family, neighbours is something we can do when it's convenient. Or if this relationship doesn't work out...we can find another. It's so easy to not practice tolerance and patience with our friends and family and their flaws...we expect people to be perfect. Grandma was a woman who loved even when people weren't perfect. i can vouch for that.
But most of all...Grandma Stagg gave me a second chance to experience family that was so close to my own Grandmas approach to life and community...and I am so grateful.
From the Chicago Tribune...
Mary B. Stagg, age 96; beloved wife of the late Frank; loving mother of John (Leona), Frances (Gerald) Lukasik, Maryann (Patrick) Quinnett, and the late Robert; cherished grandmother of Kim, Anthony (Candy), NoeIle (Anthony), Kathy (Stan), Nathan (Kim), Renee (Brennen); proud great-grandmother of Jack, Aidan, and Alex; dearest sister of Chester Hudyka, and the late Edward, Josephine, Helen and Genevieve; dear sister-in law of Ted Stagg; loving aunt of Diane and many nieces and nephews. Visitation Friday, 3 to 9 p.m., at the Skaja Terrace Funeral Home, 7812 N. Milwaukee Ave., in Niles. Funeral Saturday, 9 a.m., to St. Eugene Church for Mass at 10 a.m. Interment Maryhill Cemetery. Funeral info: 847-966-7302
Click here to read Stagg's beautiful post for his Gramdma