Monday, June 16, 2014

goodbye will be missed

As some of you know, we have recently suffered a devastating loss. We had to say goodbye to my wonderful grandma. While this may come as a shock to you, it was even more of a shock to us. While she wasn't in the best health of her life, she was not suffering from a known illness. A few months ago she started complaining about a pain in her side. It was constant and annoying, she told us, but nothing terrible. We convinced her to mention it to her doctor. After the annoyance started interfering with her sleep she went to the doctor to try and get the issue resolved. They thought it was a blockage, so they ran some tests. Everything came back normal. They thought it was a GI problem, but all the tests came back normal. They could not find the source of the pain, lack of appetite, or nausea. After getting dehydrated, she was admitted to the hospital. We thought that finally they would be able to figure out what was going on and fix it. After many tests, they thought it had something to do with her liver, her enzymes were low and she was accumulating fluid in her abdomen, but they didn't know why. They said it wasn't cancer and wasn't cirrhosis, but something obviously wasn't working right. After a week, and her seemingly doing better, they sent her home. And in the three days she was home she took a turn for the worse. She wasn't eating or drinking, was weak, and started turning yellow. Back to the hospital she went and more tests were conducted. Still no answer. So they transferred her to SF where we were told they would be able to do more thorough tests. She arrived on Wednesday May 7. They ran a battery of tests on Thursday and finally discovered the problem: pancreatic cancer. It was blocking the bile duct, which was causing all the issues with the liver. We were hopeful. While we knew it wasn't good, at least we had an answer, which we hoped meant a solution. They put in a stint to help the liver start functioning again, but it was too late. The kidneys had started shutting down. Her liver was in bad shape. And it was stage 4 pancreatic cancer. There was basically nothing they could do. After holding vigil at her bedside and watching her deteriorate in the hospital for two days, she passed away on Sunday May 11 at 7:30am. Mother's Day. It was one of the worst things I have ever gone through. 

the first day we met :)

our last Christmas together

wine tasting together

A week later we were saying goodbye all over again when we had to lay her to rest beside our beloved Papa. Many people came to the service and we enjoyed sharing stories about her at the wake. It was a hard day, but a good day. We celebrated her life and leaned on each other during the difficult time. 

You all know how special she was to me, and instead of trying to convey those feelings again, I am going to share the Eulogy I gave at her funeral....

For those of you that don't know me, my name is Shannon Clute. It is an honor to be able to share a few stories about Janice, our grandma, with you today. But it is daunting to do justice to a life that has spanned 75 years. A life that ended far too soon. I don’t know a lot about her childhood, or what she was like as a young teacher, a wife, or a mother, only what kind of grandma she was. A role she enjoyed and cherished for over 30 years. She was good at it. We may be biased, but we think she was the best grandma in the entire world. While I could stand up here and tell story after story, I will try and keep it as short and sweet as possible.

For starters she loved drinking black coffee in the morning while reading the newspaper. She enjoyed eating out with friends and family (especially at Ciao Bella’s). She loved sharp cheddar cheese with a glass of Andre Champagne. You could usually find her sitting at her kitchen table watching sports on TV. She was such a huge sports fanatic that when she played in our pro pick em football league this past season and got 2nd place out of 19 participants! One day I asked her how she was so good at it and she said, “Oh honey, I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s really just a crap shoot”. She was genuine, funny, and her laugh was infectious.

She was also the most patient person I have ever known. Nothing could get her mad or frustrated. This is one of the many attributes that made her the perfect teacher, and an amazing grandma. A characteristic I wish I had more of. When I graduated high school I wanted to be a teacher just like her, teaching elementary too. It wasn’t meant to be for me, and when I called to tell her that, she wasn’t disappointed or mad. She was supportive and understanding.

That was Janice, she always understood. She never held a grudge. She never had a negative word to say about anyone. She genuinely believed that everyone was good at heart. She treated every person she met like family. You were more than an acquaintance to her. You were her friend.

As her granddaughter, I not only felt special, but extremely loved. I wish everyone could have the type of relationship that we had. She was a blast to hang out with, and one of my best friends. I talked to her at least three times a week. I asked her for advice, told her about my day, and sometimes just called to hear her voice. We were incredibly close. In fact, the day my husband and I found out we were pregnant, she was the first person we called to share the good news with. She was excited beyond belief. I can still hear her high-pitched, ecstatic voice. We told her she had to keep the information to herself for a while. Well, let me tell you that her secret keeping skills were not that good when it came to her becoming a great grandma. It only took about a week before she spilled the beans to Rachel. She claims it just “slipped out”, but she was just too happy to keep it in any longer. And the day we found out our baby was a girl; we couldn’t wait to tell her our daughter would share her middle name, Grace.

She shined in her new role as GGMA. She learned how to change diapers again, gladly babysat for us, and loved nothing more than reading and playing with Charlotte. Because we have lived so close over the past few years, they built a wonderful relationship, one I hope Charlotte remembers. But even if she doesn’t, I plan to tell her all about her great grandma and how much she loved her.

she loved being a GGMA
I will also tell Charlotte that Grandma was the strongest person we have ever known…. which you would never guess just by looking at her. When we had to say goodbye to her husband, our papa, 17 years ago, it was one of the toughest times in our life. I can’t even imagine the pain and loss she felt. But it never showed. She was our rock. She pushed through and brought our family out of the darkness. We leaned on each other. And now here we are, saying goodbye to her, feeling that deep sadness and loneliness again. The only thing we can do is stick together, just like she would want us to, because family was the most important thing to her.

And she showed that by being a constant presence in our lives. She made sure she was at every milestone. She attended every graduation or awards ceremony. She was there the night Matt proposed. She was by my side on my wedding day. And she was in San Diego as soon as possible to see her great granddaughter for the first time. But she was also there for the little things, like picking us up from school every day. Or nursing us back to health if we were sick by snuggling us under the magic blanket. Or by giving us a call when she knew we were having a bad day just to say she loved us.

my wedding day
We were the center of her world. Instead of spending money on possessions that collect dust, we spent it on traveling together, making memories that last a lifetime. Every year from birth to age 14 we went to our favorite camping spot, Doc & Al’s, in Bridgeport, CA. She always had red white and blue outfits for us, including crowns and jewelry so we would be all decked out for the 4th of July. We took walks, watched movies together, and played games. And when we became adults, we traveled the world together. Europe, Mexico, Canada. We went on a Caribbean cruise, an Alaskan cruise, to NYC during Christmas, Lake Tahoe, and the list goes on. One of my favorite memories is from our cruise to the Caribbean. After dinner and drinks in her room, she met us out at the club at around 1am and danced the night away with us. Not sure many other Grandmas are that cool. It just shows that she was always up for an adventure and I only wish we could have gone on a few more together before saying goodbye.
on a trip to tahoe together
Even though the only way we will ever hear her voice again will be by listening to the voicemails she left us over the past year, I know she is still with us. In fact, I know she is here today, sitting amongst us, happy to see each and every one of you. And her spirit will be walking beside us and comforting us every day until we are reunited.


Right now I am sure Papa is teaching you all the tricks to being the best guardian angel. Make sure he shows you how to turn on the lamp, I sure love it when that happens. After 17 long years, you are finally reunited. Give Papa a kiss for us and try to enjoy your time together. As for us, we will try and get on with our lives, because that is what you would want, but not a day will go by where we won’t think about you. Every time we get a room with a view, go camping in an RV, or go on a cruise we will think of all the times we shared together. You are unforgettable. You taught us how to love unconditionally, forgive indiscriminately, and that nothing was more important than family. Every single day of my life I am going to strive to be more like you. We miss you and love you.

until we meet again
You will both be missed and thought of every single day for the rest of my life.