I know. I know what you’re thinking, and yes – I readily admit it. I’ve been super absentee lately. What started as a small break because family was coming to visit and I had too much to do, turned into a little blogging break and then snowballed into just well, blog neglect? For my loyal readers and supporters, I do apologize. The break has been nice though, and times have been busy as of late. Work is going full swing, so has home life. But before I can delve into stories of runs I’ve been on and adventures in which I’ve partaken, I must take today to post about something serious, something sad, something hard.
My Grandmother died last week.
A week ago today, actually.
Sally Ann Jacobs Eckerle is no longer with us. And seen it coming as I may have, it still stings and hurts – the circumstances surrounding her last earthly day took us all by surprise and have left a bigger hollow than I could have anticipated. But isn’t death always like that? You always prepare and stonewall yourself, you brace and prepare… and yet, your efforts be damned, it still sucks the wind out of your sails with it’s urgent appearance, pulls at your heart and spirit to leave you bereft with sadness. And disbelief and questions, longing, missing, emptiness.
My Grandma had been sick for a while, she wasn’t a spring chicken. Not as spry and energetic in recent years the way I had always known her to be. We knew time wasn’t on her side, of course. Rational, smart people can always perform simple math. But even with that knowledge in the back of our minds, I was caught off guard. She had a tragic accident last week, and now… she’s gone.
I have to stop the sad talk and darkness here though. Not for myself, because I assure I could go on… but for her. This is NOT what she wanted. She didn’t want tears, not ever and especially not now. She didn’t want a process surrounding her death, she didn’t want us to fuss, she didn’t want to upend everyone around her. She just wanted to go and to be at peace, and asked that we trust in what is to be and find our own peace too. Not exactly religious, but more than spiritual, she did acknowledge the full-circle nature of nature – she knew that death was part of living. As a woman who really lived – boldly coursing through life with chutzpah – she didn’t fear death or despise it. She was ready, I think.
And in my own beliefs, and the strength I find in God – I have to trust, and be willing to trust, in His timing and in His ways. I know she’s better now, I know she is in happiness now. And I thank God for giving me the peace and serenity I so need now.
My Grandma was amazing.
Where to start?
She was strong, smart, outspoken, kind, passionate. She’d always tell you what she thought, you always knew where you stood with her. She was blunt, she was honest. Her heart bled for so many – she felt compassion for causes the world over, and always took the time to understand how a person could feel. She taught me a great deal about empathy, about being a humanist. Back before the Internet, she’d educate me about women’s rights issues in remote places, about sex trafficking and slavery. If she could have fixed it all, she would have.
She had long, strong legs… and I just have this image of her in my mind as both standing firm and tall (she was 5’10 after all) and also of her striding through life, strutting really, with her long legs stepping over obstacles and challenges and never breaking her pace. She didn’t really let others get in the way of her determination, you know.
When I was little I was somewhat resentful of who she was. I wanted a tiny old Grandma, a cuddly woman with soft white hair. I wanted a Grandma who rocked in a chair, knitting, and telling stories.
My Grandma was big and booming, brassy and brazen.
As I grew up and grew into my own strengths and glaring personality, I understood her better. Through my own challenges and experiences, I became the “me” I know myself to be today – both resolute and kind, strong yet sweet. In recent years, my Grandma used to compliment me on the woman I’d become. “You’re really a nice person, Rose.” She’d tell me. And I know she meant it as a compliment – sometimes being nice is difficult. And I knew that (I haven’t always been so nice, you see). She saw the changes in me, from bratty teen to confident adult, and she approved. Really approved.
She loved me.
I admired her. More than she knew, I suppose. I tried to make sure she got the idea – it’s hard to say how successful I was at that.
She didn’t have it easy. Her first husband died when my Dad was only five. She raised my pops as a single Jewish woman in NYC, post WWII. The world was harder back then, people more unforgiving. Feminism wasn’t yet to have burst forth. She worked jobs taking lower wages than the men around her. She felt the heat and pain of antisemitism all the time. She knew the heartache and loneliness of being a young widow. And yet she held her head high – always.
When her husband died, she found out she was pregnant. Securing her role as a harbinger for women’s rights, she sought an abortion. Yes, in the 1950’s, she went to Cuba to get one. The shame she was forced to crawl through to take care of her own body left her with a hunger to assure that others didn’t have to do the same. She always fought tooth and nail for women’s sexual and reproductive rights, and I’ve always admired her for that. A true feminist, I hope I do her proud as I keep that torch going.
Well read, well traveled, sophisticated in many ways and yet rough around the edges when she wanted to be. She lived through a lot. She knew a lot. I just can’t express well enough how she was just so able to get from life so very much. She could really grab life by the balls and make it hers. She was funny, she was charming. Witty and crass too.
Seeing her get ill in the past several years has been hard for all who know her. She hasn’t been herself at 100% for a while. And that was tough. For someone who’s been able to shine so brightly, it’s hard to see her personality dampened and darkened by the clutches of Alzheimer’s, and the slowing of her body thanks to COPD. I resent the sickness that detracted from the fullness of her character. She did too.
So now that it’s all said and done, I can at least step back and say: she lived a full, rich life. Her memory will carry on for a long time to come, and she will be both loved and missed forever. And when I take my own selfishness out of the equation, I recognize she’s at peace now, reunited with loved ones she’s been too far removed from. I’m happy when I think that she’s with Stanley again. Her father. Her brother. She’s missed them all, and so many more. That’s the terribleness of out-living everyone you know. We may be lonely for her voice down here, but she’s without want now – and that fills my heart.
Thanks for reading this. It means a lot. I love any chance to spread her legacy just a little bit further, to have one person aware of who she was. I wrote this all as a stream of consciousness more or less, and I’m worried that if I go back and edit it, I’ll end up just hacking it to pieces and taking things out. So I’m going to let it ride… probably full of typos, and blistering with raw feelings, but it’ll be real. And honest.
Oh, and the title: SHE LOVED THE LION KING. She really did. She loved animals so much, Spirited Away was her favorite movie – how rad is that?!?! She was so rad. Really really truly rad, without trying at all. There’s just so much I could say about her, she was so dynamic, she did and saw so much, she held so many ideas… it’s really hard to sum her up, and I hate even trying to. But I don’t want to keep this post going forever, so I’ll wrap it up. I loved her, I always will.
Here’s her obit, as written by my Dad and Stepmom and put in their local paper:
Sally Shapiro Eckerle, age 85, widow of the late Richard Eckerle, passed away at home in Leesburg on August 23, 2012. Born in New York City, May 5, 1927, she moved to Miami, Florida in 1974, later resided in Delray Beach, Florida for 28 years until she moved to Leesburg in 2008 to be with her son and daughter-in-law Scott and Anna Shapiro. She is also survived by her grand-daughters Rose Duggan (NY) and Anna Shapiro (NY), by her step-daughter Edith Eckerle (VA), step-son Kenneth Eckerle (GA) and sister-in-law Ellie Jacobs (CT). Sally graduated for NYU with a bachelor of arts degree, worked as the executive secretary for the P.A.L. in NYC, office manager for the Miami Home Builders Association until retiring in 1978. Her interests included mah jong, bowling, card games, word puzzles of all types and socializing with friends and family. She was an avid reader and was always in the middle of a good book. In honor of Sally?s wishes, there will be no service and her body will be cremated. In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to the Humane Society, one of her favorite organizations.
Thanks for reading. You can count on me to be “back” now – my blogging break is over, and I’m excited to catch everyone up with all kinds of hippie missives. Love to you all – tell the ones you love how you feel, because life is so precious.