Monday, May 23, 2011

Endings and Beginnings (in real life)

I just returned from Utah where my Grandma Joyce's funeral services were held.
Joyce Burgoyne
It was a beautiful service filled with music and singing in honor of this musical lady. In life, she earned the equivalent of a PhD in music education (EdD) and was also a concert pianist, despite a rare congenital illness that made her muscles stiffen to the point of paralysis in cold weather. It's because of her that I was raised in warm Arizona instead of Idaho where she grew up. But she didn't move to a warmer climate until after she was married and done with her bachelor's, so she dealt with the Idaho cold stiffening her muscles for two decades. In her personal history, she describes the embarrassment of being asked to play the piano for some event or another where the building wasn't kept warm enough and she wasn't able to move her fingers. Thankfully, my mother did not inherit paramyotonia congenita, so neither did I. But it's just one more reason I admire my grandmother. She also bore six children, survived polio during a pregnancy, and drove a motorcycle for most of my life (hard core, right?). As a teen, I bragged about my cool, tough grandma.

The end was just as difficult for her as the rest of her life. I don't believe anything was ever easy for her. But when she did say goodbye to this world, she did it after a full and incredible life filled with people who wouldn't be here if not for her--people who love her still. I'm grateful for the music she brought into my life, for the piano lessons I didn't always appreciate back then, and for the heart-to-hearts about being yourself and being vulnerable to love.

My own family of origin was way more huggie than hers. I remember one particular moment in my teen years when she pointed this out. I was hugging her hello or goodbye and she stiffened a little, as she usually did. Then she told me she's not used to hugs, but to keep giving them to her. She told me she loved me, also not something her parents said a lot. She was like that, always trying to move beyond habits and tradition to find what was really important. She came from an upper crust family of educated and traditional people, but chose to marry a war veteran and a cowboy who happened to value education and music as much as she did. Tradition went out the window.

In reflecting on Joyce Burgoyne's life, I hope to take from her legacy all the beautiful things: her love of music, her tenacious survivor spirit, her passion for learning, her open spirituality, her sometimes off-beat sense of humor, and her choice to allow herself vulnerability in matters of the heart. And I hope to think of her as this girl pictured above, because I know it's how she always pictured herself, even when her body changed and illness took over. To her bridegroom, so long waiting on the other side, she will always be the Joyce he fell in love with.

And the new beginning I mentioned in the title? That's them dancing together in the clouds.

10 comments:

  1. Hugs! I felt just as reflective when I lost my Mom last November.

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  2. I'm sure your grandmother would be proud of this thoughtful and loving post. It does sound like she had hard life, but worked hard to survive. Thanks for sharing this piece.

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  3. That was beautiful Katrina! Thanks for sharing your grandma.

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  4. Hugs. That was so beautiful.

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  5. Thanks, ladies. :) So much in life and death is universal. Thank you for sharing this moment of reflection with me.

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  6. What a wonderfully beautiful tribute to your Grandma. :) Thanks for sharing.

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  7. *hugs* This was so beautiful, Katrina. She truly sounds like a remarkable woman. :)

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  8. I grew up in Idaho and the winters were especially cold. Your grandma was an inspiration to have gone through all that pain and still earn her degree. Amazing.

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  9. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. I'm sorry for your loss, but what a blessing to have had her in your life.

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