Three years ago Grandma left this life at the age of 95. Some days I still feel the loss deeply, but I still have her gifts.

When I was 2, she gave me a teddy bear for Christmas. I named him Brownie, and I still have him tucked away safely. He was well-loved through all my years of growing up.

When I was in fifth grade, she drove 45 minutes each way to leave a package on my doorstep while I was at school. It was a jewelry box to celebrate my victory in the school spelling bee. I still have the spelling trophy, and I still use the jewelry box.

When I was in high school, Grandma packed egg salad sandwiches on her amazing homemade bread for the long trip to my state swim meet. I do not still have the sandwiches, but I like to bake bread from scratch, just like Grandma did. I’ve never mastered her thin, crispy sugar cookies, though.

When I was in college, Grandma sent me lots of letters and gave me stationery and stamps so I would write back. She did this for each of my cousins, too, and the letters she sent us are precious memories now that she is gone. She wrote about mundane things – the weather, family news, senior group bus trips – sprinkled with an occasional profound thought (“I’ll be glad when you get home from college. This war business makes me nervous”) or piece of advice (“I can’t tell you what to do, only what I wish you would do”). Yes, I still have the letters.

Grandmas Gift

And every year, there were holidays at Grandma’s house – big family gatherings with aunts, uncles, cousins, Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy, lefse, a host of Scandinavian cookies, and always lots of laughter. On Easter Grandma hid jelly beans around her house for the grandkids to find. And every year at Christmas, someone found a stale jelly bean. I felt grown up when I was allowed to stay up for the candlelight Christmas Eve service at Grandma’s church.

Grandma spent the last several years of her life in the Alzheimer’s unit of a nursing home, where she was safe and eventually content. My first visit there, I cried with grief on the way out. The last, my husband and kids joined me. She was joyful that day and laughed – it was her laugh! She wanted the cafeteria to serve the kids ice cream. This was the grandma I knew.

At one point during that visit she said she needed a piece of paper to figure out how old she was. I told her she was 94. She looked at me, then laughed aloud and said, “I am old, aren’t I?!” It was the last time I talked to her. We lived 800 miles away, so visits were infrequent. I still sent letters and pictures, but her letter writing days were over. I look forward to hearing her laugh again when I meet her in heaven.

In her life, Grandma gave her time, her energy, her warmth and acceptance, her home, her prayers, and herself, fueled by her joy and faith. Simply put, her gift to me was, as she signed all her letters, love. Thank you, Grandma, for your beautiful gift that lives on in my home!

{Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on MomLife Today in December of 2012.}