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The Life Between the Lines


Today I wrote my grandma’s obituary. It goes something like this:

1923 – 2017
Elizabeth passed away peacefully on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, with family at her side. Elizabeth was born at home in the Wilmont area, where she spent her life as a homemaker helping out on the farm. She attended Keller school and attained a Gr. 7 education. In 1943 she married Anthony and they took over the family farm. In 1955 they had one son, Gerard. Their son took over the farm and they retired to Humboldt. Elizabeth was an active member of the CWL and was very involved with St. Augustine’s Parish. In her spare time she enjoyed bowling, playing cards, embroidery, quilting, rug making, knitting, and sewing. She delighted in showing her visitors her latest creation. Elizabeth loved to visit with family and friends, and always made sure that you left her house full of her delicious cooking and baking. She lived in her own home until she was 90, then lived her last years at St. Mary’s Villa.

Elizabeth is survived by her granddaughter, Kristen (Michael) Raney and son, Dominic; brothers and sisters: Allois (Joyce) of Lanigan, SK; Arnold (Frances) of Armstrong, BC; Marcellus (Roszita) of Bruno, SK; Rose of Humboldt, SK; sister-in-law, Phyllis of Humboldt, SK.

She was predeceased by her husband Anthony (1982); her son, Gerard (2009); her parents, John and Veronica (nee Winkel); brothers: Norbert; John (Muriel); Wilfred (Helen); Joseph (Lorraine); sisters Margaret (Theodore); Gertrude (Robert); sister-in-law Agnes; and brother-in-law Leonard.

(I’ve taken out all the last names for privacy.)

How can a few simple sentences fully sum up the measure of a person’s life? They can never express how loved she made me feel. They don’t tell the story of what she really meant to all the people on that list.

Where is the part about how as a little girl I begged to stay overnight with Grandma whenever she visited? Or the gigantic lunches she sent to school with me when I stayed overnight? (Hopefully she’s finally forgiven me for accidentally throwing away a real spoon!!) Or how we drove each other crazy talking to each other while walking somewhere else in the house? What about all those trips to McDonalds with Dominic? There’s no mention about how I still hear her voice in my head telling me to make straight rows when I plant my garden.

What about all those parts that I don’t know about, and are missing because I’m the only one left to tell her story? How much did her husband love her? How did she feel when she finally held my dad in her arms after four miscarriages? How her heart ripped in two when he died before she did.

Her whole childhood is reduced to one sentence. There’s nothing about whispering with her sisters into all hours of the night or singing with her whole family on a Sunday afternoon. No one will ever know about how hard she worked as a child on the family farm, and later on the farm she married into.

A life is not the things we do or own. It’s about the people in it and our relationships with them. It’s about the lessons we learn and those that we share.

I’ve learned many lessons from my grandma over the years, but she taught me the most powerful one as she lay dying:

Happiness is a choice.

She spent 8 days without food or water. During that time she never complained, when I most certainly would have. (Oh the hanger!!!)

Even when she could barely speak, she still smiled, laughed, and tried to tease us back. She asked for hugs, prayed the rosary, and told me she loved me. While being at her side was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, in some ways, it was one of the most beautiful.

So readers, as you go about your day today, take time to really enjoy your life. True happiness isn’t found in the big gestures and successes. It’s found in the little moments we’re grateful for everyday.

Kristen Raney

Kristen Raney

Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots.  She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden.  She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.

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Hi, I'm Kristen and I help new gardeners learn to grow their own vegetables and beautify their yards. I also share recipes that use all that delicious garden produce. Grab a coffee (and your gardening gloves) and join me for gardening tips, simple recipes, and the occasional DIY, all from the lovely city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

P.S. First time gardener? You'll want to download the quick start gardening guide below!