My Grandma Beatrice Miller

I never met any of my four grandparents.  They all died fairly young and my grandma Beatrice died the youngest.  She died at the age of 38 from Breast Cancer.  I have been thinking so much of her since this whole thing started…even when I was called back for my first biopsy.  I have not been thinking of her in the way like “what if I die so young like she did” as I know of course that the medical field has grown leaps and bounds since Bea’s death in 1947, but more like I feel connected to her in a special way.

I have just been thinking about her a lot…wondering what must it have been like to have fallen terminally ill at the age of 35 with 3 small kids.  I have been so curious that I had several email and phone conversations with my mom and my Aunt Paulette (my mom’s older sister).  I loved the words my Aunt P shared as they just paint a colorful picture of a time and a woman I never knew:

She kept a kosher home and we were pretty orthodox in those days.  On Friday for our shabbat 
dinner she would make a chicken fricassee for an appetizer for our dinner that I LOVED and wish I had
her recipe now.  On Sunday Mom and Dad ate steak and the children lamb chops. That was fine with us.
One night I had a nightmare and was crying uncontrollably and she held me and tried to sooth me,
what seemed like the whole night.  When Marlene had rheumatic fever and I had measles she kept us separated in different rooms and had lysol curtains in between the rooms.  The house was quarantined
and no one was allowed in or out.  The Doctor wanted to put your Mom in the hospital but she would
not hear of it.  Her demeanor with us was gentle and I never remember her yelling or hitting us.
My mom has always said that she remembers her mom being warm, kind, and gentle.  When I did my Family of Origin paper in graduate school, I interviewed lots of my family members about stories, rules, belief systems, etc. in my family.  At the time, my Aunt Ethel was the only surviving sibling of Beatrice’s seven siblings.  In fact, Ethel just died just last year at the age of 100! She had twinkling blue eyes and a lovely demeanor.  I have been reviewing notes from our conversation back then and she shared that Beatrice “had a lovely, warm personality just like your mom”.  She painted a picture of a time when they all lived in the same apartment building on the west side of Chicago and all the cousins and families would get together on Saturday nights. “There was music being played and food and kids playing and it was a wonderful time”.
Alas, and then my precious Grandma Beatrice fell ill.  I can only imagine the bravery she had – and, at times, when I feel fearful and uncertain, I just think of her and I take a deep breath and I know somehow she is like a guardian angel to me.  In fact, of all my grandparents, I’ve always had a photo of her hanging at the very top of my stairs.  Why?  I don’t know.  But I find it fascinating that I look at her photo on my wall almost every night.  And now I stop and pause almost every night and thank her for her kindness, warmth, and courage.
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Beatrice Miller – probably circa age 35

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One thought on “My Grandma Beatrice Miller

  1. I love that your doing this Erika, so much to think about. Beatrice has inspired me in so many ways. I am so glad that she could be there for you too. In so many ways, like my wise friend Hannah just said, “I feel as if she is your guardian angel.” I love you so much and I am so proud of you, and your strength ❤

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