My beloved Grandmother, my mother’s mother, Dorothy Dannenbaum Rudolph, fondly known by us all as “Dede,” passed on from this world late last night at the seasoned age of 94.
She died in the comfort of her own home, in her own bed, with her two loving daughters by her side. She had been preparing for her departure for some time, having outlived her beloved husband of 64 years, and most of her closest friends; she was truly ready to go.
I sat at my altar last night, three thousand miles away from where she lay actively dying, and lit a candle and prayed for the gentle release of her amazing life. I cried and cried as I sat there, sending her all my gratitude, all my love for her graceful passage. My children came and sat close to me by the altar, quiet and respectful. They spoke softly into the flame, “We love you Dede, we love you…”
My heart is full of overflowing tears today~ my tender love and attachment to her precious life alongside my sincere joy for her release, her long-awaited freedom from a body that had become quite burdensome for her to bear.
Martin Prechtel’s teachings on the sacred necessity of grief come back for me in moments like these~ knowing that it is on the river of our tears, our immense love for them alongside our grief in the loss of them, that our dear beloveds find their way home to the other side.
Dede was a remarkable and exquisitely beautiful woman. She was regal and wise, funny and charming, whip-smart, bossy and incredibly generous. Every single day, even up until the very last days, she would insist on getting dressed up in all her finery~ beautiful clothes and jewels, her white-golden hair pinned up just so. Every single day was a special occasion to look her best for.
Mother of 2, grandmother of 6, and great-grandmother of 14 children to date(!), with one more due to be born in January, my beloved Dede was dearly loved and respected by more than could be named, all across the globe, and a greatly revered Matriarch in her small town, Williamstown, MA, where she lived for most of her adult life.
I was the firstborn grandchild, the only grandchild for the first 6 ½ years, and was blessedly spoiled in Dede’s love. Some of my favorite memories of Dede are from when I was a little girl, luxuriating in special time with her. I loved just hanging out in her dressing room and watching her put on make-up and do her hair. Sometimes she would let me help decide what she would wear~ the azure blue perhaps, or maybe the chartreuse? I would sit on the toilet seat in her bathroom and watch as she carefully applied creams and blush and lipstick. The room always smelled distinctly and strongly of the perfumes she wore.
In her dressing room she had a drawer with a special box in it, and inside the box a long blond braid of her own hair, cut off when she was young. It was the exact color and texture of my own thick, honey-gold hair, and sometimes when I was budding maiden, 10 or 11, Dede would let me attach the braid to my own hair, and I would swing it around, my hair suddenly reaching down the length of spine. Sometimes I would try on her big bras, stuffing them full of socks. Somehow to “try on” my beautiful grandmother as a young girl filled me with the sense and promise of my own regality, my own elegance, my own timeless feminine beauty.
Through my childhood and teens my grandparents had a home in Florida our family would visit a few times each year; an amazing house on Captiva Island, right on the beach. My favorite childhood memories come from our visits to Captiva~ those long days of warm salt and sand, barefoot and wind-blown curls, our skin turning to gold as we swam in the turquoise waves, walking for miles collecting the abundance of sea-jewels that had washed upon the shore. I loved sitting close to my grandmother on the porch as she worked her crossword puzzles; loved relaxing near her as we read novels side by side. At bedtime she would often come and sit on the edge of my bed, telling me stories from her childhood, filling me with images that were strange and wonderful to take in. She would use her perfect nails to tickley-scratch my back just the way I liked, and she would sing me the songs that her own mother had sung to her. Her love seeped into my skin, announcing to every cell inside me that I was cherished and seen.
In recent years how I loved our phone conversations. Her mind was incredibly sharp until the very end… and yet I could feel the exhaustion in her voice, and almost a kind of boredom with life, and her health was rapidly declining. She struggled to breathe, to walk, to eat without pain. And so when we talked I would tell her the stories from my life, all the adventures of Arayla and Ezra, and she would ask questions, living vicariously, listening with rapt attention, laughing at all the funny parts. In the last months, feeling her imminent departure, I began thanking her every time we spoke, telling her how much I love her, how much we would miss her when it was her time, and how we would carry her inside us. I can still hear her voice, saying: “Thank you for calling, Dear. I love you too.”
Oh fresh tears to my eyes~ to remember her with so much love and gratitude. To know that my life, and that of my sisters and dear cousins and now all our own children’s lives and unborn generations to come have been so uniquely blessed by the immense love and light of our Dede. To know that Dede lives on so boldly in our blood, in our hearts, in the subtle twinkle of our eyes and gestures of our hands, small ways with which we each touch and are touched by life.
Whatever that was in my grandmother, that made her dress up each day, even at 94(!) for the special occasion that each day is, she has passed it to me, alongside her love for jewels and intelligence, real art, sacredly mundane story-telling and beauty in its many forms. I love feeling this inside me~ this unashamed fanciness of hers~ and I pray to walk through my life with as much elegant grace as she did.
Of all the countless gifts my grandmother gave me, most profoundly she gave me the gift of my mother, Marta. How bonded Dede and I have always been in our mutual love for my Mom~ how blessed we each felt~ Dede to be the proud mother of, and me the adoring daughter of~ this incredible woman of earth and art, kindness and realness, beauty and humor, graciousness and humility.
With my grandmother’s passing I can feel myself as mother and daughter somehow more acutely, cushioned in the lineage between my own beloved mother and daughter. The love they share in their love for me; the bridge I am for them in that. The long line of light, of wit, of elegant beauty that runs through us from timeless generations of women before us, and perhaps, grace willing, countless generations still to come. What a gift to appear within this line of remarkable women.
Fly free my beloved grandmother. You have lived and loved so well with your long, amazing, remarkable life. We carry your love, your generosity, your blessed life-force inside us now!
We honor you with our love for these lives we gratefully live.
We honor you, we thank you, we love you, and we bless you on your way….