• remembering Grammy H

    This is my grandmother, Harriet Heanssler, the way I remember her.

    This is my grandmother, Harriet Heanssler, the way I remember her.

    My grandmother, Harriet Heanssler, passed away early Sunday morning. She is survived by her four children: David (my father), Kathy, Nelson and Charles, and also by my grandfather, Basil. An enumeration of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have to wait until my Uncle Chuck has finished writing her obituary.

    What makes this moment especially poignant to me is that my grandparents had just celebrated 70 years of marriage in February. I am so glad they had each other for so long–they are amazing in their tenacity in stick it out and love each other through good and bad.


    My most vivid memory of my grandmother is when I went to her house to clean when I was in my early teens. She was meticulous about housekeeping, and showed me how to dust into the ceiling corners and wash the baseboards, a concept completely foreign to me. Now that my own baseboards are covered in dog hair, I begin to see why this is important, but at the time I was completely confused by this. I did not see the dirt that my grandmother saw, but I followed her instructions and was rewarded by a treasure hunt in her closet later.


    I never saw Grammy H. like this!

    I never saw Grammy H. like this! Isn’t she beautiful?

    Other memories of my grandmother will be common to all of us grandkids: Christmas at their home with Grammy presiding in the kitchen over huge pot of lobster chowder, sometimes calm, sometimes flustered, always directing others to fill serving dishes and relish trays with food.

    My grandmother was a doer. She was a Martha, not a Mary. The only time I ever saw her sit down was at Christmas when it was time to open the gifts. And she would sit, ensconced in her chair, and we children would play Santa (often begrudgingly) and bring her gifts to her. Since we drew names for gifts, Grammy and Grandpa were the only people that had tons of gifts at our “Christmas Eve” celebration at their home. So she really had no choice but to sit and open gifts. She did seem to really enjoy it, though.


    The last time I saw her was this past summer. My grandfather was ill and in the nursing home at the time, so she was being cared for by my aunt. My mother invited her to dinner along with me and my husband, and my sister’s family. By this time my grandmother had Alzheimer’s and was hard-pressed to know who I was. I’m not sure she knew anyone really but my dad. However, she sat with us at dinner smiled, ate everything put in front of her with great enjoyment, and sat with us watching television that evening. I don’t know when I’ve ever seen her so relaxed, so willing to just sit and enjoy being with people, even people she couldn’t identify.


    My grandmother is now in the kingdom with Jesus. I imagine her catching up with old friends, visiting with her parents, and others who’ve gone before her. Just sitting, just enjoying, just resting and enjoying the gifts Jesus is bringing to her.

    Do you have a memory of Grammy H / (Great) Aunt Harriet / your own grandmother you’d like to share?

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