Irene Louise Thomas
I have been wanting to write about this since last Sunday when I got the call from my mom… my grandmother had finally lost her year long battle with small cell lung cancer 🙁 on Sept 21st around 11AM in the morning. At first I was okay, after I got off the phone with my mom I instantly started to bawl. I went & found Brian and told him what happened. I sobbed in his arms for about 10 minutes & then tried to continue on with my day as best as I could. Until this last year I have been blessed, I have lost very few loved ones and I have always managed to be the strong one who was there for the rest of the family. For the first few days I managed this very well. Then Thursday came around & I stopped by my grandmas house with my mom to get a copy of the will (she was left as the executor of the estate which is a whole ‘nother story) and we walked through the house with my uncle (he lives there) & talked what grandma had wanted done with certain things. Later we went to the Oak Harbor Farmer’s Market (one of the farmers markets that my grandma sold at until she lost her sight last fall; the first real sign something was wrong) it was hard but I was okay until I got home that night & it all hit me.
I grew up helping my grandma with the Coupeville Farmers Market at all 3 of the locations it has had over the 19 years I have lived on the island (though my sister helped her the most at its current location cause I had kiddos). From time to time I would stay the night at her house helping roll out her pie crusts & making tarts with the left over scraps & filling that would also be sold at the market. I helped her selling the crafts that she & my mom made at holiday bazaars earning a couple of bucks for helping out. In the summers we would go help in the green house washing pots for .05 & helping & learning about plants. She is the only one who taught me to knit, bead earrings, and to do needle point. I learned to bake & garden thanks to her. She is the one that taught me that you can make anything you want & if you work at it you can sell it too! Between the skills my mom taught me (many my grandma taught her) & the drive I got from my grandma when it comes to crafting, she is the main reason why I can do what I do today.
Life did not come easy for her evening a very young age when she had to be splint up from her sisters for adoption. She was adopted by amazing people & was raised well. Though after getting married and starting a family she didn’t have money and my mom and her 6 brothers & sisters did not have it easy. But my grandma worked hard and did what she had to do. When my great grandmother passed away in the early 90’s my grandma took what she got & re-invested it into greenhouse & her crafts… she did what she enjoyed doing to make money to support herself. When she wasn’t sewing, beading, doing needle point, knitting, gardening or publishing a bead book to try and make money she was helping local low-income families get school shoes & supplies in the fall & with Christmas presents during the holidays through the Farmers Market originally & later through the Island Gift Foundation. She may not have had any money to leave behind, but the knowledge that she left me is priceless and will be cherished for the rest of my life!
I think this is why I am having a hard time, I love & miss my grandma, nearly all my hobbies remind me of her because she is connected to them in some way. I still have to make some of her pies with her berries for her celebration of life this coming Saturday and though I am looking forward to getting to make them for her, I am sure there will be more tears to come. I just try to remember all of the great things that she taught me & think about how I get to pass them down to my kids!