she wore it like a crown

She is beautiful. She always has been.

This grandmother of mine, the one I call my Gram.

If there was a thing, the one she was known for, remembered by,

it would be her style.

During the reign of bouffant hair and in an era of mini dresses of butter yellow and avocado, she was the woman who kept a calendar for her daily outfits… needing to be certain she never wore the same thing twice in the same month.

Or maybe even that was too small a gap?

Her routine kept her life. When the sun had set and the night had settled in deep, she’d slip each slender foot into delicate, loosely fit night clothes and tie a thin white robe around her size two waist. She’d splash warm water on her Southern California tan face, then pull out her bag of brushes and pencils and powders. A heavy coat of eyeliner. Mascara to match.

A lady must always, always look her best. Even for her pillows.

She had her head shaved last month.

Radiation tends to make that necessary.

She says her head is cold.

Her house is impeccable.

The enormous solid glass table that graces the formal living room.

The gilded-gold mirrors opening the rooms.

The artwork, busts and statues, forty-year-old books placed just so.

Her closets are filled to overflowing with neatly organized clothes, thirty and forty years old. Shoes, tucked into boxes scrawled with vintage font. Jewelry carefully sorted into tiny clasped cases.

An Alabama girl who spent nearly her entire adult life in Orange County, California.

A brilliant combination of charm and beauty.

She wears a cap on her head. A turban to ward off the chill.

She fights to keep a smile on her face.

But she’s losing the battle by force, a bit more every day.

She curls up in a bed made for a king. Tiny and frail in one corner, sheets pressed and arranged neatly, even still.

Too much exhaustion to speak. No strength to summon a smile.

But her sheets must lie flat and the embroidered, trimmed pillows must be set gently across the room.

I kissed her cheek in the pre-dawn hours of a day two weeks ago, before an airplane swept me across states and mountains and so far away I can hardly breathe at the thought of the distance.

She hardly stirred. Didn’t open her thin eyelids.

But her lips quivered in the dark.

I love you, baby girl.

And she drifted back to sleep.

Cheek to hers, I breathed deep, wanting to save her scent.

Soft cotton, her cap, against my temples.

I straightened.

Captured her face with my pooling eyes.

She’s always been known for her poise, her radiance, her beauty.


in the dark of morning,
the depth of pill bottles and oxygen tanks and needing help to take each bite,

she shines.

Gram at Christmas ~ before she grew too weak to sit in her rainbow-hued chair.

37 Responses to she wore it like a crown

  1. Kelly Hagadorn August 10, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    I knew your mom as a child. A great childhood we had in a Fullerton west neighborhood. You described you grandma exactly as I remember her. The pictures are exactly as I remember her & your mom’s dad. I’m so happy I found your mom on Facebook. Childhood friends are the best. I’m so sorry for your loss. She was definitely loved & she loved you back.

  2. No.17 Cherry Tree Lane February 19, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    what a beautiful tribute!

  3. Miel Abeille February 15, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    What a lovely tribute to your Gram!

  4. Nicole February 15, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    A beautiful post, Ash. Made me want to cry.

    I remember the candy dishes she kept around her house in the desert and the candle stick phone you used to call me on when you stayed the night with her.

    I remember riding bikes with you and Zach down to her house to visit and how she was always so gracious and friendly and welcoming.

    Lifting up prayers for her, and for you all. Love and hugs, dear friend.

  5. HopefulLeigh February 14, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    Our grandmothers are very different but the way you’ve written about yours cannot help but make me remember mine. She died of cancer almost 4 years ago. I’m so sorry that you are walking through this.

  6. Debbie @The Hip Hostess February 14, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

    This post has touched my heart. Your Grandmother is what style & grace defines. Heart breaking and heart lifting to read this. What a remarkable lady your Gram is, I know the love you hold in your heart for her will last a lifetime. Not a day does by that I don’t think of my own Grandmother and everything she meant to me. Prayers to you and your family.

  7. Ginger February 14, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    My eyes are tearing. Man, you always have that way with me! I’ll be praying. My Mimi (grandmother) is one of my best friends! I just love her so!! Your Gram is beautiful!!

  8. Kelly @ Love Well February 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    This is so beautiful, Ashleigh. It stayed with me all day. She leaves a legacy.

  9. Kristi February 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

    Praying for your Gram, Ashleigh. And for your entire family.


  10. Kay February 14, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    So beautiful. Praying for your sweet family. *Hugs*

  11. Sarah Caron February 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    What a beautiful post! You’ve captured her beauty and poise so beautifully here — it’s breathtaking. My prayers to you, her and your whole family. Watching someone battle cancer is heart-shattering … my own grandmother, who was the center of all things for our family, lost her battle 15 years ago.

  12. Kalynskitchen February 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    What a beautiful tribute. Your writing is so compelling; you have really captured her beauty as well as your own.

  13. Kristen February 14, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    This post makes my heart ache. What a beautiful woman and beautiful words to pay tribute to her as well.

  14. thefarmerfiles February 14, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Such a beautiful and vibrant tribute to who she has been to you.

  15. Kaira February 14, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    Oh tears, tears and more tears. She is a beauty!


  16. Tracey February 14, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    She is as beautiful as your writing. Tell us more.

  17. Gina February 14, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    A beautiful Gram and a beautiful tribute.
    Prayers as she continues her battle.


  18. Jenny February 14, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    Ashleigh, our worship group has a woman who knits caps for people who are suffering from cancer and then our group prays over the actual yarn before sending it.

    We would LOVE to knit one for your gram. If you email me some details about what she likes, I can contact our resident knitter and get it started this week if you would like :) Hugs friend.

  19. Samantha R February 14, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    This is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. It must have been incredibly difficult to leave and say goodbye to your Gram.
    What a beautiful lady.

  20. Heather @ Mrs. Southern Bride February 14, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    What a beautiful, heart touching post.

  21. Heather February 14, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    Oh, Ashleigh, I’m sitting in a pool of tears myself. This is so hard. I love you all.

  22. jennifer February 14, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    no other words.
    watching someone fight cancer is so very hard.
    love you
    and praying for your family

  23. Craig February 14, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    Your gram reminds me of my mom Ashleigh. (That’s how old I am)

    This was perfect.

    Happy “five weeks left” Valentine’s day

  24. TidyMom February 14, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    too beautiful for words………
    thanks for sharing your beautiful grandmother with us!

  25. Jaclynn February 14, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    This is beautiful and moving, Ash.
    What a lovely Gram you have!

  26. Mariposa February 14, 2011 at 8:27 am #

    Lovely words for a beautiful woman! It’s so difficult to see the changes that cancer makes… I saw it with my grandma as well. May God give you all hope during this time.

  27. Jen February 14, 2011 at 7:39 am #

    Achingly beautiful. You have bestowed honour in such a beautifully soft way.

  28. Becky K. February 14, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    What a wonderful post. The photos and your words….lovely.
    Your Grandmother is loved and loves…deeply.
    It is evident.


  29. sarge charlie February 14, 2011 at 6:00 am #

    wonderful post asheigh. btw, I still have that exact red pokey dot tie.

  30. Vicki Fourie February 14, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    She is stil so beautiful!! They say women age – but your grandmother aged so beautifully.

    Thank you for the ageless (excuse the pun) post.

  31. Elizabeth in Alaska February 14, 2011 at 1:46 am #

    So beautiful and sad. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of her life…

  32. Cathy R February 13, 2011 at 11:35 pm #

    Beautiful post, Ashleigh! Such a wonderful way to honor her. She was certainly a stunning woman!



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