Remembering Grandma Heyen

My Grandma Heyen's long battle with Parkinson disease ended on August 2nd, 2014. We spent the next weekend with family and friends in Kansas celebrating her vibrant life. Though she spent the last eight years of her life bed-ridden from her disease, even the youngest of our family had learned something valuable from Grandma and her great perseverance and spirit. As more family and friends arrived and shared their memories, it seemed clear that the way she used her time on earth centered around the same recurring themes of food, family, and faith.

Grandma taught in a one-room schoolhouse, she helped Grandpa farm in several Kansas counties, she raised 5 successful children, she hosted countless meals, parties, events and holidays, and she loved on her friends, family, church and community whenever she got the chance. The term "the hostess with the most-est" was likely coined for her, because she kept her large house full of people, amazing food, and fun to keep them entertained.

 My favorite memories of Grandma and Grandpa were from Harvest time on the farm each summer, when Grandma would be so happy helping prepare meals for the big crews in the fields. One very vivid memory was of the year we killed and cleaned a bunch of our chickens before frying them for a big dinner. Grandma took the lead on all of those fronts and I will never forget standing with her in the pink trailer home she and Grandpa stayed on in the farm, watching with fascination as she carefully cleaned the birds.  

Much like harvest time, holidays were always exciting because Grandma and Grandpa filled their home with their children, siblings, nieces and nephews, grandkids, friends and neighbors. There was enough food to feed an army (which we were close to having that many people on the farm some years), and usually games, talent shows, and... more food. Grandma had a "fancy room" with pink velvet chairs, pretty paintings, a small chandelier, a turquoise curio cabinet (that I now proudly keep my 'pretty things' in), and at the end of the room, a piano and an organ that sat opposite each other. She would play her heart out on the piano, but I loved when she would wrangle the whole family into little talent shows in the room at a holiday event. Grandpa would be fiddling around with a fun new toy or silly singing object, walking out to the shed to tinker on things, or in my favorite memories, be standing watch in the driveway as we pulled up to one of the three garage doors after arriving for the festivities. We would wait for him to come out from behind a door like we were playing our very own game of Let's Make A Deal, and then he would help us with our bags and usher us into the warm house where a comfy bed, a sweets drawer, and lots of family were always waiting. If you woke up early, he'd have extra helpings of breakfast sausage and powdered donuts for you, and if you stayed up late, it was extra scoops of ice cream. 

My favorite part of the funeral weekend was the catered meal that the family offered for all of the guests so they would stay and eat together- fried chicken, potatoes, green beans, and lots of different flavors of pies. Grandma would have been thrilled to share a good meal with all of her favorite people in one place. 
After the meal, our family drove out to the farm for the afternoon. Being home in Kansas at the end of summer made for a really nice retreat and it was great to be reunited with the whole Heyen -Dietz clan. 

I sorely miss my grandparents. I would give quite a lot to sing with Grandma one more time, see Grandpa drive around the corner in his Scion, or hear the funny and familiar creaking of the floor in their house as they happily moved around making meal. I know the holidays will always be less magical without them, but I am so thankful for their legacy and I am so glad they are both home now.

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1 comment:

  1. I am sorry I just now read this, but is a wonderful tribute and gives me additional inspiration to be a "memory making" grandma someday.