Connection Beyond Death

by Dana Boyle on July 3, 2012

I met Dianna Traina on my 8th birthday.  We went to a birthday party, but it wasn’t mine.  It was for the lawyer my mom worked for.  Her co-worker was Dianna.  Dianna knew it was my birthday because my mom had been talking about it at work, so she brought me a little gift to the party because I had to be at someone else’s party on my birthday without mention of me.

Inside the box was a dainty silver chain with a sparkly crystal pendant.  I felt more special in that moment than most other moments in my life.  They say that people don’t remember what you say or do, but how you make them feel.  Dianna always made me feel like I was the most special child on the planet, and like I was a miraculous blessing.  Her face always lit up every time I walked into the room.  She did that for every child, but made you feel like the only one.  She was like a grandmother to me, and I miss her very much.

I still have that necklace, but I don’t need it to remember her.

Instead, what I have are a bunch of memories and activities that we did together, things she taught me and entrusted me with that make me remember her in my daily life.  I don’t think I go a single day without her influence, even now, and she died when I was 19.

Today someone posted about folding a fitted sheet the right way on Facebook and I commented that it’s one of the most vivid ways I can remember Dianna and be with her now.

When I was an adolescent, I watched her in awe as she folded a fitted sheet perfectly, as if it was a flat sheet.  Perfect corners.  She even ironed sheets, and I used to make fun of her for it.  She would tell me stories of her childhood and how her mother took in laundry for extra income because her father had passed away, her mother was a widow and had to raise three girls alone.  She was expected to help and learned at an early age.

There, in the basement of her house, she taught me to fold a perfect fitted sheet, removing all the mystery and giving me a great sense of domestic accomplishment.  I didn’t think much of it and I don’t think I ever folded a fitted sheet like that again until after she had gone.  Now, I do it deliberately because I can sense her there with me as I do it.  I hear her talking to me, see her smiling at me, and feel her embrace as I fold the corners into each other and imagine her hands over mine the way they were when she taught me more than twenty years ago.

Someone else on that Facebook thread commented that they “got over” needing to fold the sheet right and they just stuff it in the closet because life’s too short, not realizing that some of us fold the sheet because life is too short and we are remembering and loving those who taught us and left us with their legacy.

Dianna gave me a lot of my domestic skills and confidence.  She had a boarding house for veterans and when she went on vacation to visit her son in North Carolina she’d entrust me with running her boarding house – making the meals, doing the laundry, making the beds and watering her flowers.  She taught me how she did it so that I’d do it like she did and her boarders wouldn’t miss her while she was gone.

She taught my mom to garden, and my mom taught me.

She kept an immaculate home and prided herself that anyone could stop in any time and it was exactly how she wanted it.  She made meals every day and loved sharing them with those she loved.  She adored children and collected extras to add to the three of her own.  She had an amazing and exemplary spirituality and faith.

I don’t do those things in my own life because I am beating myself up or trying to live up to unreasonable expectations.  I do them because it helps me feel connected to one of the most influential women in my life, and because it comes naturally to me because of her hand in my life.

One of the best ways to continue a relationship with someone after they have passed on is to remember the things that they taught us and to do those things in their memory, knowing they are never far away.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather Gaddy July 3, 2012 at 10:23 am

I think of Dianna probably everyday. She laughs at me when I do something short brained, I am sure of it. She watches over me, I can feel it. I know she enjoyed watching me dig up the flowers in your yard in Racine a few weeks ago, jumping on the spade to get under the roots and breaking the plants apart. I learned how to do that by watching her teach Mom and helping her in her yard.

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Dana Boyle July 3, 2012 at 10:39 am

Heather,

I always think the same thing…every time I do something goofy where you wonder if anyone was watching you I bet she was and is laughing her butt off. She was good for that…being ditzy and laughing at herself. Yes, every time I have to jump on a shovel or want to get in my bathing suit to do yard work, or buy something little and special for the kids to play with at my house it’s all stuff I know she’s watching and smiling over. And every time I see something that needs to be done in my house and I walk past it, I walk back and do it because I can hear her saying, “Now why would you walk past that? Just pick it up and it’ll be done now and you won’t have to do it later.”

Kiddie pools make me think of her, too. Easter eggs. Front porches. They way I fold my underwear, lol!

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Katie McClain July 3, 2012 at 10:29 am

Dana- This is beautiful. It made me think of my dad. He taught me hospital corners and how to make a bed. I still make my bed the way he taught me to this day. I can’t sleep in my bed if someone else makes it! I wish he’d taught me how to fold a fitted sheet. :) Anyway, I appreciate my dad when I make my bed and didn’t even realize this until now. Thank you!

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Dana Boyle July 3, 2012 at 10:34 am

Thank you, Katie. I’m glad that my post made you realize your dad left you yet another gift that you can be aware of every time you make or get into bed. It’s the little things, isn’t it?

I can’t sleep in a bed someone else made either, except my mom or myself. :)

Someone has asked me for a youtube tutorial on folding a fitted sheet. I just might do it.

xo

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Tamara Beachum July 3, 2012 at 11:07 am

What a lovely memory to hold on to!

When my grandmother died my grandfather asked me if there was anything I wanted of hers. I asked for the small wand she used to make pin-curls in her hair every night and a set of the white sheets. I would often sit with her in the bathroom as she stood in front of the mirror setting her hair for the next day before she tucked me in for the night. That little wand sits on my make-up table and reminds me of her sweetly every time I look at it. I used the sheets for as long as I could but they don’t fit the matresses anymore. They are neatly folded in my linen closet and probably always will be.

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Dana Boyle July 3, 2012 at 11:40 am

Awwww. You’re tearing me up, Tamara! Thank you for sharing that beautiful memory of your grandma. See? This is another reason why “stuff” isn’t just stuff. We never know what has meaning for us and why. Sometimes when it’s tough for someone to get rid of “clutter” we have to ask ourselves what it might mean to them. I’m not talking “hoarders” or anything, but keeping something that seemingly doesn’t have a use, form or function.

I suspect my husband’s shoe shine box from his grandfather has much that same meaning every time he takes it out and shines up our shoes. I can feel the love he experiences while he uses that precious piece of wood and the tools inside it.

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Kate July 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Hi Dana – I think a lot about the traditions and rituals of women, family, and tribe. this post is so inspiring in so many ways. It captures the essence of why I do somethings the way I do them, and how I have the power to create connection, love and wonder in all that I do. I LOVE the way you put all of this into words – it articulated a lot of the things I’ve been mulling over lately.
Thank you
Kate

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Dana Boyle July 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Hi Kate,

Thank you for commenting and visiting the post and site.

It is exactly what you say…an explanation of relationships, ritual, generations, heritage, legacy, and so much more. I am so glad it is inspiring to you and confirming to you.

I’d love to hear what you’ve been mulling over either here or via chat. Thanks for connecting!

Dana

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