I’m sitting on hundreds of photos and tons of products and experiences to speak about, but before I do that, I need to share about something that’s happening in my life.
My grandmother died yesterday.
The matriarch of my maternal family was a a proud woman, a strong dame who endured the death of many friends and family members before she herself passed away, a little more than a month shy of her 90th birthday.
Loss is nothing new to any of us. I’ve lost many more family members, but this one is especially tender. And so, if you’ll grant me a moment to tell you about Frances Elizabeth Brooks Hale, I’d love to tell you more about one of my greatest beauty icons and heroes. I may not have the chance to do this again while everything is so fresh in my mind.
My Grandma was a strong woman. The daughter of a woman who cleaned houses for a living, she wasn’t afraid of hard work. She also wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself when it came to earning that living. She was one discriminated against while working as a secretary, and proudly stood up to the offending manager, stating, “I was eating before I got here, and I’ll eat when I leave. But never again speak to me in that manner. I won’t stand for it.” Nobody messed with Frances. Nobody.
My Grandma was a vain woman. Honestly, I wish I was more focused on my appearance in this manner. Even after recovering from multiple surgeries, even after she was resigned to spend her existence in a wheelchair, she still took a bath every single day, and made sure her hair was neatly pressed, brushed, and separated into two pigtails on the side of her head. As Carpal Tunnel Syndrome gnarled her wrists and mangled her ability to manipulate her strands, she asked for help every once in a while, but my grandmother was dressed, hair done, and smelling beautiful every single day of her life. Her favorite fragrance was Estee Lauder Youth Dew. I’ll be taking some with me to spritz her one last time before we lower her into the ground.
My Grandma was a complex woman. I don’t feel she would fault me for saying that. She was very complicated when it came to interpersonal relationships of all kinds, and she had a pretty wicked temper. But when she loved, it was with fierce abandon, and when the light of her heart shone upon you, it was like standing in the sunshine. Grandma was a devoted friend, a loving mother, and a very inspirational grandmother. My relationship with my grandmother evolved from that of a superior to child to women who were absolutely passionate about making it on their own. She was determined to live life on her terms, and she managed to do that until the day she died, no matter what was thrown at her.
My Grandma was a stylish woman. I would ask her about the nights she used to go out on the town with my grandfather, whether to sing jazz or to hobnob with the elite she used to call “the 400.” She loved fashion, and was incredibly stylish whenever she stepped out of the house. Stoles, gowns, heels, lipstick – she lived for a good moment of glamour.
My Grandma was a funny woman. Wow, that broad had a lightning fast sense of humor. She had an acid tongue and could whip out a joke in seconds flat. Dry, impossibly sharp, and with quick jabs of humor that would leave me in tears on the floor, some of the funniest things I have ever heard came from my grandmother’s mouth. She quit smoking decades ago, but whenever I think of her in an impossibly glamorous moment, she’s sitting at the dining room table or on the porch, making a smartass joke between sips of iced tea and a puff of a cigarette. Wickedly funny, that one.
My Grandma was a determined woman. I’ve never seen anyone pull themselves through so many physical challenges. A car accident meant multiple surgeries that left her walking with a cane for years, and eventually a broken hip left her in a wheelchair. Colon cancer surgery occurred between those two events. I quit my job to move home and take care of her during recovery. I was sitting with her in the hospital, putting moisturizer on her face when she grabbed my hand and said, “Kristi, nobody is going to cut on me again. I mean it. I’m not going through this again.” When the colon cancer came back, I reminded everyone of this comment. She meant it…and she did it.
My Grandma was a woman’s woman. That woman went to her grave with so many of my secrets, it’s amazing there’s room for the side cushions. She relished the role of confidant, and wanted to know everything that was happening in my life. Good or bad, she wanted to know and talk it through. When I told her I got sober, she said, “I never knew you had a problem, but good for you. Don’t you let anything take you down. You have too much to live for.” She was right. I will carry on in my darkest hours remembering that comment.
And now, my Grandma is gone, leaving behind my mother, her sister and brother, my cousins and me to carry on with everything she taught us, every memory she left behind.
In a world where I work fastidiously to make sense of miracle creams and the latest fashion trends, I wanted to take this moment to mark the moment this gorgeous, stylish dame left my life. I firmly believe my beloved Grandpa showed up yesterday, took her hand and said, “Baby, it’s time to go.” Somewhere in heaven, she’s reunited with her beloved Leonard, and they’re young, beautiful, and dancing on the clouds. Her legs work, her hands are healed, her heavenly body everything she ever wanted it to be.
I’m grateful I said everything I ever needed to say before she left me. I’m so happy there was no stone unturned. Grandma left this world knowing how much her grandbaby loved her. I’ll make you proud. I promise.
Goodbye, Grandma. I love you.