Friday, May 15, 2009

The End

Vogue Grandma

The above photo was taken of my grandma, Lillian Herbrandt Stiefel, in December 1966 (the 25th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor) at the airport in Hawaii. I love this photo. We found it in a photo album when we were cleaning out Grandma's house. I'd never seen it before. She looks so incredibly stylish and beautiful-- that's how she always struck me. I admired her and respected her so much.

Her death came as a shock to us. We had gone down to South Carolina in March to visit grandma and when we saw her, she was the same goofy grandma she always was. I dragged her all over Batesburg, Lexington, and Columbia taking her to thrift stores with me. Ironically, we visited the undertaker and what would become her grave (I'm a sucker for cemeteries, and he just happens to be an old family friend who knows where all our relatives are buried). She stayed up late with me every night (to midnight or so) and would drink beers with us and laugh over the silliest things. She was like a girlfriend to me. A girlfriend who was oh so proud of me (she adored her granddaughters: me and my twin sis, Erin), and loved that I was following my dream, but worried about me every time I headed to New York, or abroad. She was the best book club member you could ever want-- she let me pick all the books! I'd read them, then send them along to her, and a week or two later, we'd discuss.

I was in New York when I got the call that she had passed. We'd been trying to get a hold of her the week before, but hadn't had any luck. No one thought anything of it, since Grandma lived alone, and she was a bit hard of hearing so she wouldn't hear the phone ringing, or a lot of time, she would be out gallavanting around town. We don't know when she died-- her neighbor found her on May 1st, sitting on the guest room bed with the tv on-- she had just gone to sleep. She had been dead for a few days when he found her.

We spent last week cleaning out her house. Because of the odor associated with her decaying body, everything in the house that would hold a scent had to be removed. We spent five long days sorting through and divvying up her belongings. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through. It makes one wonder what is a life if it can be dismantled so quickly?


One of the neat things about an overall shitty process was seeing the things that Grandma had cherished. She loved her children, her grandchildren, and her great grandchildren. I was struck by all of the old letters and cards that I had sent her that she still had. She loved photos and had photo albums coming out of her ears (so to speak). She had the last set of photos that my grandfather had been in (he passed away in 1997). She had videos of me from when I had first started modeling-- back in the days when I appeared on MTV and my QVC appearances.

It's been a hard couple of weeks for me. That ever-looming depression seems to be geared up for a return (why, oh, why did I stop taking my anti-depressants at Christmas?). I'm missing the woman that I loved so incredibly much. I'm cursing my own faith that is so weak that I can't be happy that she's gone and in heaven with her Lord.

In short, I am diminished.

Thanks to my friend Lief for his comforting words via the poetry of my favorite metaphysical poet, John Donne:

...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Thank you everyone for your comforting words and prayers. I am so thankful for my friends and those people that support me. You are invaluable.

For those of you who still have grandparents, and moms and dads, take my advice and give them a call. Tell them that you love them. You won't regret that you did.

This is part of my grieving process. I will be back to my old self shortly, I promise. I know all too well that life goes on. I have other news, and shop updates, and new books that I am reading. I'll be back soon.

One of my favorite pictures of Grandma. I'm on the left, and Erin is on the right. Just look at the smiles on our faces to see how much we loved her.

Grandma, I am the luckiest... because I had you in my life.



emme said...

Oh, Elise...I hardly know what to say. My heart goes out to you in this so very difficult time. I know how terribly hard it is to lose someone you love.

Your Grandma seems like she was a beautiful woman. I'm sure she was so, so proud of you and your sister...believe me, she knew how much you cared.

My thoughts and prayers are with you,


TD-2243 said...

That was a wonderful blog to read and so sad at the same time. She was so close to you and I know it's hard for you right now. I'm sure she was an awesome lady. That airport picture is so cool and it kind of looks like you at first glance. We're praying for you and it's not really the end, although it would seem so.

Angel with horns... said...

Feel sorry, darling.. Said it before aswell. I love the way you write. And your Granny really was nice, stylish...And so on...Good and sad story at the same time!
Good that you had her.!