I love great love stories. I love all kinds of love stories, not just the ones captured in books and featured on screen. My favorite love stories are the ones I've personally witnessed unfold throughout my life.
I come from a big, traditional Midwestern family. You'll understand my roots if you've ever seen "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Granted, I'm not Greek, nor do I struggle with the chaos that comes with having 56 relatives. I actually look forward to adding to it myself someday.
My dad is the oldest of eight children and seven in-laws. I'm the oldest of 19 grandchildren. My goddaughter is the oldest of 21 great-grandchildren. Needless to say, because of my huge family, I've watched many really great love stories blossom over time.
My all-time favorite love story is my grandparents. Sadly, my grandma passed away peacefully recently.
My family was going through old photographs and cherished memories my grandma kept with her all her life. I reached into a pile of keepsakes and found a letter my grandpa wrote my grandma one year before they said, "I do." He was in South Dakota, and she was in Minnesota.
It was a love letter!
When I asked my grandpa if he wanted me to read it to him, he gently shook his head "no." Out of respect for him and their great love story, I'll keep the details of the letter private.
While I'm sure he forgot the exact words within the letter, I know he remembers the meaning captured on paper all those years ago.
Their love was like a waltz that started on the dance floor in Minnesota.
Like the waltz, their love affair was long. It flowed effortlessly at times. And, like the best love stories, it had continuous turns. The tempo of the waltz is slow and invites very powerful and dynamic movements from all dancers. Just like my grandma and grandpa.
The most powerful love stories are made up of more than just romance. They are built on a foundation of partnership and friendship. My grandparents were experts at that. Love stories include humor and for a writer like me, the banter exchanged between my grandparents over the years would definitely make for a best-seller.
The word that keeps coming to mind to describe my grandma is "radiant." She was like the sun in ways. She had an endless supply of light to give out. And she poured light out to everyone she had the opportunity to shine on.
Celebrating the life of a loved one who has passed is always painful. Having such a big family doesn't make the experience sting any less. There is comfort, however, in knowing so many others are going through the same range of emotions as I am.
While I'm mourning my grandma's passing, my heart has expanded thanks to all the love running through and around my big, traditional, Midwestern family. It's a beautiful example of the great love story that founded my family and a tribute to my Grandma's light.
I'm grateful I had 36 years to experience my radiant Grandma.
I'm grateful she was profoundly loved by so many all her 86 years.
Mostly, I'm grateful to have been witness to a magnificent waltz.
I've learned some fantastic moves from a loving woman and look forward to putting them into motion when my dance begins.