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This necklace belonged to my mom’s mother, but for me it represents both of my grandmothers.

Grandma H died in September of last year. It was a terrible time for me, because the day she died was also the day my husband went into the hospital. I had not slept well in days or been able to function much at all, and I had no idea if we would survive the ordeal. And then Grandma died. I rode with my dad to pick up his parents in Arkansas en route to the funeral in Nebraska, where my mother already was. She got to spend the last few days of her mom’s life with her, thankfully. I spent most of the ride sleeping or listening to scripture. I was spent physically and emotionally. My sister and her family traveled separately and we all converged to celebrate the life of a woman who had touched us all deeply.

Little did I know it was the last time I would see my other grandma.

My dad’s parents got into a car accident on Thanksgiving day, a horrible event involving a deer. Grandpa was ok, but Grandma was not. She spent a couple of weeks in the hospital before she died from her injuries. By this point, my husband was well again but we learned that our church leadership did not want him to return the night before the funeral. I had a panic attack in the hotel room I shared with my sister (neither of our husbands were able to come with us) but at least calmed by the next day as we all paid our respects to my grandma. Every single first cousin of mine was in attendance, and none were wearing jeans, which she forbade in church. She would have appreciated that, I think.

While the necklace in the above picture only belonged to one grandma, I have come to see it as representing both of the women who birthed my parents. Grandma H (my mom’s mom) and Grandma G (dad’s mother) were both strong, but in different ways.

Grandma H was the mild-mannered sweetheart who spent a fortune spoiling us, since my sister and I were her only grandkids. The pearls remind me of her soft, beautiful nature and gentle attitude. But she was strong, too. She kept driving for far too long, and she held tightly to her family no matter what happened. She is the only person I have ever allowed to call me “Stephy,” partly because I knew correcting her would break her heart and partly because it was just so her.

Grandma G had a harder edge, like the chain, evidenced by her strong, stubborn refusal to give into anything she disagreed with. From her, through my dad, I got my tell-it-like-it-is nature. She believed in telling the truth, and spoke up if she didn’t like something. But she also loved fiecely and held onto her family like no one else could, shining her convictions in everything she said and did.

These twin strands of silver chain and soft pearls, these two women who were beautiful jewels themselves, have shaped me in ways I am only beginning to understand. Whenever I wear this necklace, I remember them both and try to honor them through the way that I live.