Thursday, May 24, 2012


My mother was a spitfire. For a woman who was so versed in manners and protocol, it is amazing she survived her own childhood. From my own parenting, it’s important to carefully select the stories from your youth to share with your children. If this is true about the stories she told me, I can’t imagine what she did not tell me.
The “ravines” is a beautiful stretch of Sheridan road that winds north from Wilmette. The road is carved into the landscape and is loaded with blind corners. It ascends gently so that it is possible to drive downhill entirely in neutral. Drive it carefully and stay in your lane. My mother did it in roller skates; metal roller skates. I cannot imagine how fast she was going.

She told me how she loved Halloween as a child. However, she never had time for a costume because she was too busy with the eggs she had amassed.

She chased the ice truck down the street, jumped on it, and sucked on ice chips as she rode along.

My mother always had time for me. She listened to me and was ready to listen at any hour of the day and night. She always provided perspective and made me feel better. I felt wanted and loved. Every word I know in French was on a list she quizzed me. She listened to hours and hours of practicing with nothing but kind words to say.

I often hear my mother’s words come out of my mouth.

• I remember as I’d leave with a date to do something competitive, she’d whisper “let him win.”

• On the bigger events, she gave me “mad money.” If I got mad, I could go home.

• She coached me to “be an actress…” to go bravely into situations where I was not feeling too brave.

• She told me “Girlfriends are important, nurture those relationships.”

• The best lesson is one I have repeated to my daughters. Pain and loss teach you empathy. Empathy empowers you to be a better friend.

We are losing witnesses to a history we can never forget. She would talk about the depression, the holocaust and Pearl Harbor with such passion. My mother left Northwestern early. She said she could not sit in her sorority house and classes when we were fighting such an evil force. She had to help.

We cannot forget.

I can’t ignore the elephant in the room; Alzheimer’s and dementia are horrid diseases. They steal your loved ones in little teaspoons. As she slid away, I could always see her locked inside trying to come out. This will not be the woman I remember. I will remember the woman who cared for me, who helped me build my courage and showed me that you can’t be brave unless you are truly frightened.

Lord, thank you for all the beautiful things you give us. Thank you for your love to us and the time we are given to love each other. Thank you for the gift of salvation through your son. Walk with us now and we start the rest of our lives without her.

The Last Hug

Grace's struggles ended Saturday night, 9:00 April 28, 2012.  The Thursday before I called my daughters to tell them it was time.  She slipped into a deep sleep.  We sat with her, we slept in her room, we played all the music she loved.  Hospice came and went.  Our minister came and prayed with us. My nephew came.  John and Greg were there. 

At the end, we held her, talked to her, prayed with her and sang to her. 

We really don't sing well.

After she was gone, suddenly the only Grace I could remember was my mother.  She was strong and vibrant; her thoughts were clear and clever.  She was my friend, my confident, my support.  The weak woman with the disintegrating mind was hard to remember.

I thought I was ready and the wave of grief surprised and engulfed me.   My daughters stepped in to support me.  They stayed with me and they watched over me.  Most of all, they grieved with me.  They understood the pain because it was in their hearts as well.  The Lord waited and took my mom when He knew I'd be supported.  He is a merciful and loving God.

The service wasn't until May 12.  My daughters spent the time scanning photos and building a memory book for the service.  It was beautiful.

Her dog is miserable.  For the first few days he went into her room repeatedly, searching and crying.

Grace Cobean Harrison, 88, longtime Glenview resident, formerly of Evanston, passed away April 28, 2012, beloved wife of the late Joseph; loving mother of Laine (Martin) Cobb, Jeph (Jo) Harrison and Edie Harrison; proud grandmother of Dan (Christina) Martin, Kit (Janet) Harrison, Marc (Christi) Harrison, Ellie (Randy) Harrison Bly, Tessa Harrison, Mandy (Greg) Friend, Carrie Muehlbauer and Tom Harrison; great grandmother of Olivia, Isa, Alistair, Agatha, Jimmy, Rosie and Isla. Grace is survived by her dog, Blackie. She attended Evanston Township High School and Northwestern University. She was a member of PEO, AOII and the bridge club that didn't play bridge. Memorial Service Saturday, May 12 at 10 a.m. at Glenview Community Church, 1000 Elm St. (at Glenview Rd.), Glenview. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to ASPCA at, or Alzheimer's Association at