My greatest blessing was given to me the moment I was born. I was born a Heibel. Each day it becomes more apparent to me how special my family is. My weird, crazy, somewhat unstable family. Through everything and in everything one thing has remained: I have a support system like no one else’s. And I was lucky enough to be born into mine.
Growing up Heibel, everything had a theme. Every family gathering, whether a birthday party or hot dog eating contest, was meticulously planned by my grandma. Marj would send out invitations with hand written poems inviting us to whatever reason she had come up with to have a party. She obsessed over our relationships with eachother, doing everything she could to foster close friendships among the kids. This usually involved some sort of ridiculous performance or game. A personal favorite of mine was the time that she made us have a snowball fight with marshmallows because there was no snow on Christmas. This cute and fun idea quickly turned violent as one kid held another down and pelted him in the face with the tiny white balls. My grandma claimed that up until the time she moved out of that house, some ten years later, she was still finding marshmallows.
Marj and Po were in the front row of every single choir concert, dance recital and basketball game. Which, between the eight of us, was a lot. I will never forget the sound of my grandpa’s booming voice as he’d enter the Lincoln Lutheran gym and yell out “SAMANTHA” in an equal parts attempt to embarrass me and and show affection. They believed in our talent so much that every Christmas we would have a talent show. Noteable performances include when my dad and a 3-year-old me sang “I Got Stripes” by Johnny Cash, when my sister taught Jesse ballet, and when, every year, my grandma and grandpa would sing the same silly duet together, always arguing over who would sing which part.
As we’ve grown older, things have changed. We no longer pretend to be olympic gymnasts on balance beams or compete to win little boxes of cereal. But through all of the noise and conflict of life, we have never lost the thing that Marj instilled in us so deeply: that family is something to cling to, and that no matter what, we need to love each other.
The last time I saw Marj she was the happiest I had seen her in years. It was the most of us that had been together in a long time, and she beemed with pride for all of us. Before I left, she told me how special I was, how happy she was for me, and how proud she knew Po would be. Though I never said it, I think she always knew, we were all so proud of her too.
I am what feels like one million miles away from my family, and the loneliness that comes with grief feels a million times lonelier. But I find comfort and cling to the security that she found in the word and with our family. Because the love that exists in our family, that she created, is a blanket that reaches all the way to South Korea.
I already miss her, but my own sadness is outweighed by the knowledge that she has found peace. I will never forget the pride she found in watching us grow closer and in the ambition that took us apart. I will never forget the love that she and Po had, and how it overflowed into our parents lives and our lives. But more than anything, I will never forget how blessed I am to be a Heibel.
Rest in peace, Grandma. Love you more.