Rest In The Most Fabulous Peace, Nana

High School GradTwo weeks and one day ago, I talked to my mom (C.J.’s Nana Grab Bags) on the phone a little before dinnertime. I called her to announce that C.J. had finally lost the first of his top two front teeth. That tooth had hung on for way too long and she cheered when she heard the news. Little life victories are meant to be celebrated with Nanas.

A few hours later, Nana passed away and I spent Memorial Day painfully and tearfully recalling every memory of my mother that I could conjure up, afraid that they would perish with her.

I would never wish a long painful death on anyone, but the shock of a sudden and unexpected death seems unfair too. I guess there’s no perfect way to die.

As my brother Michael and I left our mom for the last time, I leaned over her, kissed her forehead and whispered.

“I love you, mom. You are the best.”

Elementary SchoolIt was the first time she didn’t refute my praise. She didn’t say, “oh, no I’m not.” I wanted her to brush off my compliment. I wanted her to open her eyes. I wanted her heart to beat and her lungs to breathe and for the previous hours to have been a sick joke the universe would someday apologize for thinking was funny. If I was being tested, I wanted to pass the test and get my mother back.

We left the hospital and my body trembled all the way home; knowing that I would walk through the door and rip Chase and C.J.’s hearts in half quickly and cruelly.

As Michael, Matt and I told them that Nana’s body had stopped working, I looked into their eyes and watched a jarring life moment confuse them. I watched their sense of reality go into a dizzying spiral.

First BdayThey had seen Nana three days earlier. We ate Chinese food and saw Annie at the local performing arts center. She was happy and smiling in a blue sequined top and her favorite perfume.

For a second, Chase thought we were kidding and C.J. struggled to catch up. And, then it started to sink in.

“Can we see her again and say goodbye?” they asked.

“I’m so sorry, but you can’t,” we said.

“Who’s going to play dress up with me and let me do their makeup and do crafts with me?” C.J. cried.

“We all do those things with you and we will never stop,” we promised.

“It’s not the same. It’s not Nana,” he said.

High SchoolThe rest of that day and the next passed, though I have little recollection. We began planning Nana’s Celebration of Life and explained the event’s significance to C.J. and Chase.

“What are we going to wear to the Celebration of Life?” C.J. asked immediately, because even when grieving he is concerned about fashion.

“I’m wearing a tie,” said Chase, who loves any excuse to wear a tie.

“I want to be a girl at Nana’s Celebration of Life. I want to wear a dress. That’s how Nana would want me,” he declared and asked if we could go shopping. I promised him we would.

“Will everyone at the Celebration of Life know that I’m gender nonconforming?” he asked.

“No.”  I waited for the usual self-editing and deep consideration about his gender expression around new people to begin.

“I don’t care,” he said. “I’m wearing a dress.”

And, so we went shopping for a dress for my son to wear to my mother’s funeral.

To be continued…

About raisingmyrainbow is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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89 Responses to Rest In The Most Fabulous Peace, Nana

  1. Ashley says:

    I just read your book and started scrolling through your recent blog posts. I am so very sorry about your mom – she sounded like a wonderful lady and it was awesome to hear about how supportive she was of CJ and your family. Thank you for writing so honestly – you eloquently capture all of life’s tricky and hilarious moments and somehow make everything relatable. Again, I’m sorry for your loss and wish you peace in 2016.

  2. I am coming late to this sad news. I am so very sorry.

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss. You said it so perfectly: “for the previous hours to have been a sick joke the universe would someday apologize for thinking was funny. If I was being tested, I wanted to pass the test and get my mother back.” Exactly how I felt, even after 9 months, on my first birthday without her, and even after a year. I thought being able to live without her a whole year is a huge accomplishment and I really deserve to get her back. It’s been almost three years and I’m afraid it won’t be better, ever. It’s easier to carry, but it’s still a huge weight one can’t put down. I hope you can find comfort in your fantastic kids and wonderful husband. It was nice to “know” your mum through your posts and your book. It won’t be the same without her. I’m so very sorry for your loss.

  4. I’m so sad for you all, and my heart just aches for your peace and comfort. Death is never easy, and I’m so sorry you had to lose someone so special to you so suddenly- you are in my prayers and have my deepest of sympathy. Bless you and your sweet family on your road to healing. May you feel your mother’s presence in everything around you and may her memory live on.

  5. Laura says:

    Your blog is such a special place for so many reasons. This post honoring nana was beautiful. I’ve nominated you for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award ( No obligation!

  6. Pingback: with deep gratitude | Riddle from the Middle

  7. Ally says:

    Thought about your family today when the world made a huge turn for the better with the ruling for equality. Maybe Nana Grabbags was pulling some strings somewhere.

  8. Laura says:

    You have our deepest sympathies. It sounds like Nana was a very special lady indeed. Hugs and prayers coming your way from NC.

    • Joshua MacDonald says:

      My most sincere condolences to your family! Although my mother is still with me, I can relate to the pain C.J. and Chase must be feeling for the loss of their much beloved grandmother. My grandmother passed away nearly three years ago, and it still hurts knowing she isn’t here to talk to and support me. I should point out that my grandmother was my biggest supporter. She’s known about my sexual orientation – the fact that I’m gay for years and supported me regardless – something my mother hs unfortunately not mastered yet. Even though her passing was expected, I feel I have lost a big part of myself.

  9. Ally says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. What an wonderful mom and grandma she was from your stories. I had not been speaking to my mom for weeks now over something small and petty. Just called her to make up. What a stark reminder that life is just too short to waste time being petty especially with the people you love. I hope CJ finds the most amazing dress to wear to the funeral and knows that somewhere his nana is very proud of him.

  10. mzvanessa says:

    My thoughts are with you. *hugs* I am so sorry your family is going through this.

    I was blessed with two “mothers’, one biological and one who raised me (her mother.)
    My grandmother died slowly, of brain cancer. My mother suddenly of a heart attack.
    You are completely right when you say that neither way seems fair.
    I have no words of wisdom other than allow yourself your feelings. It’s ok to be sad, to cry, to be angry at the world because it is still going on when your whole world is upside down. Also know that one day after you get through the sudden-ness of it you will have moments where you smile, and even laugh at memories. You won’t be sad everyday, though you will miss her. My mom has been gone five years and there are still days I have a passing though to call her before it hits me that I can’t. Then I go crazy person and “talk” to her in my own private way.
    She’s with you all, no matter your belief in the after life (or not) she is ingrained in you, engraved on your heart are the memories of her.

  11. Adrianna heath says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I can tell you from experience sudden and unexpected is little better than a lingering illness. they both rip your heart out. I lost my grandparents in a car accident, drunk driver… And my father in law to cancer. The cause of their passing does not matter when you sit your children down on the sofa to tell them they will no longer see gma papa or grandpa. Be strong, and remember it’s ok to cry and it’s ok to laugh and remember the good times. My thoughts are with you and your amazing family. Xoxo rest in peace Nana

  12. mactavish14 says:

    Hugs to you all. I’m still reeling from the loss of my mother (and advocate) a year and half ago. To her funeral, I wore the ice hockey jersey she got me for Christmas one year. While it indeed was black, it still wasn’t entirely expected by family and friends. Too bad! 😀

  13. Andy in Thailand says:

    So sorry for all of you…you are in the thoughts of probably a million people.

  14. Lindsy says:

    I have read your book twice and keep up with this blog regularly–and I am so sorry for your family’s loss. I know there isn’t much that can be said at this point other than that I will send your family prayers and good thoughts. Thank you for sharing your family with us all.

  15. auntiemip says:

    Lori and Family,

    I am so sorry for this monumental loss. I am an pediatric oncology nurse and also lost my brother to cancer. My mama and I have discussed on many occasions that for her, while watching her son suffer was merciless, she knew, she could prepare, she could say good bye. The sudden death of one so loved is a shock and trauma that requires so much healing.

    There is wonderful book by Pat Schweibert called Tear Soup. It is a book on grieving for children Chase and CJ’s age! It is beautiful and even grown ups can find wisdom in its pages and beautiful illustrations. It is about the death of a grandpa…kind of appropriate. How proud you must be of both your boys for knowing exactly who they are and in what way they want to present themselves as they honor their grandmother. I could not help but smile when I read how passionate CJ was about his dress for Nana Grab Bags. Again, I am so sorry for your pain. May you all know the peace that passes all understanding.

  16. Cheryl S. says:

    I’m so sorry.

    And CJ has it right. If dressed in his finest is how Nana would want him, that’s exactly what he should do. Sending love to your family.

  17. Siobhan says:

    Im so very sorry to hear about your loss ❤ your family and all those that knew her will be in my thoughts

  18. Justin says:

    I’m so sorry this happened. I wish there was more I could say. Just know you are all in my thoughts.

  19. Loved the pictures, but as you said, as unfair and sudden as this seemed, it is better than an encroaching, inexorable decline. More shocking, but fractionally less heart-breaking. No, that’s not the right word. Less depleting, maybe.

  20. GeorgeB says:

    So sorry for your loss. Nana is still looking over all of you.

  21. It feels wrong to put a like on a post like this….I don’t know what to say that hasn’t been already said.

  22. Jane says:

    So sorry for your loss. Light and love.

  23. kellymcanena says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. 😦 Hugs to you and your family.

  24. Ellen Price-Maloy says:

    So sorry to all of you for your loss. She was a blessing to all of you and a joy for all of us to “hear” about.

  25. cgstbs100 says:

    Dear Lori,

    I am so sorry about the loss of your Mom. She seemed to be such a wonderful caring woman–and the impact she will have on your family will shine through in your lovely boys. Surround yourself with people that care about you~~ cry, laugh, remember, and a crazy thing that really helps–drink lots & lots of water. I will be sending light, love, & healing. xoxo Cathilee

  26. I wanted to simply “like” this post – but it seemed to shallow to convey the depth of my feeling for you and your family this time. I am so sorry for your loss and also so glad that your boys knew and loved their Nana. ❤

  27. So sorry to hear of the loss of your beautiful mother. May God bless you and your family with comfort and peace. Hugs to you all.
    – Lindsey

  28. Reblogged this on strengthloveandgrace and commented:
    So sorry to hear of the loss of your beautiful mother. May God bless you and your family with comfort and peace.
    – Lindsey

  29. Brian says:

    Be well & be blessed, the pain fades but the memory remains.
    I recently lost husband & I share your pain 😦

  30. Dan Goldman says:

    I am SO sorry for your loss. Reading about your family for so long makes me feel like I’m a part of it, a little bit. You and your brother, and Matt, Chase and CJ are in my thoughts. All of my love. Your mother raised wonderful children and grandchildren. And through your writing, her loves radiates out across the nation and around the world.

  31. DianeG says:

    Oh, I am so sorry. Sending so much love to your family.

  32. slloyd8 says:

    Wow. Maybe its your writing, maybe its that I’ve followed you you for a while, but its amazing to me that I don’t know you or your family personally, yet this post has affected me greatly.

  33. I’m so sorry for your loss. May her memory be a blessing and the celebration of her life be an occasion for connections.

  34. Gabrielle says:

    I’m so sorry for your family’s loss.

  35. JJ24 says:

    Sorry for your loss, sending you and yours good thoughts.

  36. Charlotte says:

    I feel so with you!
    My mum died without any warning in November, we had just spent 2 weeks in USA to celebrate her 70th birthday with my siblings (we are spread over the world but my oldest sister lives in California).
    me and my mum lived in Sweden, now it’s only me….
    she had a stroke at Thursday night, was found Friday after lunch, still alive still talking…. but sadly enough there was nothing to do… my siblings made it! Even from California. But at Monday night 17 november my mum died….

    I know the pain is hard… but remember the love!
    Hugs to the family from a stranger on the otherside of the world….

  37. Nancy says:

    I am so sorry you lost your mom and the kids their Nana. She looks so beautiful and full of life in your photos. I bet she had that loving spirit you and your family seem to have.

  38. foodradical says:

    I’m sorry to read of your loss. I lost my own mom barely two years ago. She’s on my mind daily. Surround yourself with love and take comfort in those around you. Be well.

  39. mfennvt says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  40. Not quite 40 says:

    I am so very sorry for your loss. And yet so pleased and proud of CJ that he knows who he is and knew what he wanted to do to honour her memory.

  41. Leah says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll be keeping your family in my thoughts. From the book and your posts, Nana Grab Bags sounds like she was a wonderful and amazing woman! I’m glad CJ and Chase will always have memories with her to cherish, though I know this time is so very very hard right now.

  42. Paula says:

    I am so sorry for your family’s loss.

  43. Holding you all in love and light and sending my condolences to your family.

  44. mfarris70 says:

    So honest and so well-said, as are all of your posts. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  45. Ed ferrara says:

    My sincerest condolences on the
    sudden unexpected loss of your
    Mom. Reassure all she will be watching over each of you. I lost
    my Mom and Dad within 51 weeks of each other and I know they are watching over all of us. Remember the good times with her and she will always be in your hearts.

  46. atticcrazy says:

    So sorry for your loss. My beloved mother passed away ten years ago this August and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and/or miss her. Wishing your family peace and time to heal.

  47. Dan Woog says:

    Sounds as if your mother raised a wonderful daughter and grandchildren. A life truly well lived.

  48. jerbearinsantafe says:

    My sincere condolences – CJ’s choice of atire says volumes about your mother. Love and acceptance is what we all want to be remembered for.

    • May says:

      This is almost word for word what I wanted to say. I’m so sorry that you lost your mum so suddenly, but glad for you that you got to speak to her just hours before, and glad for everyone in your family that she sounds like a loving, accepting and wonderful person.

  49. So sorry, Lori. So sorry.

  50. David Gray says:

    You are a strong woman. May you and your family remember the love, laughter and little events who made her special.

  51. mommy2madilyn says:

    Lori and family,
    I am so very sorry for your loss. You are such a strong family and will get through this most difficult time together. I am sure of that. Wishing you all peace.

  52. Rachel says:

    Oh, how awful. Love to you all from San Diego.

  53. Karamin says:

    My sympathy for your loss, I lost my mom almost 6 yrs ago and some days it feels like just yesterday. The urge to call herand share things never go away, write those things down (w pictures if you can) to help you keep those sharing memories. I cant have her remind me, I have to remind myself now. I hope understanding and peace for your family.

  54. Kari Bachor says:

    I am saddened to read this post and will keep you all wrapped in my loving thoughts as you get through the days ahead. May the memories of Nana live on in your boys hearts, keeping her close always.

  55. Terrie says:

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Sending hugs to you and your family.

  56. pyriterenny says:

    I’m sorry for your loss hon. I’ll be praying for you.

  57. Rachel z says:

    Thank you for sharing. It means a lot to all of us.

  58. deeply DEEPLY aching with you in your loss…and mine too, as her passing diminishes us all.

    I hurt with you

  59. Diane says:

    Tears….and sympathy! So very sorry for all of you!

  60. mdaniels4 says:

    Lori. My condolences on the passing of your mom. Not much more to say but if she had a good life, was lovef by family and your dad it was a life well lived. It doesn’t get much better than that.

  61. Bennett Schneider says:


  62. Terri says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. While you and the kids will miss her, I’m sure that in time they will remember her with many happy memories.

  63. Sorry for your loss…God Bless

  64. Jo Hadley says:

    I am so sorry, Lori.

  65. samatwitch says:

    My heart goes out to you, Lori. My mother died 28 years ago this coming Saturday and I still miss her. I was lucky to have seven weeks to say goodbye and have long talks, but it’s still never enough. I hope you all are able to share your happy memories of your mother to help you through the first few weeks and months especially. She sounds like one wonderful lady.

  66. missrosie77 says:

    Lori and family, I’m so sorry for your loss.

  67. Brandy says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. my heart breaks for all of you. sending love and hugs to all of you!! may you find peace and comfort in this hard time.

  68. I am so so sorry that your mother was taken so quickly and unexpectedly.

  69. JK says:

    What sweet kids you have. And CJ wants to do what’s right, no matter the courage it takes. I’m sure your mom would be proud of both of them. Take care of yourself. It’s hard to lose a good parent, no matter how old you are.

  70. Marti Brown says:

    My condolences on your loss. 😦

  71. anawnimiss says:

    So sorry for your loss. I don’t know what to say or do that will make you feel any better. But I’m here. *hugs*

  72. Isabelle says:

    I am so very sorry for your loss. From the stories you have shared about your mom here and in the book I could sense what a wonderful mother and grandmother she was. Wishing you all comfort and peace during this difficult time.

  73. Lisa says:

    I am so sorry for your loss, Lori. Your mother sounds like she was an angel on earth to you and your family. I know how painful it is to lose your mother. I will pray for your and your family and hope that your happy memories will fill your heart and help you heal. I’m sure that C.J.’s outfit will fill his grandmother’s heart with joy!

  74. Karen says:

    It would not matter if it was quick or prolonged, losing your mother shakes your world to its core. Love and peace to you and your family. I am so sorry for your loss.

  75. Sara says:

    It is such a powerful loss. Sending you light and love.

  76. I’m sorry for your loss and there are no words that I can type that will make it any less painful.

    I lost my best friend’s mom to a heart attack when I was in high school. Agony. Now, my mom is losing her husband and it has been a long rollercoaster since November.

  77. I’m so, so sorry for your loss. My own father died quite suddenly, and it was a struggle to work my way through the shock to make the necessary arrangements. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to have confused, heartbroken children in the mix.

  78. grannyK says:

    I am so very sorry for your loss. I recently lost my mother, too. It is so hard! Take care of yourself.

  79. Aimee Thibodeaux says:

    I am so sorry for your loss.

  80. Jen says:

    Lori I am so genuinely sorry for the loss of your wonderful mother. I might not know her but reading your blog and book for many years I feel like I have an understanding of what a wonderful woman she was and her spirit and love will live on with all of you that she loved.

  81. Christie D says:

    I am so very sorry. I have no words… Just thinking about all of you in this tremendous loss to you and to the world.

  82. Michelle says:

    Huge (((hugs))). I’m so sorry for your loss. She sounds like such an amazing woman.

    While dying for a long period of time brings it’s own kind of hell, dying too fast means no chance for anyone to say goodbye and those goodbyes are so precious.

    I hope the funeral went well for both Chase and CJ. Jeremy was CJ’s age when my grandfather died and fashioned a doll out of a napkin for my grandfather so he wouldn’t be all alone and lonely in the grave. My Dad looked at Jeremy crying and everyone else debating the inappropriateness and said, “Fine, napkin buddy’s getting buried too”, stuck the napkin in the little casket, and walked out. He made me so proud that day.

  83. Christie D says:

    I am so very sorry

  84. joecasadonte says:

    So sorry for your loss. Having known her only through your blog posts, she sounded like a very special person. Keep her close in your heart and she will never truly be gone.

  85. Monica Converse says:

    Love and hugs to you all…

  86. Kitty Catty says:

    Bless you hun, hugs and prayers for you and your family.

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