Grace Amaya Baldock. July 13, 1934 - July 29, 2009.
Grace was my sister-in-law, Leo's only sister. Her life was divided into two large chunks when she suffered an aneurysm in 1984 that the doctors expected would kill her. Well, in the typical Grace fashion that was no real surprise to family and friends, Grace proved that she was just not ready to go yet. Still, the aneurysm did leave her changed forever.
I met Grace for the first time in 1987, so the Grace before is someone I only knew from stories and photos. But boy are there some stories! Grace Amaya who in 1962 became Grace Baldock, was always a force to be reckoned with. The Grace of before was willful, formidable, driven, and lived a life that experienced a wide range of emotions from one end of the spectrum to the other. She was, in a word, simply "amazing".
Her little brother Leo, on the other hand, in spite of his deep love for his beautiful sister, particularly in his younger years might have chosen a word more like "frightening".
I remember the first time I met Grace. In all fairness, it was with nothing but good intentions that Leo did his best to prepare me for the encounter. If you don't know me well, you may not know that I take pride in thinking that I can handle anything that life throws my way. But I have to admit that Leo's prep talk before meeting his sister actually scared the bejesus out of me!
It took me only a short while to figure out that Grace was actually okay. It's not that Leo exaggerated; it's just that he had a view of his sister that spanned his lifetime and was filled with that same broad range of emotions. To me, Grace was something else entirely.
Grace and I never had the chance to become enemies, to fight, argue, or disagree over something more than the trivial. Although we sometimes tired of each other in long encounters, I could always look forward, especially in these last few years, to a very welcoming greeting from her, a genuine smile, an inquiry about family goings-on, and most often good-natured banter.
My favorite memories of the last couple of years, however, have to do with watching Leo and Grace together. On mornings when Leo is home, he makes a habit of walking across the yard to share a cup of coffee with Jess and Grace. I sometimes go with him, but don't really have to be there to know what is going on. At some point in the conversation the language switches from English to Spanish. (Truthfully, some things are just funnier in Spanish!) At some point in the conversation Leo is wiping his eyes and Grace is giggling loudly. When Jess and I are there, although we are not generally part of this conversation, we would have to work really hard not to be amused by it. These morning coffee encounters where I am very much an "outsider" are some of my favorite memories. These are the times I will revisit in my mind, the times when I can smile or even laugh out loud and know about how wonderful, intricate, and intimate sibling relationships can be.
Anyone who knows us, or knows Grace's husband "Uncle Jess", knows that he is the main man in our lives, the one we look up to, enjoy being around, and the one we adore. I think that in our lives Jess is the "bread". To carry that culinary anology forward then, Grace was the "spice". Even in her condition, where she needed to be cared for and provided for, Grace was really something. Although she often repeated herself or retold some of the same old stories to me, she just as often amazed me with a vocabulary word, a story, a recollection, or an insight. I just recently realized that our "Aunt Grace" stories were often as entertaining to friends and family, some of whom have never even met her, as they are to us.
And sitting here now thinking through all these thoughts and emotions, I just realized that I am really going to miss my sister-in-law Grace! What a character! What a woman!
There will not be any services for Grace, but we appreciate you keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. We are grieving, of course, but are also relieved that this last and most difficult part of the battle is over and she is at rest. Our lives were greatly impacted by Grace's part in them and will forever change by her departure from them. She in all her quirky, interesting, and even annoying presence, will be greatly missed by us all. Dear, sweet Grace...we miss you already!
P.S. Our youngest daughter Rachael has a new daughter arriving on the scene sometime in the next couple of weeks. Last week she called me to share the name they have settled on. In honor of Leo's mother and sister (and no less because the names are quite beautiful together) our newest granddaughter will be named Victoria Grace Rives. Way to go Grace!