Nan is my Grandmother. I was meant to call her Nana, however I mispronounced Nana as Neena. Being the first grandchild, the name stuck. She is affectionately known as Neena or Neen to all. She was gorgeous and charismatic. You could not go anywhere in town (or even the surrounding towns) without running into people who knew her and wanted to stop and say hello. She was the kind of woman who would give you the shirt off her back. She was the one who remembered what your favorite chocolate or drink was, and always kept that on hand just in case you dropped by. She was wise and had so much life experience to share. She was wildly intuitive and unapologetically funny. She is the Matriarch of our family. In fact, coming from this family of incredibly intuitive women, my best friend always has said Neena was the Supreme to our family’s Coven.
She was my best friend and my biggest fan. My parents separated when I was 6 and my mother had to work a lot. There was so much chaos in my world. Neena’s house was my safe haven. Her bedroom was a place of magic and mystery and make believe where we were allowed to draw on the walls and try on all her many pieces of costume jewelry. There was always a $5 bill left under a tray on her nightstand in case any of us needed it. My Neena was incredibly compassionate and loved to talk and tell stories. More than anything she adored her grandchildren. She loved all children. She was Christian woman who loved Mother Mary and prayed the rosary every day. Neena was also a sober alcoholic. When I was born, she chose to get sober. She always told me that I helped her get sober. Many years later in my early 20’s I struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism myself. Neena was there to help me get sober. I don't know if I could have done it without her support and example.
She truly was one of the strongest women I’ve ever met. She worked more hours than I did when I was 30 years old and she was in her 70s! Although she had done many jobs in her life, she loved taking care of her “ladies”. She was a home health aid for women her own age! She always claimed that working kept her young and that if she ever stopped, she would get old and would die. These were an example of some of the words she spoke into existence. I do not think she ever grasped how truly powerful she was and how her words and intuition were magical. In 2013, Neena had to have surgery for a clogged carotid artery. She was 76 years old. The clog was much more substantial than they thought and the surgery was hours longer than we expected. Her recovery was hard. She did return to work but never back to the amount of clients and hours she had previously kept. Over the next couple years she worked less, and had more health issues. It was so awful to see. Neena struggled. She became somewhat recluse and slept a lot. She rarely left her room. During these years I became a mother. I would bring my infant son to visit her and she would absolutely light up!
On my birthday, October 16, 2018, she was taken by ambulance due to severe pneumonia. The next couple days were hard. And strange. They told us she was septic. I was shocked. I had just been talking with her and she seemed sick for sure, but I had fully expected her to come home. We all knew she didn't have the fight left in her to beat sepsis. So we waited. There was one of my family at the hospital around the clock. On the morning of October 20th, I got the call that today would be her last day. I’ll never forget waking my husband up to let him know that Neena was going to die today and that I was leaving for the hospital. He sat up in bed, “What do you mean????” and began to cry. So we dressed and headed to the hospital together. Once we had all taken turns having time alone with her, they let us know it would be soon. We all gathered around her bedside and I was able to thank her for who she was and how she saved me so many times in my life. I was able to express gratitude for how so much of who I am and who I want to be and not be, I learned from her. Being present as she took her last breaths was one of the most sacred moments of my life.
Just now reading her obituary I saw tributes I have never read before. One from an old friend of mine said, “I don't think I have EVER had someone else's grandmother love me more than her. We are so sorry for your loss. I so loved my time with her.” This is how all that were blessed to know her felt. That they had never been loved more by “someone else’s grandmother” as much as she loved them. She had the gift of words and used them freely to express affection, appreciation, and humor. Just 5 weeks after her passing I found out I was pregnant. We had given up trying after two early losses and decided to be a one child family. I know without a shred of a doubt she had a hand to play in this baby blessing into our family. Some days I miss her so much that the ache can overwhelm me. Most days, I feel her nearer and closer than I ever did when she was alive. I am so proud to be Nan’s granddaughter. I am so very grateful to have such a powerful woman be the head of our magical family. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you Neena - for every stuff.
In Memory of Nan “Neena” Dionne
May 16, 1937 ~ October 20, 2018