Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Loving Tribute to Dorothy "Billie" Elmore Appelhans

My last surviving grandparent died yesterday.  Grandma Billie passed on after a multi-year battle with Alzheimer's and a heart infection.

Growing up an Air Force brat, I didn't get to see Grandma Billie all that often, though she did visit us in every place we lived and we often spent a few weeks of summer vacation at her house.  When I told people I was off to Kansas, they invariably asked if I was going to visit Dorothy (a Wizard of Oz joke), and I could always smile and say "... as a matter of fact, I am!", despite the fact Billie never went by her given name Dorothy.

Grandma Billie and Grandpa John with 6 of their grandkids. Can you find me? (Hint: I'm 16 here)


Billie was incredibly social - she could talk about anything to anybody.  She made killer tuna salad sandwiches and zucchini bread. She sold tupperware for years and years and was active in a business women's organization.

She also loved to collect things.  When I was a child, my brothers and I would pick out an owl figurine for her for Christmas. Later, it was anything Elvis related (she LOVED Elvis).  Then Santa Clauses (she had such a large collection, it was even photographed for the newspaper).  Once I began my world travels, I sent her a postcard from nearly every country I visited and she kept these in an album and would show them off to anyone who stopped by.

Billie and me (and an unfortunate pair of jeans): High School Graduation


I went to college only 3 hours away so I often drove home often on the weekends (by this time my family had moved back to Kansas - in the same town as Billie). During this period of my life, I spent a significant amount of time with Grandma Billie.  She got me hooked on her soap One Life to Live, kept me up-to-date on all the latest family gossip, and beat me regularly at Skip-Bo (we used to joke that she was born under a Skip-Bo star).

My roommate in Japan Ruth, me and Billie at my college graduation.


A few Christmases ago was the last we celebrated at her house before she moved into a care home due to her declining memory.  But even at the home, she was full of energy, helping new residents settle in and participating in activities.


At my 2006 wedding. We made sure we played Elvis for Billie.


I was blessed to get to spend one last Christmas with her in 2011. I wasn't 100% sure she really knew who I was anymore, but she squeezed my hand often and told me she loved me.  And I told her I loved her too.

Grandma Billie believed in angels, and she gave me two angel pins that I take me with on all my trips. She told me angels would watch over me and keep me safe.  Grandma Billie, I will always carry you in my heart. Until we meet again.

38 comments:

Sarah said...

This is a great tribute to your grandmother. I love how she's been part of your life at such important moments. I'm sorry for your loss.

Staci said...

Lenore,
That was a very moving and beautiful tribute to your Grandmother. She seemed like a person who loved life and her family.

(((((Big HUGS)))))

Staci

Linda said...

Lenore, that was a beautiful tribute to Mom. Oh my how she loved the post cards you sent her from all over the world!!! I'm going to link this on my Facebook page. Love you!

Jen (Makeshift Bookmark) said...

Having just lost my great-uncle, who was a stand in for the grandparents who all died before I could form any memories with them, a few short weeks ago, my heart breaks for you. Lenore, this is a beautiful way to honor your grandmother. Alzheimer's is a horrible disease and I'm sorry that your grandma and family were afflicted by it :( my heart goes out to you.

Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews) said...

Lovely tribute to your Grandma, Lenore.

Sorry for your loss. x

Anonymous said...

Lenore, what a touching account of Grandma Billie in your life as she was in all of our lives. It was really hard seeing her deal with the dementia but she was good until the last year when she lost more and more of herself. We all want to remember as she was, active, and able to talk anyone under the table. My friend Vanessa said my Mom talked a lot and Mom said Vanessa talked a lot. It was hard for me to get a word in edgewise but we will definitely miss her and her spirit. We all love you Mom.

Rhonda

capillya said...

What a beautiful tribute post, Lenore! Grandma Billie sounds so awesome. I'm so glad you had such a wonderful lady in your life! <3 <3 <3 *hugs*

Melissa said...

Such a wonderful post, Lenore. Thanks for sharing your grandmother with us - she sounds like a treasure.

My condolences to you and your family on your loss.

bermudaonion said...

What a lovely tribute to your grandmother. It brought tears to my eyes. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Tina~ said...

That was so beautiful...:)Im sorry for your loss Lenore, it made me think of my grandma who passed away a few years ago....

Jeffrey H. said...

Hi Lenore, I'm sorry you lost her. It sounds like you had a wonderful, warm, loving relationship. I would have loved to see her dressed up as Elvis!

Kailana said...

What a wonderful post! I am very sorry for your loss, but it sounds like you have wonderful memories.

Tran Le said...

Obviously you really care for your grandma. Mine also has Alzheimer's although it is not major yet, my family still worries over it. I'm very sorry for your loss.

~ Tran Le

Julie@My5monkeys said...

I am so sorry for your loss. She sounds like a wonderful firecracker of a lady. Hugs

Jessica Spotswood said...

A lovely tribute to your grandmother, Lenore. She sounds like a wonderful woman. We lost my grandfather last summer to complications from Alzheimers, and while it was probably a blessing for him, it was hard for the rest of us. I'm sorry for your loss. I'm sure she'll be watching over you excitedly this fall though!

GinaRosati said...

((Hugs)) Lenore ~ so sorry for your loss. You must have made your grandmother very proud!

Beth S. said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss Lenore. It's always hard to know your last grandparent is gone. This was a beautiful tribute to your grandmother.

Rebecca Herman said...

This is a lovely tribute. I am so sorry for your loss.

Amy said...

This is a beautiful tribute, Lenore, I can see how much she meant to you. I'm so deeply sorry for your loss.

Chris said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss Lenore :( It does sound like you really do have some beautiful memories of her though. Big hugs!

Anonymous said...

She was a wonderful woman, Lenore, and she left behind a great legacy in her children and grandchildren.

My thoughts are with you and your family. I know that even though she is in a better place, it is always difficult for those mourning the loss of her presence here on earth.

You are right, she loved her Skip-Bo! :) Rest in peace Billie!

Love,
Rachelle

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. What a lovely post in memory of her.

Trish Doller said...

What a wonderful lady and how fortunate to have had her in your life for so long. My heart goes out to you for your loss.

Daisy said...

Lenore, this is a wonderful tribute to a woman who sounds like a very loving person. I'm sorry for your loss.

Charlotte said...

So sorry for the loss of your lovely grandma.

Petra @ Safari Poet said...

This is such a great tribute. Your grandmother sounds like a great woman. Sorry for your loss.

Donna said...

I'm sorry to hear about your grandma. This was a great tribute for her!

Anna said...

So sorry for your loss. I feel for you, having lost my last grandparent, my gram, right after Thanksgiving. This is a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. ((HUGS))

Anonymous said...

Wish I could hug you right now! love you, m*girl

Kimberly Sabatini said...

This was such a lovely post. So sorry for your loss and so delighted to see how much love was between you. <3

Angiegirl said...

I'm so sorry, Lenore. Thank you for sharing your memories with us. I loved reading it and seeing the wonderful pictures.

avisannschild said...

This is so beautiful, Lenore -- it brought tears to my eyes. Again, I'm so sorry for your loss.

Steve said...

Aww, this made me teary. I remember sending one or two postcards to her on my trips as well. Very well written piece.

Who knew you were such a hottie in high school, jeans and all!?! haha.

As I'm down to two grandparents and probably only a short time with both, I'm, like you, going to try and make it count and get as much out of them as I can. Again, sorry for your loss, but I think the greatest thing we can do for our grandparents (and parents) is continue on and not to forget them.

Melissas Eclectic Bookshelf said...

What wonderful memories...so sorry for your loss.

Zibilee said...

Lenore, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your grandmother. She sounds like she was a very special person, and it also sounds like she loved you very much. I, too, believe in angels, and think that grandma Billie is among them now, watching over you. My you have peace and healing in your time of grief. Your family will be in my prayers.

Nymeth said...

I'm so, so sorry for your loss, Lenore :( *hugs* Beautiful tribute.

Beth F said...

What a moving tribute. You are lucky though to have had time with her into your adulthood. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Jackie said...

This is a phenomenal, amazing tribute to your grandmother. I'm so sorry for your loss, but I'm so glad you have such wonderful memories of someone who means so much to you.