Mother’s Day is quickly approaching, and I am blessed to have an amazing mom — whom I will write about one day. But today, I wish to give tribute a woman who I only had in my life for thirteen short years. Her memory and the love she imprinted on my heart will never ever be forgotten.

And so, for all you grandmas out there who wonder if you’re making a positive impact on your grandchildren, please be encouraged, you definitely do.

For Grace Asenato — a woman who embraced me heart and soul. She embraced love, life, and joy every day of her short life. You will never be forgotten.

A young hand touches and holds an old wrinkled hand

Coming in from the sweltering heat outside, her house was cool and orderly.

“How are you, Grandma?” I asked as I sat beside her on the violet couch.

“I’m good, honey,” she said, and then turned gingerly as if simply lying there was painful.

I guessed it was.

“Jeannie, here is money for Todd’s birthday, in case…” her words to my mother drifted off.

In case what? In case she didn’t see us before my brother’s birthday in only two weeks? We saw her every day. And why did my sick grandmother have a fifty-dollar bill stuffed in her housecoat pocket?

“Lisa, go get the lotion from the bathroom. My back hurts. Will you rub it for me, honey.”

At last, I could do something for her. I did as she asked and quickly returned to her side.

With great care she pulled herself to a sitting position on the couch. I didn’t realize that it would be the last time I ever touched her. I carefully applied the thick cream to the flesh that was once taut and robust, but now hung loosely from her protruding bones. I was gentle and slow, trying to somehow ease her pain, knowing I was probably hurting her, and also knowing she loved me too much to tell me the truth.

Intent on my task, I didn’t remember then, as I do now, the many times I’d touched her over my thirteen short years. Hundreds of nights, I lay next to her in bed, snuggled up close sometimes for warmth, and most times for comfort. She was pure love wrapped in warm skin.

My grandfather had been banished from their bedroom due to his loud and constant snoring, so I had her all to myself. She was a true lady, born to wear jewelry, perfume, silks, and lace. She was sophisticated, feminine, funny, and always fashionable. She taught me to pray. People often remarked she was more beautiful than Elizabeth Taylor. I knew she was. I wanted to be just like her.

I wore her sea-foam green nightgown with cream lace around the collar. She had been saving that one in case she went into the hospital and needed a “good” nightgown. My uncle, who still lived at home, told me it made me look very grown up. But looking back now, that nightgown would have been entirely inappropriate for the hell and torture her body went through as she battled the cancer that reduced her by over one hundred pounds.

She was just over five feet tall, and wore a size sixteen. When she died at age fifty-seven, she was a size four. I, at age thirteen was also a size four. When I went to help purchase her dress for her viewing, I thought it ironic, how if she were still alive, we could share each other’s clothes. I wear her blue star sapphire on my finger every day. I wear it not necessarily because it is my favorite, although it is, I wear it because I can remember it on her finger. It looked elegant and luxurious there. Today it is my most prized possession.

Our moments and hours together were always filled with affection. Her laughter was a continuous song in her home, ringing out and summoning others to join her. Her house was always filled with relatives and friends. She was rare.

When I look back on that hot July day I rubbed the lotion on her back, the last day I saw her alive, I realize she didn’t really need the lotion. She wanted me to touch her skin. Not because she needed something from me, but because it was her final gift. She knew it would be our last day together, and she knew I would remember it, and she knew I would want to remember the feel of touching her one last time.