Patricia Jean Lewis Nerwinski: A Legacy of Love

As a person who loves the power of words and tends to have a way with them, I’m not sure I can accurately convey the depth of my love and grief with words alone. Nor, am I certain there are many words that could possibly describe a woman who, to me, was larger than life. Her loss clearly illustrates that the bigger the love, the greater the grief. Her gift to us all is a legacy full of love and a lifetime of well-documented memories.

A Fierce Love

Patricia Jean Lewis Nerwinski

I have always had a fierce love for my grandma. As a kid, hands on hips and attitude in tow, I once shouted at a kid:

“Yeah!? Well, MY grandma has orange hair and she can do anything!”

This exclamation was followed by the prompt sticking out of my tongue.

My grandma loved to talk about that moment. We giggled about it often and to this day, I believe those words with every fiber of my being. She had the most beautiful hair and she could do anything. We reminded each other of this proclamation the last time she was in the hospital, though this time she told me she was tired and she wasn’t sure. I heard her, but I pressed on, I didn’t want to think about any of that, and she pulled through that time – at least for a while.

Bursting at the Seams

Patricia Jean Lewis was born in Kansas on February 12, 1933, to Herschel Mayo Lewis and Evelyn Frieda Frankfurt. She raised and is survived by nine children, and more than twenty grandchildren, and even more great-grandchildren. She was the ultimate care giver, taking care of her mother until her death in 1997, and then my grandfather until his passing in 2003. She was a seamstress with a great love of fashion. Her shoe and dress collection was EPIC and I can remember playing dress up with her beautiful things.

Her heart was as full of love for her family as her house is now filled with things. The giant three-story home was meant to be filled with people and the sounds we make. . . and for a long time it was. I remember having Thanksgiving there, a table as long as the house was wide to fit us all in side-by-side. She entertained me and all my cousins effortlessly and loved us all immensely. Christmas at Grandma’s house was always epic and we didn’t get to do that more than a few times that I recall. That place is the only place that has remained a constant in my life and with it, a woman I could always call and talk to, a woman who will forever and always be in the forefront of my mind and occupy the most cherished part of my heart.

From Left: Lindsey, Christina, Kimberly & Megan

A Million Memories

We have about as many memories as there are known stars in the universe (Chezik, 2017). Some of my greatest memories are of my grandma or occur at grandma’s house. As kids, we spent pretty much every single summer at grandma’s house. My parents drove us, flew us, or otherwise dispatched us to grandma’s house for a season full of fun, work, and most of all memories.

So many memories flood my mind as tears fall down my cheeks. They way my grandma cut up a cantaloupe, or the way we’d we fill two grocery carts with food when we went shopping. Grandma’s house meant ice cream and lazy days spent laying by the pool. Being there meant dusting and vacuuming for hours only to ditch the chore`s for an afternoon of unplanned fun. I always felt like a beautiful princess strutting down those fan shaped steps to the pool yard. At grandma’s house, I was a princess, a model, and a mermaid. She was always put together and looked amazing. I never saw her cry or get stressed out, she was the ultimate woman in every way.

I could spout out memory after memory, and go on for days, maybe weeks, or even months. I could tell you about the time my big brothers used me as rattlesnake bait, or the time they (a few cousins helped) made us eat carpenter ants in order to walk under their fort (they promised we could go in it, but changed their deal after we ingested bugs!). I could talk about the hours we spent playing store and countless other made up things on the lower floor, or the epic games of hide-and-seek that took place in the ‘scary’ basement of the original house. We walked to the tubs and spent our youth exploring every inch of free space we could find. We caught crawdads in the creek and ate smoked oysters. This incredibly special place gave birth to my imagination, my dreams and taught me that whatever I wanted to be, I could be. I just had to work hard for it.

My time at grandma’s house is filled with memories that carried me through my childhood, teen years, and are still with me as a mother, wife, and independent and strong woman. I will wear those memories proudly for the rest of my life. My love of gardening, my love of land and tending fruit trees, my love of water and swimming, my love of life was given to me through the love I received during the summers I spent growing up at Grandma’s house. Everyone I loved lived near grandma and to this day it is my favorite place to be. It is the one place that has always been there my whole entire life. . .

. . . and I’m not the only one. I’m only one of many. Every single one of my cousins has their own version of this amazing woman. She wasn’t just amazing to me. She was amazing to everyone who knew her. My grandmother had no shortage of love or food, whichever you needed, she had it ready to go. She completely loved her children, her children’s children, and her children’s children’s children. She loved us all so completely that I know you would hear more incredible stories of the incredible woman she was and the wonderful things she did.

Grandma Pat on her birthday with Merlin

She ordered dessert first and her laughter inspired joy. The way she said simple things makes my heart smile and I can almost hear her say, “Oh yeah!” and “Uh huh!”

She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, a sister, and a friend. She had a heart of gold and the most beautiful soul I’ve ever known. She was breathtaking and there has never been, nor will there ever be a woman of her caliber, though I know many who come close.

There’s Good in Goodbye

I’m not a fan of goodbyes. I’ve avoided saying them only to regret not having been given the chance to see that person again. I miss them and I thought if I didn’t say goodbye – it wouldn’t be goodbye. That’s not usually the case though. Usually my avoidance of goodbye means I never get to say goodbye.

I said goodbye this time and as much as it hurt, I’m glad I got to say it. I choked out the words on the phone while sitting in my favorite salon. I was getting a pedicure and I sat there toes freshly painted, sobbing.

Goodbyes bring opportunities. They can build bridges and bring families together. Brothers and sisters stand in the waiting room, hugs and tears are shared. Memories once forgotten are brought back to life and with them smiles that shine brightly through the tears.

“If you want to wrap Christmas presents properly, don’t bring bottles of wine and try to solve the world’s problems all at the same time.”

My mother giggles as she recalls to me the time she, my aunt, and my grandmother spent wrapping presents in the attic, drinking wine one bottle at a time, and solving the world’s problems one at a time. The more they drank, the worse the presents looked and for my grandma that meant they all had to be re-wrapped. It sounds like it was quite the night and hearing it retold, I feel like I could’ve been there.

That’s what goodbyes give to us. They bring with them the opportunity to remember how much we love each other and the chance to reconnect with those we still have here with us.

Her Greatest Gift

Me and Grandma

I owe a lot to the amazing woman my beloved grandmother was. My old soul comes from the incredible bond she and I had. The late nights watching t.v. on her beautiful blue couch. The shopping trips, the shows, the long talks and all the adventures we had together. I owe my love of vacuuming to all the hours I spent pushing her Kirby around, my love of dusting to the giant weird duster she had me use to dust the rafters. I also attribute my extreme dislike for cleaning bathrooms to my grandmother – she never let me clean one because she loved cleaning them herself. It’s for this reason I sat on the floor and cried the first time I ever cleaned a toilet. She laughed so hard when I told her that story. She was the only grandmother I knew and the greatest friend I ever had. A truly remarkable woman I will spend the rest of my life remembering and sharing her love with my children and their children.

Grandma and her namesake Lewis

Her memory will outlive us all as we tell her stories and pass her legacy of love onto others.

There will be a Celebration of Life at The Nerwinski Ranch, Saturday, September 15th at 1:00 PM. Join us as we come together from all the corners of the nation to celebrate a woman whose heart touched everyone she met.

What’s your favorite memory of your grandma? Share your favorite things about your grandma in the comments below.





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