My Grandmother

January 21, 2009

Maria Handler 1911-2009 A beautiful life has come to its earthly end. And though my grandmother, Maria Handler, was 97 years old, it is never the right time, a good time for someone you love to die. She lived a remarkable life, because she was a remarkable woman. She endured a revolution, a civil war, a world war, evacuation, famine, illness and tragedy. And yet you would never know she had borne any hardship at all from the way she carried herself: she was a good happy person who loved sweets and her friends, who loved her sons and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who took care of me and my sister and my cousin when we were young and maintained that one of her regrets was that she wasn’t strong enough to take care of the great-grandchildren also. When you were in her home, you felt loved. You came in, you sat down, she served you, she cleaned your plate, and then she sat across from you and wanted to know all about your life.This is how she treated everyone, not just her family.  She was curious about everything.  She understood everything. You could count on her to have a righteous reaction to sorrow, to joy, to heartbreak.  To your every success and failure she bore an empathetic and enlightened witness. She gave you always what you needed. When you were hungry, she fed you. When you were thirsty, she gave you drink. And then you went away and lived your life, and she went on merrily and lived hers. She loved TV, and her newspapers and her books, and my grandfather, not necessarily in that order.  She lived joyously until she saw you again.  Sometimes she complained you didn’t call her as often as you should have, but it was a superficial complaint, because you knew that you were profoundly loved.  She remembered salient details about all the relatives, she had the memory of Matteo Ricci and the intuitive understanding of a sage, and she gave you all of herself, freely, liberally, always. For seventy five years she lived side by side with my grandfather.  The two of them came to America in 1979, seemingly in the twilight of their life and yet we were fortunate enough to have them bring us joy, and food, and conversation and love for thirty more years.That is astonishing, and I never forget how blessed I feel having had her in my life for this long.  Still, it wasn’t long enough. It never is.  She brightened every room when she was in it, you felt yourself striving to be a better person in her sainted presence, led by her example, and the world is a smaller, darker place with her gone.  Like my grandfather, my grandmother had every gift, including the gift of a long and magnificent life.  She died peacefully, at home, in her bed, in her sleep, unsuffering, surrounded by people she loved.  In a struggling, conflicted world, she, as my grandfather, died as they had lived, simply, and yet extraordinarily.

15 Responses to “My Grandmother”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Dear Paullina —

    What a beautiful tribute this is to your grandmother. What a blessing for you to have had her in your life. My deepest condolences to you and your family at this time of her loss.


  2. Marg says:

    Sorry for your loss Paullina. This is a lovely tribute to her.

    Thinking of your family at this time.

  3. Jane Prinsep says:

    I am sorry for your loss. Hearing of the passing of your grandmother, knowing what an inspiration she was, together with your grandfather, for the story of Tatiana and Alexander, is simply huge. And of course, she is your family, not mine. It just somehow seems to me that your readers knew a little part of her. Your tribute is lovely and I am sure that she would be immensely proud of you.
    Best wishes
    Jane Prinsep

  4. Kris Elliott says:

    Paullina, this is a beautiful, touching tribute to your grandmother. Thank you for sharing the news with us. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your sister as you both say goodbye and learn to live in a world without her light.

    Much Love,

  5. Noni-Rose says:

    Dear Paullina.
    My thoughts are with you at this difficult time.
    Beautiful words to pay tribute to her life.
    May she rest in peace and be reunited with your grandfather.
    Lots of Love,

  6. Leanne says:

    Great grandmothers are wonderful. ((hugs)

    Love Leanne
    Who has just found out you ar coming to my town Paraparumu (near Wellington) New Zealand. I will be there!

  7. Lorena says:

    Hi Paullina!
    I'm Lorena, from Spain. I'm sorry for my english, i know it's not very well but i'll try to say you something…
    At first, i'm sorry for your loss, but this is a beautiful way to say how much you love her.
    I don't know if this is a good moment to say something, but you has marked my life forever.
    You and your books are the reason why i think everyday that love exist and it's so wonderfull. You are the best writer that i ever meet.
    The trilogy of Tatiana & Alexander is the best lecture for everybody, it's like a medicine. I THINK IT SHOULD BE A MOVIE!
    I'm so sorry again for you loss and for my english… but thank you Paullina, thank you.

  8. Sparkie says:

    Paullina, I'm very sorry to learn of your grandmother's passing to her next life. You are a real inspiration to many people and incredibly modest to meet in person. Your grandparents must have been extremely proud to have such a talented granddaughter who obviously loved them both very much.

  9. DARKinside says:

    condolences Paullina! i'm really sorry for your loss, i know well how we love our grandmothers and how we suffer when they're gone…this wonderful grandmother was the person that inspired you to create tatiana's character? (sorry for this question) best regards

    Federico from Italy

  10. Rhonda says:

    Dear Paullina,
    This is such a heartfelt tribute. I'm so sorry for your loss. Grandmothers are such a special lot. In reading about yours I took a moment and remembered mine.

  11. Katie says:

    Dear Paullina,
    I have just put down the story of Tatiana and Alexander and I just had to find out more about you, which led me here. I am so sorry for your loss, she sounds like a wonderful woman and from your writing, has obviously instilled in you the emotions that you draw from. You are both lucky to have one another.

  12. giddyromance says:

    I know that months have passed now, but I would like to pass on my sympathies. I'm so sorry for your loss – your grandmother sounds like an amazing, beautiful woman.

    My thoughts are with you and your family, even after all this time. I know from experience how long it can take to heal.

    Best wishes and much love,


  13. Thump Thump Eyes says:

    I have just read 'The Girl In Times Square' and I loved it so much, after reading the last page I turned back to the first page and started reading it again. Such a moving story of love and other bruises. Thank you so much for being you and being able to put such things into words.

    So sorry to see you have recently lost your grandma, she sounds like such a wonderful and special person, I'm sure that's why you are who you are and why you have the gift of describing such love!

    I'm off to the bookshop to find more of your wonderful books.

  14. mariaddy87 says:

    Hi Paullina, sorry for your loss!
    We are Maria, Francesca, and Chiara, from your Italian fanforum…and we suggest you see this video of 'The bronze horseman', with Jon Kortajarena, that we think is perfect for Alexander!

    But…when the film??? We know that Andy Tennant has bought the rights to make the novel into a film…we are eager to see that! :)

  15. Stephanie says:

    Lovely eulogy for your dear babushka, Paullina.