My Angel, Sadie.

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on May 19th, 2019.


If you are looking for an article about how to rock it in your career, the latest report on gender equality, or lessons learned from my years at Goldman Sachs, this is not it. This article is much more personal in nature, it’s about my grandmother. 

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Today is my grandmother Sadie’s birthday. If she were still living, she would be 102 years old.  She did almost make it to 100, having passed away 5 years ago at the age of 97.  To say she was an amazing woman would be an understatement: she was pretty much perfect.

My sister and I were her first two grandchildren. Our parents would often take us to Vernon, a 30-minute drive from our home in Kelowna, British Columbia, to spend the weekends with her and our grandfather.   Although she worked during the week as a cleaning lady, when we visited, the weekends were all about us.  

She would take us to Polson Park where she would lay out a blanket so we could have a picnic lunch and eat her cucumber sandwiches. The afternoons would be spent swimming in the public park, chasing the geese around the pond, and playing hide-and-seek in the gardens.

We would go for walks in to town to have coffee with her friends at the 5 and dime, stopping at the candy store on the way home. At her home we would bake bread, and my favorite, cinnamon buns, her having risen early to prepare the dough and let it rise. 

If she did need to have some alone time, my sister and I would head to the basement and play grocery store for hours. Grandma would save the cans and boxes from various items, and we would play customer and cashier.  We were both well prepared for our future part-time jobs in retail. 

During the evenings we would take turns sprawling across her lap as we watched something on television. She would often have two sets of feet to rub, with my sister and I arguing about who was getting the better massage. When it came to rubbing our backs, we would count strokes to make sure we were each getting fair treatment.  We would often go to sleep with her in the middle, each of us nestled in to an armpit that smelled of love and safety.

There was only one time that I remember Grandma getting upset and spanking me. My sister and I were playing outside with the garden hose, spraying each other and running away. She thought it a good idea to run inside for safety, and I thought it was a good idea to follow her in with the hose at full throttle. It goes without saying that Grandma was not happy. I know for sure it hurt her more than it hurt me to get that spanking. She loved us unconditionally. 

This is only capturing the tiniest slice of the memories I have. Well, we have, as my sister helped with some recollections.  There are more memories about how she would come see us in Kelowna to help my mother with housework and laundry as she worked full-time, as did my dad. There is the making of traditional Ukrainian food with her, including cabbage rolls and pierogies.  And of course eating it all. And the endless card games and rounds of tile rummy we played. She loved to cheat by the way.  As I type, more and more memories are flooding back to me. And they are all good.  She was pretty much perfect. 

Of course I grew older, as did she, but we kept in regular contact over the phone, via letters (never email), and in person visits on my countless trips home. When I stopped working full-time and was able to spend summers in British Columbia with my children starting in 2002, we would regularly visit her, first in her home, and later in evolving levels of care facilities.  

Towards the end of her life, when she shared a room with other elderly people, our visits would usually occur in the common rooms. We would play tile rummy, drink tea, and I would enthusiastically humiliate myself just to make her laugh. Those visits got hard as we would have to leave her in the care of others, though awesome as they were, were not family. Moving in with my mom, who tended for her so well, and loved her to the moon and back, was not an option for her. She never wanted to be a burden. 

At Easter time in 2014, right before she passed, I thought it was a really good idea to bring along some bunny eared headbands. I hopped around entertaining the residents and made her laugh so hard I think she may have peed her pants.  I know I did. 

What I know for sure is that she prayed for her family every night. She prayed for our health, for our safety, for our happiness. She shared how she would name us all, one by one, her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and I never doubted the power of her prayers.   Of course we grieved her passing, but every member of her family, everyone who knew her, knew how lucky we all were for having her in our lives for so long. At 97, she was ready to go.

It was around that time that I started to see the numbers 111 or 1111, show up all the time. Back then, 5 ish years ago, when I saw them I would just make a ‘note to self ‘ on how odd it seemed. An example of this would be just glancing at my phone to check the time, and sure enough, 11:11.  Frankly I did not think anything of it until I saw a weird thing on a conference agenda, a session starting at 1:11 pm. I thought it was a typo and called it out to the organizer. She informed me that it was quite intentional, as there was a deep spiritual meaning to that number sequence. Say, what? I immediately googled it, and sure enough, this is what it said.   

Number 111 symbolizes the principles of spiritual awakening and enlightenment, high energy, inspiration and intuition, self-expression and sensitivity. Angel Number 111 is a message from your angels to be very aware of your persistent thoughts and ideas as these are manifesting quickly into your reality.

Holy shit. I immediately knew, just knew, that the 111s I had been seeing so many times, countless times, were indications of connection and love from my grandmother. I just knew it. She was my angel.  She was sending me messages, letting me know she was still there, praying for me, watching over me and my family.  Now I get that you might think this is a little wack-o-doodle but think what you will. 

But there is more to it. Unbeknownst to me, my daughter had also been noting seeing 111s all the time and not saying anything about it until one day, I said aloud, when I happened to glance at the clock at 1:11, and say “grandma.” She asked me what I was talking about, I shared, and she shared that she too had feelings about the significance of those moments but did not know what to connect it to. From that day forward, which was a few years ago, when we see 111s show up we say something aloud, we take a screen shot, we share, we connect and give thanks. 

But there is more too it. Today my grandma would have turned 102. Last night, having fallen asleep at 11 ish, dead tired, I woke up only to roll over and look at the clock, 1:11 am.  I do wake up a lot in the middle of the night, but not usually before 3 am. This was very unusual. 

So I know this. I know I was blessed to have had a truly incredible grandmother who graced my life with her love, her compassion, her cooking, her generosity, her wisdom and so much more. I know she is still somewhere, continuing to watch over me and my family. There are angels, and one of their names is Sadie Malysh.

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