Today I write about my Memory of Love, My Grandma. Somehow the writing of our story, adds another layer of healing to the raw flesh of brokenness her passing has left. She left her mark upon everyone she met. You knew you were in the presence of love when she entered the room. Love like that can only have one true source, and that love dwelt within her heart. She was a woman of faith, carrying joy into every second of her life because she had been filled with the joy of heaven’s hope.
On Saturday,January 11th, 2014, I had the privilege to stand before a room full of hearts that I love, to honor a woman who helped shape my very existence. My sweet grandmother went to be with Jesus on the 4th of January, a week before. Many of us, her ‘precious babies’ as she called us, were there as she took the step from this temporal world in to the loving arms of the Lord and eternity. That day was hard, soul-wrenching hard. It was heart-breaking to lose that one constant in our lives, in this ever changing, always spinning, orb of inconsistency.
As the week progressed we met together, those of us connected by memories, name, and blood; to plan, to mourn, to love. It was a topical salve upon our bleeding souls, and though it did not take the sting of the wound away, it was a band-aid which helped to curb some of the flow which our breaking hearts poured forth. It involved food, of course, coffee.. a MUST, and family, her passion. We cried together, we held one another, and we sorted through the raw emotions of the losing to prepare for the good-bye.
Even though we were expecting the day to come, the day where she would take that solitary journey, I am not sure you can ever really prepare for the parting. Everyone’s life has impact. Everyone will be missed. Her life was her legacy she passed on to her family, her living was a testimony of God’s faithfulness to her, her loving was a reminder that she held close that sacred promise of new life in Christ.
I wrote and rewrote the tribute in my head every day, repeatedly. What could I say? There was so much to say! She lived 89 FULL years of life packed to the gills. She LIVED life. She lived with passion and joy. It was a life full of stories, of experiences, of joy, loss and sorrow, adventure and travel, and laughter… oh the laughter. Her smile is etched in the memory of my vision and I pray I will NEVER forget her laugh or the infectious way she drew us in.
How do I share all that is in my heart? So many memories. Each of us had the memories we were replaying repeatedly in our minds. She left her fingerprint upon us because she was intentional about being a part of each of our lives. I grew up surrounded by family. Grandma and Grandpa had a marriage that was real, their love was abundant and it was the example which was my own standard for marriage. I wanted what they had. True Love… living out life through faith in God and in one another. Their love brought forth 7 amazing children, losing one at a young age, forever scarring their hearts and placing a longing for eternity deep within them even more pronounced than it had when they chose to follow Christ. Losing another child later in life only solidified in my mind that the strength which existed within her was rooted firmly in her faith.
My mother’s siblings and their spouses, my aunts and uncles, are the backbone of my memory. Nearly every memory that contained Grandma’s presence was littered with the extension of her family fleeting in and out. They are my childhood. My cousins, 19 of us in total, were my first friends, and truly some of my best friends. We love each other fiercely and would be available in a heartbeat when needed. Just like Grandma would expect. She instilled family.. she instilled the devotion to us that she hoped would continue with her kids and grandchildren.
In the book of Psalms 16:6 God’s Word says, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places,yes, I have a good heritage.” That is a worthy promise I have considered as I think of her life. She was given a Godly heritage and has passed it on faithfully.
Psalm 61:5 is another promise that reminds me of her passion to share love with her family, it says, ” For You, O God, have heard my vows; You have given me the heritage of those who fear, revere, and honor Your name.” That was her prayer…one of them, at least.
She taught me to pray as a child. Tenderly, she folded my hands and instructed me to repeat the words after her. She would say, ” A little folding of hands and bowing of hearts.” Tenaciously, though gently, she reminded me daily to give thanks and to say ‘Grace’. My childhood was largely spent in her presence, with weekend trips to Grandma’s and week day visits after school, much of my learning was at her hands. I am reminded of Proverbs 22:6, ” Train a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.” I watched her,purposefully as if in study, as she worked. I asked a plethora of questions, sometimes, perhaps, a few too many. As a child, I knew when I was being a bit too inquisitive, because she would give me ‘the look’, which meant I was in need of a lesson of the virtue of silence.
I loved her hands. I found myself watching them often. I remember her hands as she taught me to braid my doll’s hair, and then, tenderly, she would braid my own. I loved sitting right in front of her as she played with my hair, even the memory calms my heart, now. I remember her hands as she measured the ingredients in whatever she was making. It wasn’t a measuring cup though, it was a white coffee cup that was void of markings or measurement notations. I always marveled at her ability to know how much was in there. In fact, I asked once ( probably more than once) how she did that. She just smiled and told me she had been cooking long enough to just know. The funny thing , now that I am grown, is that I rarely measure anything myself. She was right.. you just know. And something she told me much later, after my many failures in the kitchen as a newly married woman, was that sometimes you just have to dump it all in and keep working till it looks right. Sometimes… you just start over or McDonald’s was another option.
There is so much to say, to share, and to remember. That is the beauty of the memory… the hope and healing it brings to the heart longing for a familiar embrace. The remembering is a hug of hope in the heart of the holder that can linger and endure the pain of the separation.
This is a part of the story, only a fraction of the surface which is enfolded deeply in an eternal truth. Love. Never. Fails. 1 Cor. 13:8. Where He started a love-story, a family began. It carries forward the legacy to the living and the gift of hope from generation to generation.
Below is the tribute which I shared at her service. I am so thankful to have had the chance to honor her.
In the Bible, Psalms 25:10 says, “ All the paths of the Lord are mercy, and steadfast love, even truth and faithfulness are the characteristics of His covenant keepers and those who share His testimony.” When I think of my grandmother, those words aptly describe her in profound abundance. Her legacy speaks loudly to the hearts of those who knew her and loved her well. Shannon Alder wrote, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” Certainly, her name is not only carved upon the hearts of all those whose lives were intertwined with her own, but it is her laughter, her generosity, her smile and her embrace which fill the reservoir of our memory and light the path to our remembering.
I have spent the last week keeping a journal of memories that pop up out of no where… the obvious, of course, come to mind of her many quips and humorous anecdotes. They make me laugh, and cry, and just ponder a little more about this wonderful woman we loved. But it is those stolen memories, long-forgotten, that take my breath away. The depth of her presence, splashed upon our living, filters through the crevices and rests deeply into the record book of time. Surprisingly, those moments come when I least expect them. It can be as simple as watching the news and remembering how much she loved Mr. Food. She could imitate him perfectly. Or when I am making dinner and I remember how she rarely used a measuring cup, she just dumped and threw the ingredients in as she felt was necessary. I found myself remembering the way she often finished a conversation with, “ Well, I don’t know nothing so….” , and then proceeded to tell you “something” for another 30 minutes. I always regarded time spent with Grandma as a passing down, of-sorts, a time to learn and grow in the season of life and be filled up with the knowledge and treasures which filled in the pages of her mind. With each visit she would lace the conversation with something new to tell you, a little bit of wisdom, purely grandma-style…. touched with a tinge of humor and sincerity which left its mark on the hear-er.
In my mind, she was fearless and courageous, she chose to live life with a boldness and authenticity that I admired. She truly lived life; that her influence upon our lives was immeasurable, is an understatement. She set a standard for what family meant: love, faithfulness, and steadfastness. I think of the depth and strength of her love for her family, and her friends as well, as a bulwark, protecting and holding in all that she held precious. Like a 3-fold cord, which is not easily broken, the bond she created within the fabric of our lives remains tethered to a firm foundation that is immovable. Her faithfulness kept us grounded, her steadfastness gave us roots, and her love filled our wings with the freedom to fly and soar. The encouragement she poured upon us never waned, she was our greatest cheerleader. At times, though not often, she would also be a voice of discipline just when we needed it, bringing us back into the reality of life and the knowledge of truth.
It is said that your story is the greatest legacy which you will leave to your friends, but the longest-lasting legacy, which you will leave to your heirs, is your testimony. The adage, actions speak louder than words, reminds me of her gentle spirit and accepting heart. She loved both in words and in deed, exemplifying a pure heart while writing the story of her life in our memories. As I sifted through one of her favorite books of the Bible, The Psalms, remembering those precious moments I wanted desperately to hold close, I realized I had been reading her testimony, as well. Sometimes, especially recently, she would ask me to read a Psalm to her, and not long after I started she would begin reciting the words from memory. She loved hymns and sometimes we would sing our own versions or whatever song came to mind. Mostly, it was a medley because I didn’t know all the words and then she would laugh. She made everything fun. The more I read God’s Word, remembering her, the more I began to see the indelible fingerprint of God upon her life. Just like Psalm 25 says, the path of her journey in life was undeniably blessed by God. Even in sadness and grief, she was a woman filled with joy. Psalm 16:6 tells us that the joy comes from being in the presence of God. “You will show me the path of life: in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”
Her testimony of faithfulness, love, and joy are a heritage passed down to her children and grandchildren and generations to come. Leading and guiding us was as natural as breathing for her. I knew a lesson was on the way when she would lift up her glasses, wrinkle up her nose and say, “ Let’s see here..”. Inevitably, she would tell me something that would either leave me laughing or blessed by her wit and wisdom. She gave us the gift of family, a gift she treasured deeply. One of the last hospital visits we had is a treasure in my heart. She was sleeping when I went in the room, so I sat with her, quietly, and prayed. When she awoke, she called me by name, which was rare for her, lately. She told me we were her babies… then she stopped to make sure I heard her.. she said it again.. “You all are my babies and I just want to make sure you are ok. I love you all so much.” She exemplified the image of a true matriarch and filled our days with the wisdom of a life well-lived, full of love, faith, and prayer. Prayer is timeless, like God, and I am comforted in the thought that her prayers surrounded us the moment she breathed them forth, and will continue to insulate our very lives with her love and faith. As I look at my family, I see traces of her in each of you, whether her features, or her hands, or her laugh, or her humor; she lives on in the lives of the next generations who loved her and it is up to us to pass that heritage on.
Charles Dickens wrote, “ Come out into the world about you, be it either wide or limited. Sympathize not only in thought but in action, with all about you. Make yourself known and felt for something that would be loved and missed in twenty thousand little ways, if you were to die; then your life will be a happy one, believe me.” She touched every life for eternity with the joy which came straight from heaven’s storehouse. She was a loving wife, a faithful mother, an adoring grandmother, a devoted sister and a trustworthy friend. She will be missed in a million little ways.
A few days after grandma passed, a dear friend gave me a poem. I am reminded that we who have faith are not grieving as those without hope. We have an eternal promise of being reunited again, just as she was reunited with those she has loved and missed for so long. The words come from a song called, Finally Home, and reading them brought a sense of peace to my weary heart.
When alarmed by the fury of the restless sea,
Towering waves before you roll,
At the end of doubt and peril is eternity,
Though fear and conflict seize your soul.
Just think of stepping on shore, and finding it heaven
Of touching a hand, and finding it God’s
Of breathing new air, and finding it celestial
Of waking up in Glory, and finding it “Home”
When surrounded by blackness of the darkest night
Oh how lonely death can be,
As the end this long tunnel is a shining light,
For death is swallowed-up in Victory, ( Victory!)
Just think of stepping on shore, and finding it heaven
Of touching a hand, and finding it God’s
Of breathing new air, and finding it celestial
Of waking up in Glory, and finding it “Home!”
Though I will miss her everyday, I am comforted in this… she has stepped upon heaven’s shore, breathing in the air of heaven, and like the great cloud of witnesses, she is now urging us on.
Blessings and Prayer,
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