I knew her pretty well, therefore as her words – full of purpose – hit my ears, I knew what they meant. My grandmother – a woman whose words I learned over the years were rarely spoken without a reason…
I had leaned down, believing she was asleep and not wanting to wake her, and planted what I hoped was not my last kiss upon her forehead. When her eyes suddenly popped open and stared at me, her words coming quickly – questioning. “Where are you going?” she asked. “Home,” I replied. “I thought you weren’t leaving until Saturday,” she said. “No, I have to leave today. Mom is staying until Saturday,” I stated.
She looked at me for a moment and said, “Don’t stop writing. You’re going to be a famous writer someday. You are so gifted.” I nodded in thanks as tears began springing to my eyes. The look in her eyes, the way they fixed on my own, made me uncomfortable… my spirit recognized she was trying to tell me something. Grandma continued, “I love you, babe! You take good care of yourself.” I looked this woman whom I cherished straight in the eyes and said emphatically, “No! YOU take care of yourself; I’ll see you soon.” I gave her a long hug, several more kisses and told her I loved her. (Please hear me, please…I silently spoke from my heart to hers…)
It was at that moment that I realized that my grandmother was trying to say her final good-bye to me, without actually saying the words. She knew I would comprehend what she wasn’t saying. The problem: I didn’t want to hear it! I wasn’t ready to lose her too. Not so soon.
Until last Monday when we finally heard her actual diagnosis, were finally told of all that was going on inside of her body, I had been under the impression that she had lost her will to live because of my grandfather’s sudden death, just a few weeks prior. However, after hearing that her body was infested with cancer, that she’d somehow been enduring and actually walking with both a broken clavicle and cervical vertebrae (from one of many falls at home) from which her left side had become paralyzed, a revelation hit me squarely: Grandma had actually been living for my grandfather and now that he was gone, she was free to go home to the Lord.
She was tired of the fight and was ready for rest; she didn’t want me to pack up my life and come to help take care of her as I suggested because she knew it was just a matter of time. If I had known I wouldn’t have more of it, I would not have left her. I would have stayed and spent more time with her, but at least I was able to be there, take care of and love on her for what time I had. I knew her well enough to know how much it meant to her. I know that every word she said to me during those 5 days meant something. I believe her knowing I would be loved (because of my relationship with Christ) and taken care of must have given her some comfort…for I was the granddaughter who is perpetually single.
I should have known it wouldn’t be long but I simply couldn’t fathom this thought…
The one thing through it all, that gave me peace and comfort, is that she had Jesus in her heart; at least knew where she’d be for eternity. God comforted me with this knowledge. When the news came she was reaching her end and it happened before I could reach her side for one last kiss and to say good-bye…a piece of my heart died. It was the finality of it all. It was knowing I’d never get another loving, supportive letter. Never get to share something I had written and receive her praises. I’d never get to pay her another surprise visit. Never be asked when I was going to produce great-grand babies…never seeing her wonderful smile, her kind eyes and having her arms wrapped tightly around me, ever again.
No more sitting across the dining room table talking for hours. No more of my grandparents, in their house – a house I too lived and spent much time in, throughout my life. A house full of 40 years of memories. No more gardens or walking in their beautiful yard and talking about what I’d seen. No more stories about her life or sharing secrets. No more of the people who had practically been my parents, influenced and shaped me.
Her life, as did my grandfather’s, ended too quickly for me; but I realize that for her it was a blessing. She would now be healed of all that ailed her; restored back to her natural beauty and sprite, productive self. The best part of it all is knowing she is now in heaven, probably surrounded by animals and tilling a garden, planting seeds of grace and mercy. My grandmother may have left this earth but her love will live on in my heart for the rest of my life.
On Saturday, at her memorial service, I stood to give the eulogy I wrote. At the end I added something: A photo taken on the day of my sister’s birth (she is 12 years my junior) was included in the photo montage. It reminded me of a story my grandmother had told me years prior. A month or so prior to my sister’s arrival, my grandmother had been hospitalized due to serious heart issues. She relayed that the doctors had told her she had a 50/50 survival rate; she looked at them and boldly said that she had a granddaughter on the way and she wasn’t going anywhere! I stated that seeing that photo reminded me of the perseverance with which my grandmother lived her life.
The pastor who presided over her memorial service, after hearing what was spoken about her, was led to read from Proverbs 31 (verses 10-31). This is perhaps what God wanted others to know about my grandmother:
Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands.
She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar.
She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household, and a portion for her maidservants.
She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms.
She perceives that her merchandise is good, and her lamp does not go out by night.
She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hand holds the spindle.
She extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household is clothed with scarlet.
She makes tapestry for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants.
Strength and honor are her clothing; she shall rejoice in time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.
She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.
He encouraged all the women in our family to be women of virtue and grace; a message I pray reached their ears and traveled to their hearts; a message very much needed. I was grateful.
The final expression I am left with of my grandmother’s face, gratefully, is one of peace and grace. I was pleased to see this. I am so grateful for this woman’s example in my life; that I inherited her heart and mindset for many things. For the love she showered me with and now leaves me with; merely for her wonderful presence. Thank you, Grandma, for loving me in and through all things; for instilling this for me to bear witness. I pray I will continue to make you proud of me and produce a garden full of love and good fruit, in your honor and His.