In Memory of Grandma

“Grandparents are both our past and our future. In some ways,
they are what has gone before,
and in others, they are what we will become.”  ~Mr. Rogers
When I was five years old, my father preached a sermon in which he talked about his mother dying. Well, this was news to me, as I’d just seen my grandparents both alive and well, not too long before. My mother realized very quickly that I was not only paying attention but also very upset thinking Grandma was dead. She explained that my dad’s mother died when he was seven years old and that Grandpa remarried, so I had two Grandmas. (My parents did not keep this information from us, this is the age the information “clicked” in my brain). Though I didn’t know that first Grandma, I lost her that day.
Fast forward 17 years to 2002. I graduated from college. I was making plans for my life (though those plans were not God’s plans and that would soon be revealed). I had a couple of weeks left in on-campus housing before I had to move into my new apartment. I had hoped to do this gradually and take my time. I received a call that my Grandpa passed away (he had been in the hospital with complications after heart surgery, and the prognosis seemed to go back and forth, but the loss was still unexpected and sudden) and my flight arrangements were being made. I remember so many details from that time. My college minister and his wife helped me move the rest of my belongings to my new apartment (I had so much less stuff then!) so I could be cleared with housing. It was my first post-9/11 flight. With a one-way ticket and only a small carry on, I became a red flag to be searched. I was aggravated that the searcher put my toiletry bag back in the bigger bag upside down because my contacts were inside (this still aggravates me). I remember walking down the steps toward the area where people can meet arrivals and seeing my dad, crying with him as we embraced. So many people came to the memorial service to honor the gospel preacher of just over 50 years. I learned a lot about him that day, but that made the loss more complicated.
Yesterday, my Grandma died. She’s been unwell for a while. Her suffering is finally over. Like Grandpa, she spent a lifetime in the Lord’s service. Teaching Bible classes, helping with church secretarial tasks, typing for my grandfather, leading Ladies’ Bible studies, and generally serving alongside her husband as a preacher’s wife. Here is what my own father wrote about his mother for his church bulletin:
On February 14, 1960, fifty-five years ago, a Christian woman named Mary became my second mother. When she married my dad she knew the job that lay ahead. She became “instant mama” to three sons: a seven-year-old, a five-year-old, and a five-month-old. Many women would have run from such a task, but my mother took on the challenge and met it well. She encouraged me to become a preacher, provided a listening ear, and gave me the little sister I wanted. My first memory of hearing the phrase “treated like a stepchild” was as a young adult. I didn’t comprehend what it meant. Technically I was a stepson, but I never felt like one. Yesterday mother went home to be with the Lord. Although mom was eighty-four years old, for her children and grandchildren her death was still too early. I’m thankful to God for two wonderful mothers: the one who bore me and the one who finished molding me.
Grandpa asked me at many visits when I was going to get married and start having great-grandbabies. He also told me he’d have to officiate the wedding because my dad would be too emotional. Partly for that reason, but mostly because I wanted my dad to give me away and then enjoy the ceremony rather than “work,” we asked my other grandfather to officiate – but that’s getting off-topic. After his death, it would be another five years before I married and an additional year before our dreams of a great-grandbaby became a reality. I am so glad that my Grandma lived long enough to meet both of my babies in person. However, I didn’t take any pictures of our last visit because she didn’t look like herself, and I wanted to remember her as she is in these pictures. Our visits were not as often as I would prefer, but distance, her poor health, and Dietrich’s severe allergy to cats all acted as barriers. I made efforts to call on a regular basis, even while living in Germany (our phone plan included unlimited calls to the States). I set an alarm on my phone, with Acappella’s “I’m Gonna Keep on Workin’ ‘Til He Comes” – an alarm was necessary because of the time difference, to remind me to call at a good time for her. This song fits her personality. She taught Ladies’ Bible Study until she felt unable to give it her best effort. Even then, she fully participated, until she couldn’t anymore due to worsening health problems. In all of my phone calls with her, she told me she was proud of me, that I am a good mom, and that she loved me. Just as my dad never felt like he wasn’t really her son, I’ve never felt like less than her granddaughter.
This week, we prepare for a family reunion of sorts as we gather to say an earthly goodbye to Grandma. My brother is coming home – I haven’t seen him since Dietrich was born! I’ll also get to see an uncle that I haven’t seen in even more years because he’s never met Dietrich. I am so glad to be a Christian, to have hope beyond this life, to know that the end of Grandma’s suffering on this earth is the beginning of a beautiful, joy-filled, pain-free eternity.

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