In memory of Gram

There’s nothing that can prepare you for the shock of an unexpected death of a loved one. Nothing that can prepare you for the instant heart-beating-out-of-your-chest sensation, as though all the oxygen in the world was stripped from your lungs. I was in a mall in Paris when I looked down at my phone to see that it had connected to wifi. Instantly it started lighting up and buzzing with what seemed like 100 message and texts from my sister and my mom. As they were coming through I just keep seeing the words “Call me now”, “urgent’ “gram”. I texted my sister back as messages were still coming through and simply said “Is she alive?” but the second I sent it, I just knew. I knew what the answer would be, and I knew I would be faced with a reality that was inevitable but that I still thought was a long way off. The mall was buzzing with people but, in an instant, everything around me became a blur. It was like one of those photographers where you see someone standing still in the middle of Grand Central station, with all the blurry commotion surrounding them. I stopped dead in my tracks, looked up at Adam and said “It’s my Grandma”, and he replied with “What?” and I said “She’s dead”…with no emotion in my voice, as though I was reporting the latest election polls. I said the words out loud because I think I needed to actually hear them myself to believe them. I took a breath and then simply said “I think I need to go back to the hotel”, and as we walked out of that mall and the cold air hit my lungs, the initial shock wore off and all the memories started flashing through my head as well as all that “What now?” questions. It was about a 15 minute walk back to the hotel and I remember holding my hand over my heart the entire time because it was pounding so loud and so hard. Tears streamed down my face as my mind raced with a million and two thoughts.

I have no regrets. She was my best friend in the world and she knew it.  I called her every week, often multiple times a week, for the last 10 years and we’ve spent countless hours talking and laughing and debating and chatting. I made it a priority to visit her at least once a year. I have absolutely no regrets.

….but who am I going to call now? Who am I going to call when my husband is driving me insane and she was my only unbiased confidant? She saved him from my angry wrath on more than one occasion. And she always took his side. Why did she always take his side? She was MY grandmother, afterall, not his.

What about Dave (my grandfather)? What is he going to do and how is he going to survive after this when she was everything?

All I ever wanted was for her to meet her great grandkids, and how she never will.

I want to get pregnant right now.

This was the way for her to go. It’s exactly what she would’ve wanted. She always hated hospitals and doctors and wasn’t afraid of death, but was afraid the process would be long. For it to happen this suddenly was exactly how she would’ve wanted it.

…but it was so soon. Too soon. She was only 74. I thought I had at least another 5-6 years with her.

I guess all our recent conversations about death now make sense. The conversations were mostly brought up by me, and about me. She hated that I traveled so much and feared I would be in an attack somewhere. She didn’t want me to go to Paris because of the recent attacks. But in our conversations about death – which were many and long – we both agreed that neither of us feared it and that we were both very ready if It happened. And through those conversations I got to the place myself of having a much broader grasp of life on earth and how short it is compared to eternity.

I have no doubt, whatsoever, where she is spending eternity. I am crying, and my heart is pounding, and I can barely breathe, but the peace that I have is unmistakable.

…how do people who don’t believe in heaven do this? I can’t imagine the despair and the grief.

All the thoughts ran through my head as I made my way back to the hotel room to cal my mom. But amidst the thoughts and the immediate shock and sadness that came with an onslaught of tears, I had a remarkable, undeniable deep set peace. probably the deepest peace I’ve ever felt. It almost felt supernatural. And maybe that’s because it was. Nobody could’ve prepared me for the shock and sadness of her passing, but nobody could have prepared me for the deep peace and JOY I would feel either. It’s been interesting to experience the paradox of the two. Who, when losing their closest friend and greatest confidant experiences JOY at their passing? It was certainly not an emotion I had ever imagine I would experience but that has been such testimony to me of how powerful and wonderful unwavering faith is. I have joy because I know that right now, at this very moment, she is in perfect union with her Saviour. What a wonderful and beautiful picture. Sunday morning during worship we sang the song “Grace so glorious” and tears streamed down my face as I pictured her singing it right alongside me up in heaven…

“Oh wonderous day when I will see

the face of Him who ransomed me

I’ll fall in worship at His feet

and rise to reign eternally

in a grace so glorious

Crowned in glory to glory

worthy is the Lord

of all the glory, forever

Holy is the Lord”

What an incredible picture it was for me to know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, my Gram was experiencing that. Face to face with Jesus, the one who radically transformed her life many years ago. The one who healed so many of her earthy wounds and emotional baggage. The one who was her Redeemer. You see, my Grandma didn’t live a perfect life. She wasn’t dealt the easiest hand of cards and experienced a lot of hurt, pain and rejection during her time here on earth. But years ago she made a decision to surrender her life to Jesus and, instantly and radically, he changed her. He healed her of addiction and disease. And over the years he brought light and restoration to the areas in her life that caused her pain. He healed and restored relationships and used her testimony as a pillar of faith for our family.

This morning at a graveside in Texas, my family will lay her body to rest. There will be tears, for sure, but I also know that we will all leave that gravesite with the best of memories. Memories of jumping in puddles after a rainstorm, memories of dollhouses and matchbox cars, memories of playing “Hally bally over the roof” (pretty sure she made that up), memories of sitting on her front porch as she chain smoked packs of cigarettes, memories of her fried chicken and turkey dinners, memories of her always loving her newest Old Navy shirt despite owning a million of them already, memories of scrabble and dictionary, memories of her feeding all the stray dogs, memories of deep conversations and a raspy smokers laugh. We will carry these memories in our hearts while here on earth, as time passes before we see her again. And, for me, I have no doubt that I will see her again. What a wonderful and glorious day that will be. But for today, I will focus on the deep peace and joy unspeakable that I have knowing her soul is finally home.

  1. Gloria

    December 18th, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    So Perfectly said! Life is not perfect but when you reflect on life, perfect it’s not meant to be or those memories would fade to nothing, even the most un-perfect days and times will become a happy memory that will be cherished! That’s the great love and gift of memories. In those memories of the loved ones that we have lost, they are never truly lost. Although our hearts are broken, your Gram will be forever be with you all in your hearts, memories and prayers! She is now an angel and you will see signs they are still with us. May the fond memories you hold be with you all today, during difficult days and always! Love, Gloria

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