My grandmother passed away one year ago today, a little over one month shy of her 88th birthday. My grandfather followed her just 6 weeks later at the age of 93. My father was an only child as am I which made me their only grandchild who was fiercly doted over.
Their passing has had a profound influence on me. That event along with a few others that have occurred over the past several years have left me feeling that I have indeed lost what remained of my innocence. I am left with no doubt that pain and tragedy come to us all indiscrimanently. As I approach my 40th birthday just a few short 4 weeks away, I have matured enough to understand that while pain (emotional or physical) is an inescapable fact of every human existance, it is also a valuable tool when we choose to use it as such. I’ve discovered that every “painful” experience offers a profound opportunity for spiritual growth and understanding if I simply recognize it as such. It’s typically not until I get to the other side of the pain that I can see that.
My grandparents lived about 2 and a half hours from me in a neighboring state. While I was in close contact with them as a child and young adult, once I married and had a family of my own, that contact was less abundant on my end as my life filled with the busyness of work, marriage, and raising children. While I did prepare several meals to be delivered to them as my parents were struggling to care for them during the last few months of their lives, I’ve struggled with a deep sense of guilt because I feel that I should have spent more time with them and been of more help. I can admit now that I was afraid. I was frightened of their illness, their old age, and their impending death. I continued to take them for granted right up to the very end, unwillling to believe someone I loved so much would actually be taken from me. I had never before lost someone so close. This sort of thing happened to other people, even people I was very close to, but not directly to me.
I did have the honor of sitting at my Granny’s bedside for two days as she lay unconcious and ultimately dying in the hospital. I was privileged to hold her wrinkled hand, stroke her hair, kiss her forehead, and tell her how much I loved her. I was afforded some alone time with her during which I whispered to her my regret at not spending more time with her over the past several years. It was also important for me to tell her it was alright for her to go. I knew she would be deeply worried about my Granpa. I assured her we would take good care of him, and that he would be with her soon.
When the call came from my father several days later that she had passed, I couldn’t help but sob even though my little girl was right there with me. We had had the talk with her just a few days prior that Great-Granny was very sick and going to heaven soon. My then 5 year old daughter said the most amazing thing to me. She wrapped her little arms around my waist and said, “It’s ok Mommy. Great-Granny is happy. She’s with her Mommy now.”
I had the pleasure of being with my Granpa just a week before he passed. I watched his face light up as my daughter skipped into the room behind me to visit him. She sat on his lap and shared french fries with him as he held tightly to my hand.
I had the privilege of reading the 23rd Psalm at my grandmother’s funeral as she had requested, and delivered what I hope was a properly repectful eulogy at my grandfather’s funeral that made both of them proud.
I now have in my home a secretary built by my Granpa for my Granny housing all of her little knick knacks. They had made it clear several times that this item was to go to me when they passed. The day we went to retrieve it from their home we discovered a note taped to the back that my Granny had written some 7 years earlier, addressed to me. The general message of the note being how much they loved me, and what a special piece of furniture this was.
When I pass by this piece of furniture in my house now I am reminded of my Granny's laugh which I can still hear very clearly and my Granpa's pet phrase for me..."bright eyed and bushy-tailed" (yes I am a Southern girl through and through!) I am also reminded of the things my grandparents taught me…that I am well loved, that it is possible to be completely devoted to your spouse after 59 years of marriage, that this world is but a temporary stop on our cosmic journey, that I should pay attention and learn well from every life that touches mine, and that no one ever truly dies.
I have become a closet country music fan over the past several years much to Jay’s disgust…LOL. Allen Jackson’s “Small Town Southern Man” always brings to mind wistful memories of my Granpa. I miss my grandparents dearly today. Listen to it for me, and help me honor the memory of my grandparents today.