For the past month and a half I have been planning on writing a tribute to one of my heroes. This woman has had a lasting and life-shaping impact on my life. But, if I’m honest, I’ve put off writing this post. One, because words cannot encapsulate her; I truly don’t know where to start. Two, because I don’t think I’ll make it through writing without sobbing. You see, seven weeks ago she left her frail body and went Home to be with her Savior. If anyone on this earth could be called Superwoman it was her. So, come take a trip down memory lane with me. Let me introduce you to the woman I had the immense honor to call grandma…
My earliest memories of grandma are playing under her giant magnolia tree, eating on the kids table Papa made just for us, taking walks around the neighborhood, really awesome Christmas presents (like scooters and Lil Miss Makeup dolls), and trips to Disney World. As a kid I was able to go to Disney approximately 3 times a year. I’m not sure if anything was a bigger deal to me than those trips. The most special was when she took me every year for my birthday, just her and I. We’d ride whatever rides I wanted and would end our day on main street where I got to pick out a stuffed animal. Those stuffed animals sit a top a bookshelf in my guest room now. A tangible reminder of the memories and love of a blessed childhood.
I’ll never forget the trip to Disney (I was probably 6 or 7) that my sweet grandma played an ornery trick on me. See I was terrified of the dark and, well everything else for that matter. My grandma and dad had been trying to get me to ride Space Mountain for awhile, but I stubbornly refused. A roller coaster in the dark was not my thing and at that point I was still a bit wary of roller coasters in general. Grandma and I were riding the People Mover (go to 2:28) and the sign for Space Mountain appeared. Grandma told me that we were really on Space Mountain, not the People mover. She had me freaked out for awhile before I realized that she was joking. You never knew when Grandma’s humor was going to crop up.
As I grew older the Disney trips continued (let’s face it, I’ll never grow too old for Disney), but my memories became more varied and substantive. Grandma and Papa lived in a neighborhood of 1 acre+ lots. There was plenty of room for the 9 grandkids to play and roam. Grandma always had a plethora of outdoor toys to occupy our imaginative brains. For a time she had jump ropes, but her eldest granddaughter enjoyed tying impossible knots and she gave up buying jump ropes. ;) Grandma always made sure to have special videos, treats, crafts, and puzzles for us to do. When I was around 9 yr. Grandma began volunteering at a local nursing home and whenever we came to visit, she would take us along. Oh how I looked forward to Bingo, Ice Cream Socials, and Craft Days. And oh, the valuable lessons of respect and compassion I learned.
My reminiscence wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention how much work went into making the holidays special. The presents were great, but I mostly remember all the food (and us cousins practically fighting over her cheese bread!) and my mom and aunts laughing so hard they’d almost fall out of their chairs. How special it must have been to have her daughters, son-in-laws, and grandkids all laughing and eating under one roof.
In November of 2001 my grandpa passed away and Grandma began a new journey. A journey of living life alone. But, it was during this time that I watched my grandma’s faith in the Lord begin to grow. In 2009 Grandma had her first stroke. Thanks be to God that she recovered completely. Her only difficulty was speaking. Grandma didn’t let that deter her. She began therapy and would spend parts of her day reading the Bible aloud to retrain her brain and lips. During this time an amazing change came over her. My sweet, selfless Grandma became even more sweet, she was softer, and she was even more faith-filled. The trial of the stroke and speech difficulties drove her to her Savior. The days filled with reading Scripture out loud produced a faith and trust in God that was truly astounding. In 2012 Grandma fell and broke her femur right above her knee. She could not reach the phone and lay on the kitchen floor for 12 hours before her neighbor found her. When my mom asked what she did for that long period of time she simply said, “I prayed.” After her surgery she went into a nursing home for rehabilitative therapy. Her therapist did more therapy than prescribed and a second surgery had to be performed. As she came out of the anesthetic she had a heart attack and another stroke. But, God wasn’t done with her here on earth. She recovered and went back to the home for more therapy. During this time she contracted MRSA. Long story short, her leg needed to be amputated. As my mom and aunts broke the news to her, she was calm and peaceful. And as the grandkids filed into her hospital room, she was more concerned with making sure we were ok, than the fact that she was about to lose her leg. She kept telling us that it was ok and that God was in control. This my friends is why the Bible says to hide Scripture in our heart. Grandma had a peace beyond all understanding. Grandma stayed with my Aunt Kris for a little while and then went to live in a wonderful assisted living home. For the next 5 years she happily lived in this home, spreading Jesus’ joy and compassion to everyone she met. She continued to have mini strokes and drops in blood sugar (scaring us multiple times), but her peace and joy in the Lord never faltered.
The last time I saw Grandma was in December of 2015. It was a sweet time of seeing family, but mostly of spending time with her. The Lord gave me some very special one on one time with her that I’ll never forget. I was able to serve her like she had served me for so many years. I have no doubt that God orchestrated those moments as a special memory and special way for me to say thank you.
This past December she had a massive stroke and took a turn for the worst. I was not able to make it down to see her, but that Friday I was able to FaceTime with her. My mom said that she saw me on my sister’s phone and pointed to my picture that was in the room. Even though she couldn’t talk, she knew who talking to her. As I told her how much I loved her and that she was my hero, I broke down. I couldn’t hold it together and began crying. She kept telling me she loved me (it was all jumbled, but I still knew exactly what she was saying) and she kept looking away from the phone. It was killing her that I was sad and she couldn’t do anything about it. She couldn’t talk and was dying. But, still she was more concerned about her granddaughter than herself. Saturday she went into a deep sleep and on Monday evening she went Home to be with the Savior she loved so much.
As I think about Grandma it really is difficult to summarize all she was and did. I’m sure if you asked each of my cousins they would give you different stories and lessons learned. See, that was what was so amazing about her. She cared more about what you needed than herself. Whether it was a hug, some encouragement, a cinnamon roll, or a big bowl of ice cream; she was always ready to serve her grandkids and help them grow up into the adults we are today. I pray that when I’m in my 80s that I’ll love my family and love my Savior as she did. I pray that my faith in my Saviors plan for my life is as strong as hers was. It didn’t matter the situation. No obstacle was too hard for God. He had always taken care of her and she knew He always would. After one of her strokes she couldn’t remember or speak well for over 24hrs. But, the one thing she kept saying was, “Jesus loves me.” I want to be in my 70s and still riding roller coasters. I want to inspire others to create. I want to love others selflessly. I want to be known as an amazing baker (Though, I doubt I’ll ever be as good as she was!).
Grandma, it simultaneously brings tears and a smile to think of you in Heaven. I know you’re standing whole on two legs. You’re at your Savior’s side with no cares or pain. This world is a bit sadder without you in it. I missed your call this year on my birthday. I miss holding your soft arthritic hands. But, I eagerly look forward to the day when I’ll get to hug your neck in Heaven. Thank you for teaching me what selfless love looks like. For demonstrating what unwavering faith in the midst of terrible trial looks like. For encouraging me to ride roller coasters. For encouraging my creative side. For teaching me to love and have compassion for senior adults, I’ll never look at nursing homes the same. Thank you for all the trips to Disney (even when you were sick of going). Thank you for letting me talk your ear off and for being such a good listener. I love you Grandma!