*Me, Grandma, my sister Lindsey and my cousin Emily in 2012.
The title of this post references the song my Grandma sang to me my whole life, even up until a few weeks ago.
Usually I have lots of words. And I do. But this is still the hardest thing I’ve ever written. My grandma is gone. The word I keep using to describe it is “weird.” It’s weird that she’s not at her house, taking care of her flowers. It’s weird I can’t call her any time I want just to catch up. It’s weird that she won’t be over at Thanksgiving or Christmas. It’s weird that someone so full of life could simply cease to exist here on earth any more. It will be so weird when I go over to her house to visit my Grandpa and she’s just absent. I’m already dreading that feeling, that moment.
My grandma was so many things. She was kind, compassionate, faithful, loving, serving, hopeful, believing, adventurous. She was all the good things you can imagine bottled up into one person. Of course she wasn’t perfect but sometimes I think she must really be a saint.
When people come to the end of their lives, they often say they wish they hadn’t worked so much. They wish they had spent more time with the people they loved, enjoyed life more. That’s not something my grandma would have said, if she’d had the opportunity in the end. Because she did all the things people regret not doing! She visited often, called a lot, kept in touch, spent lots of time with her grandkids and even more time with her great grandkids. She was babysitting for my 2-year-old nephew for overnight visits even two months ago!
With her three great-grandkids:
She LOVED those around her — most especially her family. She was often very tired and sick, from chemotherapy or just the effects of cancer, but she never let it stop her. She didn’t sit around. She embraced life for everything it was. I’m not sure she’d say she had many regrets. For me, she was like a second mother — which I guess grandmothers should be if it all works out.
When I finally met the man I knew I would marry, she may have been the most excited. She was so happy for me and never ceased to ask about him, about us, to let me know she was praying for us. The day before I left for my wedding in Jamaica, she called me up SO excited for me. Thinking back, I wish I had that phone call recorded. It meant the world to me, considering I was having a wedding with no guests in a place with no phone. She wanted to know everything and the same when I returned.
She went snow tubing (this after being pulled by a truck) two Christmases ago:
She went water tubing too, got up her knees and waved just a couple of years ago! (she’s on the right).
She wanted to experience life — and she did. Once, she was going to go on a mission trip to Africa (can’t remember which country) and I was so excited for her because she’d never been overseas. The trip fell through and she never made it overseas in her life. She was never on television, didn’t write a book, she had a humble job in the Continuing Education department at Indiana University for years, then co-owning a Christian bookstore for 5 or 6 years or so. She was famous in her church for sticking around and talking with everyone, genuinely inquiring about family and she absolutely loved teaching the 2s and 3s Sunday School class for years. In fact, she was still teaching the class up until a few months ago.
My sister found this clip of Mr. Rogers accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award we thought it was so appropriate for my Grandma, because she is everything he mentions here. Watch from 1:20-2:43:
My grandma loved me into being. I’ve mentioned in multiple times before but she was supposed to die in 1989, when she got breast cancer at the age of around 47 or 48. I remember visiting her in the hospital at Christmas as a little girl. She wore funny wigs and looked different. I didn’t totally understand but I remember giving prayer requests at Sunday School that my grandma would get better.
Things didn’t look good. But, grandma trusted God more than doctors. When she was told to do one thing, she instead when to a healing place to seek God’s presence out. I don’t know all the details but in the end, she was healed in a miraculous way. After that, my Grandpa changed his life, quit drinking and became a Christian. It changed so much for our family, in the best way possible. Who knew cancer could be a blessing in disguise?
I cannot imagine if my grandma was only a mere whisper of a memory I knew when I was 8 years old. She would just be a nice lady instead of a woman who has truly shaped my life with her prayers, example and faith. We are SO lucky we got her for 25 more years — I can’t stop thanking God for that miracle.
Seven years ago, cancer came back — she got a rough diagnosis and was basically told 5 years max. It got really bad three years ago — and we thought this would be the end. She was told 6 months to live. It wasn’t time. I knew it wasn’t time. I prayed every day and I told God, she’s not done here and you know it. She still has lives to bless, she still has so much more to offer this place. Please, Lord, do another miracle. And He did.
Less than two months ago (2 years after she was supposed to live by the way), I found out things were looking bad. Six months to live, they said. We had heard this before. We didn’t necessarily trust what doctors said because Grandma is a fighter. In fact, the doctor told us that any other person probably wouldn’t have made it these 7 years. But she never let the cancer get her — she live life, she pursued dreams, she traveled, she relished all of her time and all of her people.
She was 73 now — a young and vivacious 73 at that, but this time, it didn’t seem like it was going to go away. How many miracles does one person get? She had three so far — at least when it came to cancer. Like some others in my family, I didn’t necessarily feel compelled to pray the way I had before. Things felt different. Maybe God wanted her home this time. Before I made my way to Indiana, I got a birthday card in the mail, right on cue (she never once forgot!) and I knew I was reading, she knew she was writing — the last birthday card I would receive from her. I cherish it. It said:
My Dear Ericka,
Our first grandbaby! How will I remember driving to Kansas with Julie and Barbie to meet you. I slept on the couch and when you cried in the night, I got up and cuddled you back to sleep. I think I still have that flannel nightgown!
I’m so glad you have such an interesting and happy life, and a beautiful marriage with Rick. I pray you will always live right in the center of God’s will.
Happy birthday, darling. Hope to see you both at Christmas.
Lots of love,
Grandma and Grandpa
She kept talking about how we would all be home for Christmas. That’s all she wanted — we’d all be there one last time. But things didn’t go as planned. I found myself humming this song this morning, without realizing it. But I wanted to share “Home for Christmas” by Steven Curtis Chapman.
Thankfully, we all got to Indiana without Christmas. Almost everyone that was supposed to be there was there, by her hospital bed day and night. She was so intent on hanging around, she lasted two weeks longer than anyone expected after the initial downfall.
I got to sit next to her and tell her how much I loved her. I got to tell her how much she made me the woman I am. I got to tell her she taught me how to love people, to have compassion for everyone. I got to tell her thank you for loving my husband like her own grandson and praying prayers for our marriage and future family that will be taking effect for years to come.
Do you know what her response was? “It’s Jesus, Jesus is the one who teaches us how to love.”
I was just looking over some old emails and found this in response to this blog post. Grandma often read my blog entries and left her “comment” via personal email — and I loved it.
I left Indiana while she was still sick. I didn’t want to leave. When I said goodbye to her, I cried so hard, knowing I would never see her again. It was the hardest moment of my life. To hold her and let go. To kiss her one last time. She held her arms around me as tight as she manage for a long time.
When I got home, I remained on all the group texts from my family back home. I wanted to know what was going on. After two weeks, I got a text one morning saying Grandma breathing peacefully but she was no longer moving or showing any sign of life.
An hour later, my Grandma left this earth and went to meet Jesus. I think she wanted to see Him but she also wanted to stay with us. We talked only ONE month ago on the phone for an hour, before the cancer screwed everything up. I asked her how she felt about dying. She said….”Well, I sort of think…I don’t really want to do this.” But, then she proceeded to tell me about her women’s bible study and how they were reading about death — and that we have no idea how much God wants us to be with Him in heaven — and that we should want to be with Him too. She still said she wasn’t quite read but she trusted God and that’s all there was to it.
I’m sure when she got there, she forgot all about us for a second and ran to to hug her mom and dad and get a load of this crazy wonderful place she’s been wondering about for the past 73 years.
But I like to think she knows how much we love her even though she’s gone. I like to think she’s seeing what I’m writing. I never understood before when people said their loved ones were like their “guardian angels.” I’m not sure I believe that but I want to think that my Grandma is with me in my heart.
I will live my whole trying to be like her. I got to grow up with her my entire life. I got to play in her basement with her dollhouse and all her toys from the 60s. We played Lincoln Logs and watched “The Frog Prince.” We went to the Farmer’s Market every Saturday and played in the sprinkler in her front yard. We took long walks and bike rides down Stoutes Creek Road, we ate Grandpa’s cookies, always hiding in the kitchen. We drank Nestle chocolate milk, powder from the can and measured ourselves every every years in the hallway — where my mom and her sisters did the same. She stroked my head as fell asleep on the couch and never stopped praying for me from before I was born until she was gone.
*Grandma’s wall where we all measured ourselves every year.
*Grandma helping my sister roller skate down Stoutes Creek Road.
She sang to us “This Little Penny” over and over, never tiring of the beautiful children she felt blessed with in her life. What a privilege to be loved by someone so wonderful. I will sing “This Little Penny” to my children. I will tell them about this amazing woman who was their great-grandmother and they will know that she is part of them too.
I will cry. I’m crying right now. Rereading her emails, I can’t believe those words are still there on the page when she isn’t. But she’s with Jesus now and there’s no better place she could be. Her body feels wonderful. she’s not tired, she’s not sick, she’s not recovering from chemo. She’s got a brand new body and a brand new home. We love her SO much down here and we’ll just have to wait to see her again.
I love you, Grandma. Can you see this? I hope so.