This summer I had the privilege to fly out to WA, visit my family, and to see my Grandma Angie. It had already been more than 2 years since I’d seen her last, and while I was a little hesitant about how the visit would go since her stroke had made communication more difficult for her, it turned out to be a huge blessing for all of us.
My whole family was able to spend time with her, all of my children, including the little one she hadn’t met yet, and my husband, whom she hadn’t seen in several years. We sat in her room, sang songs, hugged her and kissed her, and, in time, said goodbye for what would be the very last time.
Well, not the VERY very last time. We will see her smiling face again in a better place. A place where time is not tied to aging, to wrinkles, to arthritis, to aching bones, and certainly not tied to something as awful and paralyzing as a stroke. Yes, I believe my Grandma will hear the trump of God as her Savior descends on a cloud, surrounded by angels, and will speak (what a wonderful thought! To hear her speak again!) words of praise as she rises to meet her Lord.
At some time in her life she made the choice to follow Jesus on whatever road He chose to take her down, and through her faithful life our family has been given an example of love, kindness, perseverance, faithfulness, generosity, and fast walking.
Oh, she did love to walk, didn’t she?! Could anyone keep up with her? Nothing seemed to slow her down! Not ice or snow, not wind or rain, and certainly not a steep hill! As a youngster I remember running up ahead with my cousins as we’d go for a Sabbath afternoon hike, and when we’d reach the top, far ahead of our parents, there she’d be! Standing right next to us, giggling away with her hand clasped over her mouth and absolute delight at our looks of surprise.
She took us for many walks when we were little, and though she was a determined speed walker on her many outings and errands, with us she always had the time to stop and explore the edges of the water, the old equipment parked down by the tracks, waiting while we picked up rocks to throw or examined some interesting tidbit of years gone by.
And then we grew a little and it was all fair game - she’d pick up the pace and we’d huff and puff trying to match it! It was several years before we could really, truly, outwalk her. I must have been in college when I finally realized that there were places I could go, hiking I could do, that she could no longer give me a run for my money. She had to be 70 by then. I was 20. I never did think of her as “old”.
When I was little she taught me how to wash dishes. That water was HOT! I watched her crooked, arthritis-ridden hands dip over and over into those hot washtubs and scrub the pots and scour the pans. The more she washed, the pinker her hands grew, until they were red.
“Grandma, your hands are red!”, I’d say.
“Yes, dear.” , she’d reply as she scrubbed away.
“They look like they’re getting burnt!”
“That’s true, too.”, she’d nod.
Well, okay, I was a little too young to remember exactly what she said, but I had to throw in those two “grandmaisms” in there somewhere!
She came to my house once, way out here in Michigan, and spent a week here celebrating Christmas. She slept in a cold little closet space that had been cleared out and a bed shoved in it since all the available spaces were taken up with family stored here and there and everywhere. She never complained, just told stories of her cold growing up years in North Dakota. On that trip she made it her job to make sure the dishes were always done after every meal for all 11 of us in the house, and I remember watching her hands while she washed and remembering the days I stood on a stool in her kitchen as a little girl. That stool stands in my own kitchen now. When she left my house she gave me her little metal elastic arm-band thingies that she always used to keep her sleeves up out of her way when she washed dishes. I’m not sure she ever owned a dishwasher until she went to stay at Uncle Terry’s house when she was 80! Well, Grandma, it gives me hope that maybe someday I’ll have an end to my dishwashing-by-hand days, too!
In addition to teaching me how to scrub dishes until your hands were red, she also taught me how to crochet, and how to play card games by your own rules. Oh, don’t try to deny it! She taught you all how to play sets and runs or hand and foot by her “bendable” rules, too!
The holidays will never be the same without watching Grandma stir the gravy with her whole body there at the stove, without hearing her twangy way of singing “Power in the Blood”, or helping her clean up and put away every last bit of the turkey before she’d sit down. But then, she never was one to sit down much, was she? Even when her work was done, there might be something that came up suddenly that needed to be done, so what use was it to sit down?
The after-cleanup game times won’t be the same without her, either. She may have passed down her love for playing them to many of us kids and grandkids, but without her laugh and sparkle, the games have lost a little of their attraction for me. I’ll get past it though, my kids will soon be ready to join in the fun of a little sets-and-“creative“-runs, so I will be thinking of her as I pass down the tradition to them.
Most importantly, though, are not the traditions she has passed down but the faith, the principles, the purpose of her life to love Jesus and love people.
I love to hear stories about my Grandma, especially ones that tell how she always kept her pantry full of cakes, cookies, and bread and never failed to have a meal ready on Sabbath so she could invite someone over for Sabbath dinner. Even if she didn’t have anything prepared, she still invited someone over for dinner! If her house wasn’t spotless, she still invited someone over for dinner! These stories never fail to inspire me to try harder to forget a little more about how others might perceive me in a negative way based on my imperfections and remember a little more about how people just need to be shown love, hospitality, and have a good slice of bread. That’s the kind of example she set for me, and I am blessed by it daily.