Friday, April 13, 2012

For my family

I have a bunch of cousins.  The amount of time it would take me to count them - let alone name them - is rather pathetic.  I think there are around 35 of us.  Plus spouses and children makes for a big group very quickly.  Some of them I have never met more than a handful of times.  One cousin I forgot existed until I met him when he was 9.  Sad, huh? 
It seems rather strange to have such a huge family and not actually know most of them.
Here's what I've learned through Grandma telling me and from Facebook...  =)
Each one of us is very unique.
We are actresses and businessmen and moms and fashion aficionados and writers and Walmart employees and computer geniuses.
We are men in kilts and suits and army fatigues.
We are Catholic and Evangelical and who knows what else.
Many of us are musicians of some sort - even if it's only privately.  I just know we sounded pretty good singing all together.   
We are a family full of people who know their mind and are not afraid to go against the flow to say so.
Getting glimpses of all these things in various relatives over the last week made me wish I could spend enough time with them to actually know them.  I think we would have fun together.
The amazing thing to me is that Grandma loved us all specifically for our individuality.  She loved it that we don't blend in.  That we are opinionated and able to express it.  That we aren't afraid to make hard decisions.  That we are creative.  Even if she disagreed with us - with me.
I don't know how many times she told me I should be more strict with my kids.  And that I should really try sewing 'cuz handmade clothes are so much better than store bought.  And that sugar and high fructose corn syrup are the same thing, so it doesn't matter if you eat either.  She told me how to cook and what books I should read and what books I should read to my kids and what kind of music I should let them listen to.  I learned a non-committal nod and an "Oh really?" or "I suppose I could try that."  And sometimes - maybe often? - she was right.  But I never have been one to disagree too loudly with a person about much of anything. 
Listening to her, I felt a little rebuked sometimes.  Grandma was an opinionated, stubborn woman.  And she knew Jesus and had so many more life experiences than I have.  I respected her wisdom and treasured her advice.
Grandma spent much of our time together telling me about my cousins and their parents and kids, bragging about how smart and kind and hard-working they were.  And about how much she loved them... and what she thought they should do differently too.
And I knew she loved me.  Grandma always said exactly what she thought and so was never shy to say how much she loved you or how beautiful she thought you were or how great a job you were doing in some area.  She encouraged me more than she pointed out areas that needed work. 
The last time she recognized me in the hospital, she hugged me tight and whispered, "I love you.  More than you'll ever know."
That was Grandma.

Monday, April 2, 2012

For Grandma

Hmmm....Where to start.  I know I have to write something.  My brain is begging me to get the swirling thoughts out somehow.  So here goes...
I was 12 months old when I became a big sister.  Rob and Becca entered the world 18 days after my first birthday.  My mom did exactly what I would have done in her position.  She called her mama.  I'm the oldest daughter of my grandma's oldest daughter.  And my grandma and I spent alot of time together before I can even remember.
I have a great mama, so it's not like I needed another one.  But my grandma became mama too, to me. 
Some of my earliest memories are with her.  At "The Loom," her yarn shop, touching samples stacked high - for those of you who have shopped with me, I am convinced this is where I learned to feel all the clothes...  At Goodrich with her and grandpa picking mint chocolate chip every time.  Sitting at her kitchen table on that awful red and gold carpet eating those wafer cookies with the layers of frosting.  Carefully descending her twirly stairs to Chelley's bedroom with the big mural on the wall.
I remember when my parents told me we were moving to Africa.  I wasn't sad to leave anyone but Grandma.  When my mom said we could keep one stuffed animal to take with us to Senegal, I took the calico kitty Grandma sewed for me.  I remember hugging that kitty and crying under my mosquito net in the dark.  Grandma's house was home to me through the next few years of moving and changes.  She wrote letters and sent Odyssey tapes, and I waited for hugs.  I remember looking through tears out the back window of our van at her disappearing house.
I distinctly remember sitting in my 6th grade classroom in Elba, NE looking at the clock and knowing that Grandma was in surgery and the doctor didn't expect her to ever wake up. 
When I had a problem or something was on my mind, I went to Grandma.  She had such a hard life in so many ways and had walked through all of it with Jesus.  So she was full of wisdom and compassion.  And she loved me.  And prayed for me. 
I laughed and cried through her old stories.  Grandpa's spunky great-grandma who was ninety-some years old, standing on a table, on a chair, painting her ceiling when they went to visit her.  Her brother who got run over by a car while walking down the side of the road.  Riding on the tractor with her dad.  Seeing a curly-haired boy for the first time when she was 14 (?) and telling her mama she was going to marry him.  Driving from Ohio to California by herself with three babies and pregnant with the fourth. 
I remember holding it together at my wedding until grandma walked in the door and I cried on her shoulder.  And I remember how pretty she looked in the purple dress she made just for the occasion.  I was always so excited to take my babies to meet Grandma.  I was so afraid she'd die before she held them and that they'd be lacking something forever because Grandma never touched them.  Her face lit up every time with pure joy.  Even yesterday, barely awake, she held Hudson and was so happy.  And now I'm jealous because she's going to hold one of my babies before me...
I've watched her grow weaker over the last few years.  But she never lost her love for life.  She always said, "Bored people are stupid people."  So even as her world shrunk, she was joyful and kind and interested in everything.  She watched birds out her window (I'm convinced the birds are going to miss her) and read endless books about everything.  She learned to use and ipad (and loved it!).  She tried new recipes and kitchen gadgets. And she prayed for and listened to and loved her family.
And I watched Grandpa love her.  I have never seen such selfless love lived out in front of my eyes.  He is a man of integrity and faithfulness who has fulfilled his marriage vows and lived out his love for Jesus.  And it has been joy to him every step of the way - even these last painful steps. 
Thirty years of memories, framed forever in my mind.  Glimpses of smiles and laughter and tears. 
I've been preparing for this day for a long time.  I knew she would beat me to heaven.  I knew I would somehow have to survive crises without her.  I know she's longing to dance the gold streets of heaven with Jesus.  To truly live - with no pain.  To see her mama and daddy and her baby and her brothers.  She's ready to go home.  And I don't blame her. 
I am reminded, or maybe taught clearly for the first time, that we were never meant to die.  God created us to live forever.  I am learning just how awful the price of sin is.  So I grieve that she has to die.  That death, though inevitable, is not what we were created for.  At the same time I rejoice!  I KNOW for certain that I will see her again.  And that when I do she will be perfectly whole - and so will I!  =)  That we will live forever (hopefully next door to each other) at the feet of Jesus worshiping.  With no pain.  No tears.  No fear.  No death.  No moving or change or separation.  Forever. 
The effects of sin erased forever. 
And all because of Jesus' shed blood.  He defeated sin forever when he died and came back to life.
So I cry and rejoice at the same time.
I never knew I could do that so intensely before.

If you'd like the shorter and much more poetic version, go to my cousin Claire's blog here