On April 22nd, one week ago, my grandma took her last journey. It was a rough two weeks for her family, watching her slowly decline. She was a tough woman and hung on as long as she could. But her struggle to breathe, her discomfort and pain, and her restlessness is over.
It's hard for the family to let her go, obviously. But there is peace in knowing where she is. Because she gave her heart to the Lord several years ago, I know I will see her again.
Grandma did not have an easy life. Her husband, my grandpa, was an alcoholic and it was a struggle trying to raise nine kids. She was poor for much of her life. In her last few years, she was unable to get out much at all and was confined to a chair or her bed. She was in and out of the hospital for various issues that would arise with her health, including knee replacement and open heart surgery within the last couple of years.
I was her very first grandchild. And I'll be honest; I was not as close to my grandma as some of the other grandkids. There were no hard feelings between us, or anything like that. It was just how it was. I knew she loved me and wanted the best for me, and I felt the same for her.
Grandma was not what many would consider to be affectionate. But she never turned down a hug or kiss. And if you told her you loved her, she always said it back. In her last two weeks, every time I would leave, I made a point of telling her goodbye and that I loved her. When she was able, she always replied with, "I love you, too." Her last words to me.
We all liked to pick on her for her...shall I say, curiosity? Grandma liked to know what was going on! She called my mom a lot, just to see what she was doing. She would share the latest news she had on the family or community. And then she would hang up until the next phone call. Most of their conversations lasted between 2-5 minutes. But there were a lot of them. Sometimes multiple times a day.
Though she did not get out much, she wanted to know what was going on in our lives. When she found out my sister and I were opening up a shop, she was happy for us. In the first few weeks, she would ask my mom every day how the store was going. Every time mom told her, her reply would be something like, "Oh, Good. I hope it does good for them."
Even though we did not share a lot of common interests (I enjoy reading and southern gospel; she liked bingo and Loretta Lynn), I found that there were still some things I learned from her life.
Grandma did not fuss for pity or attention. Even when she was sick, she did not complain. Whether people were trying to get her to walk on a broken foot (unbeknownst to anyone) or she was struggling to breathe, if asked how she was feeling, her standard reply: "I'm fine."
She did not need or want material things. When her birthday or Mother's Day rolled around, she never asked for anything. If she got a new set of pajamas or a gift card to one of her favorite restaurants, she was happy.
I guess one of the things I admire the most about Grandma was the way she stood by my grandpa, despite some really tough times. My grandpa was a good man and he loved his family, but he struggled with alcoholism for years. Fortunately, he eventually surrendered his life to the Lord a few short years before he died. He was not a perfect man, but he knew the Lord and was changed because of Him.
But my grandma loved him even before that. When many women would have walked away, she stayed faithful to him, cared for him, loved him. And she missed him when he was gone. She told a couple of her daughters a few months ago that she just wanted to go be with him. She never gave up on him.
Grandma did not give up on her kids or grandkids, either. No matter what they did or how many times they did it, she would not turn her back on them. Even if others thought she was being too generous. She was always willing to forgive them, to give them another chance.
But the most important lesson I learned from Grandma's life is that it is never too late. I prayed for most of my life that she would become a Christian. That she would realize her need for a Savior and make the decision to accept him. And almost three years ago, she did just that.
There was no fear in her last few weeks. Days before she died, she told some of her family that she wanted to go. When asked where, she told them Heaven. She knew where she was going, and she was ready. She's there now, with her husband, her parents, and several of her siblings. And I know that she would want nothing more than to know her family will join her.
I'm so thankful that God provided a way so that we could share an eternity with Him. I'm thankful His Son was willing to die on that cross to cover our sins. I'm thankful for the gift of salvation. And when we accept that gift, we can rest assured that we will see our loved ones again. We have that blessed hope in one day saying "Hello" after we've said our last goodbye.
Grandma's presence will be missed. But I am at peace knowing she is happy, she is whole, she is safe...
In His Grip!
"We are confident, I say, and willing rather TO BE ABSENT FROM THE BODY, AND TO BE PRESENT WITH THE LORD."
2 Corinthians 5:8
I remember as a girl standing by while others, adults and kids a like, made over another girl. "She's so pretty." "I just love her hair."
This carried over into my teen years. In church camp the year I was thirteen, I listened as a mom and another counselor discussed how many invitations to the end-of-camp banquet their girls had gotten. One of those girls was fair, blonde, and outgoing. The other had beautiful dark eyes and tan complexion. That moment always stuck with me, even years later. I did not get one invitation, and because those girls were beautiful, I had to assume it was because I was not.
In another instance, my mom, who was the teen Sunday school teacher, mentioned how everyone wants to be beautiful. Another one of my friends threw out the names of a couple girls we both knew. Of course, I was not one of them. Just one more point to prove what I was already believing.
As I grew older, it always seemed to happen that I was the friend of a particularly attractive individual. I would hear the compliments on their hair, figure, eye color, etc. etc. And because of those incidents in my childhood, I knew I was not the kind of person to draw that kind of praise.
Now, I don't say all this to generate pity or to bewail the scars I carried over into my adulthood. (Seriously, there are no scars. Just memories. And lessons.) None of these people meant any harm and they certainly did not mean to hurt me or make me feel inferior. And I can look back and honestly say that I was not an ugly child. I was a skinny little brown-eyed girl with a crooked smile and a love for people. A little awkward at times, maybe, but cute in my own right.
But it did take a while for me to start seeing myself differently, due to those experiences. I lived my teenage and early adult years believing I was not attractive. Because I did not hear it from other people. Or even worse, I heard it about other people instead.
And I still see it happening today. But this time, I'm noticing those other little girls that aren't hearing what they yearn to hear.
In one particular instance, a couple first grade teachers were making over a little girl in my class. I don't remember what for. Her outfit or just her overall "cuteness." But as they were talking, my eyes drifted to one of my other students who was listening in, hearing every word.
This little girl was taller and heavier than her peers. Her adult teeth had already come in the front. So she was bigger than all her friends, had a big, toothy grin, and looked a bit awkward at times.
I wondered how many times people remembered to tell her she was beautiful.
I see it on Facebook all the time. Someone posts a cute pic of their little girl and instantly get flooded with likes and comments. "Gorgeous!" "She's adorable!" "I love those eyes!" "Stunning!"
And inevitably, there's always the girls who just don't get as many comments on their pictures. And maybe they're too young to realize it or care. But their mothers do. And someday, those little girls will notice.
I'm not saying we need to remember to gush over every child's physical appearance. I'm actually saying the opposite. There's always some who got overlooked, forgotten, and left out. I was one of those girls. And it doesn't always feel good. So the next time you're getting ready to make over a little girl's outfit or hairstyle or features, remember that someone's going to overhear. And they're going to walk away thinking, "I must not be as cute as they are."
My sister and I have talked about this many times. It bothers us how much people are drawn by the physical beauty of these kids. They're setting them up to either feel that they are more beautiful than the rest of the world, or that they can never be seen as pretty.
Odd thing is, my sister was one of those fussed over. She was tiny, cute, and shy with big blue eyes. The older girls just loved fussing over her, holding her, playing with her. But fortunately, she did not let it all go to her head. And she seeks out those girls whose confidence may be lacking.
In my class, I call all my girls gorgeous. And I always get a beaming smile in return. I hope they remember that their teacher thought them just as beautiful as the next girl.
Now, let me pause for a moment and make this statement. I know we're not supposed to focus on the outward appearance. Ultimately, that's not what it's important. The Bible makes mention of that in 1 Samuel. ("...for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.") And I certainly don't want to get hung up on the wrong thing.
But the fact is, we're human. We crave to hear that someone thinks we're attractive. We don't want to walk through life believing that we don't measure up. Our confidence is hinged to a great extent on what we look like. It's not the way it's supposed to be. But it's the way it is.
So what am I saying? That we should stop complimenting others? Or that we should make a fool over selves babbling over everyone?
No, that's not it at all. I'm just hoping I can make people stop and think: "Am I hurting someone else with my words?" "Is there someone else who could use an encouraging word or boost?"
Remember the other girls. They need to hear it, too.
In the mean time, I pray that all of you feel secure in yourself, that you are confident in the person God made you to be, and that you remain safe...
In His Grip!