April 16, 2010

Lost Family Treasures

(With my mother)
Earlier yesterday, my beloved grandmother passed away. She was a 92 year old spitfire! Full of love and generosity, with a way of looking at life that made everyone laugh. Nothing made her more happy and proud than her family, and I think deep down, a night of family penny poker was her perfect way to spend the evening together!

(With my grandfather and my mother as an infant)

How I loved her! I was blessed to be able to spend most of my young life living close by her. In an age where families are mobile and live far apart, I was never more than a 30 minute drive from her home until the time I was 28. Funny, but I never really took it for granted that I had both my grandmothers nearby. My Dad's mom, her best friend, lived with us until I was 13, and I knew this was something special to be cherished.

Summertime meant staying at her house, playing cards on her porch swing, drinking lemonade and eating fresh tomatoes from the garden with a hint of sugar on them. (Christmastime meant there was always a book of Disneyland tickets waiting for me under the tree!)

Music was always playing in her house! Memere and I cooked together and cleaned together. Seemingly, her hands were always covered with flour in those early times, as she loved baking and cooking for her family. I loved her Pork Pies and her beignets. Mostly, we just spent a whole lot of time loving each other, laughing, and enjoying each others' company.

(With her brother, my wonderful uncle!)

My grandmother was a simple minded woman but one of great faith. She had a hard life but somehow always saw God in the middle of it all. As she grew older, she knew Jesus more intimately than she did when she was younger. Memere just treasured him in her heart.

One of my favorite memories was very recent. I had visited her down in Texas, a place that was a relatively new home for her after decades on the east coast, in California, and in Oregon. We were just spending some time talking, and she took me by the hand, slowly leading me into into her bedroom. I assumed she wanted to show me her prized possessions of family photos and albums.

Things got real quiet, so I asked what she was thinking. Pausing to figure out how to share it, she replied "I just don't know what my mission for Jesus is right now." I was instantly humbled and delighted. Here was my 90 year old grandmother being concerned about the things of God's kingdom and how to please her beloved Savior Jesus Christ.

On her 90th birthday, I traveled down to surprise her and share some time. I knew it was running out. She was much slower than usual, much quieter and just spent a lot of time looking around. I knew I needed to get a laugh out of her, so I promised her she and I would go skydiving for her 100th birthday. I figured if she made it that long, I would gladly get beyond my fears and go if she would. We both laughed, but I think deep inside we both knew it would never happen.

(With my other beloved grandmother, Nona, who preceded her in death.)

In between visits, we spoke about every couple of weeks or so. The conversations was generally the same- family, friends, health, and Jesus. But even though the topics rarely changed, I enjoyed every moment of just hearing her strong, loud voice with the predominant French Canadian accent.

Last summer, she survived a heart attack. The doctors and staff called her their "miracle baby." She went through physical therapy, but now a walker was necessary to help her get along. I knew time was getting shorter and shorter. She wanted to go home to be with her Jesus. She was tired and ready. I got to hear her voice last week, but our last few calls meant she started to repeat herself. That was ok by me.

The last time we spoke, it was only me talking. She had fallen, hit her head, and slipped into that quiet place. The nurses said she could hear me but couldn't respond. I was a thousand miles away in Denver, but my Mom held her phone up to my Memere's ear so I could say my goodbyes. Through lots of tears, I thanked her for everything, told her I loved her, and let her know it was ok to go home to Jesus.

Funny how even 50 years is not enough with someone you love. It's gone by so fast. I looked in the mirror and saw my Memere's last parting gift to me. As a young boy, I prayed God would give me her beautiful salt and pepper hair. He has.

I know I'll see her for eternity when it is my time to join her. I'm thankful for the gift of her life and her love. I only have one regret- I just wish we could have kept our skydiving date.

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