September 11, 2011
A Surprise Trip Home
I know it's been a while since I've written, and I left you all hanging with some open-ended allusions to a less-than-ideal situation. I had planned on writing more this last week, but yet again, life took an unexpected turn.
Saturday afternoon, while we were outside shoveling rock onto our front yard (post and pics to come), my dad called to tell me my Grandma Muse passed away. She was 97 years old.
Immediately, or as soon as we finished laying all the rock, the whirlwind of preparations to take a last-minute trip began. SoldierMan contacting his CO for emergency leave, me getting the pups booked at the kennel, my parents looking for flights for us to get there ASAP without breaking the bank. There was so much to think about that it took me several to days to really process it. Actually, I still don't think I have.
My first emotion was, actually, relief. I struggled over this at first. I had spent the last couple of weeks going through the 5 stages of grief over that situation (that I'm still going to post about) so when I wasn't falling to pieces by Monday night, I was feeling very guilty. How could I be more upset over something that wasn't life-or-death than over....death?
That probably sounds heartless. Let me be clear: I loved my grandma. Out of all of my grandparents (two are still living) I was closest to her.
Her name was Lura. She had six kids. She had 16 grandchildren. When you add in great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, she had around 50 living descendants (at my count, and I've probably missed some, and not counting the in-laws). But as one of my cousins said, she always made you feel you were the only one, because she loved you so completely.
I spent most days at her house as a young child. After kindergarten and when we were homeschooled, Mom would take us to go to lunch with them. Half the time we'd stay there and play the rest of the day. When we got older, we loved staying the night. She would make us corn flakes with sugar for breakfast, burned grilled cheese for lunch and burned popcorn as a snack. That's still how I prefer them.
She was blind all of my life, and much of my mother's. But she lived in her own home until the very end. And she was a Christian woman. Her faith was very important to her. She raised her kids in church and her grandkids. She loved listening to her cassettes of the Bible - she couldn't read anymore, of course. And she prayed every night for her family and her pastor. I heard this week that every night, even after she had assistance living with her, she would go to the bathroom and pray by the tub. It was her quiet place, I suppose.
She was married at 16. She never worked outside the home. She never had a paying job. Never wrote a book or ran a company or cured cancer. She completely invested her life in her family and her friends. I mentioned afterward, no one at the funeral said, "Gee, too bad she never went to college and had a career and made something of herself." You couldn't say that. No one who knew her could say she had anything but a satisfied, fulfilled life.
Around the beginning of the summer, her health started going down. One thing after another, but then the last few weeks it was really looking bad. When we went to Oklahoma last month, SoldierMan and I visited her, but they had her on so much medication she was asleep the whole time we were there. I don't really remember it too well. I don't want to. That wasn't really her.
Finally, last week, she went home to Heaven. And maybe that's why it's so difficult for me to really feel sorrow. It's a net positive. She's no longer sick. No long blind. No longer dying, since we're all dying from the day we were born.
To paraphrase a former pastor, "You may have heard my grandmother died. This is a horrible lie. She is more alive than she has ever been."
Another big reason - please excuse the shameless plug - is because, about this time last year, I read Randy Alcorn's book Heaven. Several books have come out recently about Heaven, but this is the real deal. He takes what the Bible says about Heaven and puts it all together in a picture of a completely tangible world. If you read any one book this year, read this one. It is by far the most exciting book I've ever read.
But, to go back, having a vivid, tangible concept of Heaven and the people there has been such a great comfort, and has been so very real to me the last few days. I don't feel like she died. I feel like the kids in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, watching little Reepicheep pass over the waters into Aslan's Country. She left, but she's not "gone." And she's certainly not dead like a battery is dead. Or, as Alcorn says, I haven't lost her, I've just lost contact with her. I know exactly where she is.
And I don't just believe it. I know. That's been the other surprising thing of the weekend. How surely I know that Mawmaw is still alive, is in Heaven, and is waiting to see us all again. Waiting to see me again. "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life." 1 John 5:13
The service on Wednesday was beautiful. A cousin of mine led in a congregational hymn. Both her pastors from the last 10 years spoke. Other cousins did special music. Another cousin read her obituary. I eulogized her. Mom and Sister's Boyfriend compiled a video slideshow of pictures of her and family members throughout the years, from the 1930s on. It was positive. It was respectful. It was even joyful at times. We laughed. We cried. We went back to her house afterwards and ate and visited and remembered. It is exactly what she would have wanted - all her family, in one place, happy.
I know I'll really feel like she's gone the next time I get an impulse to call her and ask how someone is doing. I know I'll feel her absence strongly when we go back for Christmas, which (God willing) will still be at her house. (We're working on that.) My biggest regret is that she didn't live to meet my first child. That was always a dream I had taken for granted. Now, it's gone.
Right now, I'm just thankful I had the chance to know her in my lifetime, and to make so many wonderful memories.