Saturday, March 22, 2014

Grandma Ginny

A world without grandmothers would be a terrible place indeed.

I'm so thankful that I spent the first 28 years of my life with two wonderful grandmas. However, this past Thursday we said our final goodbyes to my Grandma Ginny. I'm not really at peace with the circumstances that landed her in the burn unit on Monday (there are so many "if onlys" haunting us), but I'm very at peace with her departure on Thursday. The palliative care doctor said that Thursday was the final chapter in the book of her life, and she would write it. She left the world peacefully and surrounded with love. As the priest said at her final blessing, God makes us for himself and he calls us back to him. For some reason, even though we can't understand it right now, her trial by fire will glorifies him.

Grandma Ginny was a hard worker, a faithful wife, a loving mother, and a devoted Christ-follower. She offered up her many sufferings and when it was time for her to leave this world, I had to be happy that she would finally be relieved of her pain. Thursday was such a sad day for us, but such a happy day for her.

Once her prognosis became clear on Wednesday night, palliative care doctors were able to meet with her children to discuss her care. Per her living will, they decided to remove life support on Thursday. She breathed on her own for a few more minutes, surrounded by family. We read Psalm 34 out loud and held her hands and shared a few final words as she left. It was so perfect and even though there wasn't a dry eye in the room, I think we all couldn't help but be happy for her deep deep down.

I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together. 
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them. 
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it. 
...The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken. 
..The Lord will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned. {Psalm 34}

From our whirlwind trip to and from Omaha last Monday, to our rushed drive back to Omaha Thursday, to her upcoming funeral this Monday, it's hard to believe everything that's happened in a week. From pain and devastation, to critical but stable with some hope, to having to say goodbye. It's been such a crazy week that I don't think I've digested the finality of it. It'll be hard to gather with the whole family again and not see her chuckling at something nearby.

I know death causes a lot of people to maybe find meaning and comfort in silly coincidental things, but I think it also offers a glimpse of heaven to those of us left in death's wake. Driving home from the hospital at sunset on Thursday, I saw a fraction of a rainbow in the sky and for some reason, it made me so happy. I felt like my grandma was reassuring us that she was in heaven at last and that she was full of joy!

I will always remember her as a down-to-earth woman who enjoyed life. She was funny, strong, pragmatic, and devoted. She loved God. She loved babies. But she had a personal vendetta against any squirrel that happened to wander into her amazing backyard garden-- she trapped over 500 of them! She always drove the trapped squirrels two miles away (across the interstate so they couldn't come back) and released them all in the same spot, "in case they were family."

Whenever she met a new friend of mine, she'd ask who their parents and grandparents were. The amazing thing is, she always seemed to know half of them from back in the day!

In the way that women who can't get pregnant seem to see babies and pregnant women everywhere, I feel like since loosing my Grandma Ginny on Thursday, I've seen little old ladies everywhere. I actually mean that in the nicest way possible, since my grandma called her group of friends the "little old ladies." In fact, well into her 70s, she was working with a home healthcare agency, taking care of "old people." She was always young at heart, always up for an adventure, always practical and loving at the same time. She didn't waste time complaining, but she was certainly opinionated.

She remained faithful to my grandpa through an early diagnosis and long battle with Alzheimer's. She cared for him at home so much longer than most people would've, and when he finally had to be put into a nursing home, she visited daily. Even on the days he didn't remember her. Even when his personality had changed.

Even when it was hard. She was there. For all of us.

We miss you already, Grandma Ginny!

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. {2 Timothy 4:6-8}

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