Many of you know by now that I lost my grandma this past week. I’ve intentionally not written anything before now because I didn’t want to cheapen her memory with a twitter one-liner or a half-hearted announcement. She was too special for that, and she had far too great an impact on my life to not have some tribute, albeit minor and unworthy, paid her.
From my earliest memories, my grandma was there as a strong example of faith and love. She always challenged us to be better, whether it was memorizing Proverbs 3 or pinching me for being too rough with my sisters. I can distinctly remember her telling me that it didn’t matter if a girl poked me in the eye with a fork, I could never, EVER hit a girl, or I’d have her to deal with. That was enough for me. My sisters knew that all they had to do when she was around was yell “Grandma, Scott’s hitting me,” and I would take off running. And I’m not just talking about when I was 7. I’m talking about when I was 30!
She was a proper lady through and through.
And she was stubborn. Just a couple of years ago, my wife and I took her and grandpa out to dinner at Golden Corral, one of her favorite restaurants. After dinner, she kept wandering over to the dessert bar, where she knew she shouldn’t be because of her diabetes and blood sugar problems. We’d drag her away, and she’d yell about how if she wanted to die happy eating candy then it was her own choice. Finally after several tries, we cornered her again by the ice cream bar. She set her feet and squared off with me. Keep in mind, she was a little tiny old woman, and I’m 6′ 6″. She growled at me. I told her “it’s not happening, grandma.” She stared at me, and without warning jammed her whole hand down into the bin of jelly beans meant for scooping on ice cream. She brought it out full and stuffed the whole handful in her pocket. She pulled a couple out with her hand, winked at me, and popped them into her mouth. That was grandma! (writing this story brought me as close to tears as I’ve been since I heard of her loss – the screen is just a little blurry right now.)
To this day I find myself using some of her sayings like “hot-diggity,” or “you scared the pee-wodden out of me.” Can someone please explain to me what “pee-wodden” is? I’ve had it scared out of me more times than I can remember, but I don’t even know what it is. 🙂
We all knew she was getting close for a couple of months. That was an interesting time for me because I’ve only ever lost one other person close to me. My dad’s grandpa was my best friend when I was younger, and he died instantly and unexpectedly without my being able to say goodbye. That was devastating to me. I didn’t know how to cope, and that hurt for a really long time. With grandma, though, I knew it was time. We all did. We were extremely fortunate that she was pretty comfortable and stubborn as ever until she passed in her sleep. I knew I wouldn’t be sad for the loss, but it leaves a huge void that I didn’t expect. Don’t get me wrong, I feel the loss. With the likes of her, it would be impossible not to. But, I’m sad for those who will miss her more like my grandpa, her husband of a thousand years, and my own mom. When she called to tell me, she caught me in a particularly cranky moment, and when I answered the phone I snapped, “WHAT?” Imagine my embarrassment when the first words out of her mouth were, “mom passed away a few minutes ago.” Great move Scott. One for the record books. Kind of felt like Jack Nicholson on a Few Good Men when he berated Tom Cruise’s dad only to find out he had died. “Well, don’t I feel like a ________ __________.”
In any event, someone like grandma cannot pass without affecting thousands or tens of thousands of people.
When I was in school I read a piece once that I thought I would use over and over again to explain the loss of someone. To the best of my recollection, though, I’ve never actually used it until now, but it seems appropriate. It’s quoted below, and I highlighted some of my favorite passages.
NUNC LENTO SONITU DICUNT,
Now this bell tolling softly for another,
says to me,
Thou must die.
PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may
be so ill as that he knows not it tolls for him. And perchance I may think
myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my
state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is
catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all.
When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby
connected to that head which is my head too, and ingraffed into that body,
whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me; all
mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is
not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every
chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are
translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s
hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered
leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another;
as therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only,
but upon the congregation to come; so this bell calls us all: but how much more
me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.
There was a contention as far as a suit (in which, piety and dignity, religion and
estimation, were mingled) which of the religious orders should ring to prayers
first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that
rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell, that tolls for
our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours, by rising early, in that
application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell
doth toll for him, that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from
that minute, that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who
casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? But who takes off his eye from a
comet, when that breaks out? who bends not his ear to any bell, which upon any
occasion rings? But who can remove it from that bell, which is passing a piece
of himself out of this world?
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed
away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as
if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the
bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
Neither can we call this a begging of
misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of
ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the
misery of our neighbors. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did; for
affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath
afflicion enough, that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by
that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion or in a wedge of gold, and
have none coined into current moneys, his treasure will not defray him as he
travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current
money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it.
Another may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his
bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell that tells me
of his affliction, digs out, and applies that gold to me: if by this
consideration of another’s danger, I take mine own into contemplation, and so
secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.
Those of you lucky enough to have known her can appreciate the fact that we are all just a little bit less without her. But we are ALL better because of her. She went home to two children she lost and to some heavenly family she’s been anxious to see for more years than I can remember. Never was one more prepared to go home than her.
Shortly before I went on my mission, I went and visited with her and grandpa for a week or two. Some of you may remember a frame she had on her wall. It didn’t contain any pictures, just a few short words that were terribly important to her. They became important to me, and when I went home, I created my own and hung it on my wall. It has become one of my favorite sayings:
“I am one of His witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks
in His hands and in His feet and shall wet His feet with my tears.
But I shall not know any better then than I know now that He is God’s Almighty Son,
that He is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through
His atoning blood and in no other way.”
The entire text of that talk can be read here.
Grandma might as well have said those words, because I know they were as true for her as they were for their speaker.
Grandma, I will miss you. We all will. But I smile deeply and take comfort in knowing that you are back where you have wanted to be for so long. I don’t doubt for a minute that the party is still going, and that you’ll be the one to send everyone packing so that you can get back to work. Smile down on us from time to time. Love you.