Loss. Death. Grief. Words with which I am well acquainted, implications that I am not.
She passed on a Thursday night, moving from one world to the next. Bright blue eyes growing dim to this earth and opening to another.
She held my gaze unceasingly, only occasionally flitting her eyes towards the ceiling, tracking the angels I am sure were waiting to usher her to heaven.
She couldn’t move her body, but every once in a while worn hands that have made many meals and comforted many babies tightened around mine.
She couldn’t speak, but as I sang her favorite hymn “How Great Thou Art” her mouth moved to the lyrics and the smile that couldn’t grace her lips crinkled her eyes and relaxed her forehead.
Born in Big Rapids, Michigan in the midst of the Great Depression, she managed to carry a tenderness and grit through her 82 years. She built a home, a fortune, a family with the love of her life, Richard. She chased him around the playground when she was 7 and she followed him to Arizona when she was 32. She raised a household of men with grace and dignity. She made German Chocolate Cake on birthdays and she filled every Christmas with magic. She covered the backyard with eggs every Easter and she covered the dinner table with a feast every Thanksgiving. She loved her grand babies with what she had.
The best part about being sick when I was little was going to grandma’s house. She’d hand me an empty tub of Country Crock butter in case I got sick and wrap me in a blanket on her couch and put a Disney movie in the VHS to help me forget my aching tummy.
At some point in the last few years she found out how much I loved coffee, and every time I came over from then on out there was a fresh pot awaiting me, day or night.
She loved cards. She must have kept every card she ever received. She sent them for every birthday and holiday and in between she felt needed one. She sent them even when she didn’t receive any in return.
I should have sent her more cards.
Its amazing how clear things are in hindsight. My grandma wasn’t perfect. We didn’t always connect in ways that I would have wished or wanted. She could be incredibly stoic, unfazed by the trails of the years. She learned to overcome and to move forward without stopping to acknowledge the pain points of life. In many ways she propelled our family forward even when she should have stopped and let the hurt linger. She should have spoken her mind when she learned to stay silent.
But she loved fiercely with what she had. I may have been too young, too naive to understand. She may not have known how to speak my love language, but she spoke hers fluently. She sent her cards and she cooked her meals and she sang her hymns and she prayed her prayers.
In the last few months of her life, she would cling extra tightly to me when I hugged her goodbye. She would hold fast to my arms and stare deep into my eyes. She would lean close, kiss my lips, and say “I love you, Jacova” with a kind of finality that in the moment I could not let myself recognize.
I wish I had lingered. I wish I had held her frail old body with the same desperation with which she clung to mine. I wish I had sent her the card I meant to write for months. I wish I had understood more of who she was and how she loved before she left this earth.
But Thursday afternoon, just hours before she went to be with Jesus, we lingered. She couldn’t move or speak, but her eyes told many stories. Without words, she told me she loved me. She told me to finish school and find a good boy and raise babies to love Jesus. She sang with me of the greatness of our God. And together we walked closer to eternity, where cancer no longer runs through her veins and sorrow cannot touch her heart.
Beverly Ann entered into the arms of the Father at 10:08pm on Thursday, February 25, 2016 covered in prayers and kisses and love, and I know she’ll be waiting there until its my turn to cross into the great beyond.
Grandma, if you can hear this prayer, I’d love to be welcomed in with “How Great Thou Art” and a big slice of German Chocolate Cake. I love you, whole bunches.