In the year that you turned one, you lost your grandmother. It's hard to lose a member of your family, but it's harder for your father and me to know that you'll never know the woman who was Daddy's mom. You might not realize it, but you'll be poorer for not having had her in your life.
I made a promise to her today when I stood beside her coffin for the final time, saying goodbye before they took her to the cemetary, and that was that no matter what, I would make sure that you knew who she was. Starting today, starting now, I'm going to do my best to keep that promise. Here's a little of who your grandma Rita was.
She was generous to a fault. It didn't matter whether a person was the oldest matriarch of the church or a homeless man she'd happen to meet; she would give any person who needed it the very shirt off her back, and she'd call the next day to see how that shirt was working out and whether her pants might also be needed. Even to the end of her life, she'd spend time every day calling and checking up on other people who were suffering. Once, while we were visiting, she had your father drive her to a drug store so she could buy medicine to take to an impoverished woman she'd met through a mental health program; the woman had mentioned an ailment she couldn't afford to treat, so Rita couldn't rest easily until she'd done what she could to help. That was the sort of person she was.
She was a woman of faith, living her life the way she felt Christ wanted her to. To the end of her life, on oxygen and too weak to walk, she'd have your grandfather push her in a wheelchair to church so that she could pray and worship among the community she cherished deeply. She taught Sunday School; she headed the women's group. If she was too sick to make it to church, she was crushed. For forty years, she attended the same church, and she considered it her second family. More than just a churchgoer, though, she walked her faith in her life every day, praying and showing love to every person she met.
She was an organized person. She knew just where everything needed to go, and she liked to have things planned down to the last detail. Hours before the family was scheduled to leave to go anywhere, she would become restless, worrying that we would forget something or that we wouldn't be dressed and ready to go in time. When she felt her end coming, she handled it the way she handled her life: she selected the outfit in which she wanted to be buried, down to the jewelry; she organized the scriptures and songs to be used in the service, and she worked to make sure that the things that were important to her would be finished even if she couldn't be there. The day before she died, she was directing the visiting hospice worker in the wrapping of her Christmas gifts. Details mattered to your grandmother.
The thing that governed her life, though, just behind her trust in God, was her devotion to her family. Rita had two sons, and her world revolved around them; she was married for forty-one years, and she was as committed to her husband as the day she spoke her vows to him. Her biggest regret as she died was that she didn't get to see you grandchildren grow any more than she did. Can you understand how much you mattered to her, that leaving your young lives was such a blow to her?
Gabriel, you took your first baby steps when we were visiting her in your tenth month, and that was a huge unwitting gift to your grandmother. I get teary when I think that she died before you were old enough to really enjoy her; we live so far away that every visit required a reintroduction for you, so you never really wanted to be held much by her, especially as she became more ill and had tubes and machines about her. Had she lived longer, I know you would have loved her as much as your big brother did, sitting on her lap and letting her tell you stories, or perhaps dancing to the bluegrass music both Sam and she enjoyed.
Days are going to come in your life when your grandmother will be especially missed: your birthdays, Christmases, graduations, perhaps your wedding. I want you to know that she strongly believed that even though she couldn't be here with you in her frail body, she would be watching you from above, waiting for the moment when she could someday be reunited with you and all the rest of us. Until that moment, try to think of her as the sweet, gentle woman she was - somebody who cared about her family, her community, and her God over all else, including and primarily before herself. She loved you, and that's what mattered.
one year ago:
If I ever hear of any son of mine riding on the wing of a biplane, we'll see whether time-outs work on grown adults.
two years ago:
Sam woke up this morning feeling just as bad as he had been, and after having read over some of the archives to my journal, I realized that his track record shows him developing this same sickness every winter, and that it's never short-lived.
three years ago:
Nothing to do but comfort him, make sure he keeps wetting his diapers, and let it run its course (so to speak).
four years ago:
Yes, he did refer to yesterday as his "day off"; yes, he did ask me to hurry through updating so I could take Sam.
five years ago:
My breasts started itching yesterday and haven't let up since. Is this a common pregnancy thing?
six years ago:
And then, this morning, a close friend happily announced her long-awaited third pregnancy. I was crushed.
In the ears:|
On the Bookshelf:
On hold until we get back