Saturday, April 17, 2010

Journeying On

There are many times, especially recently, when I have wished that I lived in Florida.  No, not because of the beach (although that is certainly a plus), but because so much of my family lives there.  If there is ever a day that I don't want to be there, it is tomorrow.

Tomorrow, my cousin, Petie, is having a garage sale.  She is selling the contents of her godmother's house -- my grandmother's house.  She is moving in and in order to make space for her family, a lot of Grannie's things have to go.  I wrote her a letter because something in my spirit knows that every time she sees someone walk away with one of Grannie's things, a part of her will crumple and it will be like saying good-bye to her all over again.  I could not bear this, but she is strong.

This is part of what I said to her, in a feeble attempt to reassure her, to comfort her when I am over a thousand miles away:

I've been thinking a lot about the garage sale that you have to do tomorrow.  When I talked to your mom on Thursday, I told her how hard it was to think about all of Grannie's stuff being sold.  It kind of feels like giving a part of her away.  Everything rational in me knows that she obviously doesn't need it and that she would want her things to be sold, and the money given to the church.  And I also know how happy she would be to know that you are moving into the house.  One of the days I was there, she told me that she was hoping that Dad would rent the house to y'all if things didn't work out with Michael's. What I am trying to say -- my point in all of this -- is that you are doing exactly what she would want you to do.  I can imagine that your heart will break a little bit every time someone walks off with something that was once hers, but the truth is, who she was is not represented in those items and we have those things that are precious to us, that hold our memories, that instantly conjure up her face, her smell, her love.  

Today, Hannah and I were shopping at Old Navy.  As I was buckling her in her car seat, she told me, "Mama, when I put on my new dress, Grannie will look down on me and think I am beautiful."  You know, as you de-clutter the house, paint the walls, fix it up, you are restoring something that was once hers.  And when it is all done, Grannie will look down and think it is beautiful.  

My cousin, Petie, and her mother, Aunt Norma, are...words cannot do them justice.  If I have to try to sum them up using words that are just not adequate, I would have to say things such as selfless, amazing, the epitome of compassion and grace.  They, along with another incredible woman named Jan, took care of my grandmother so that she could spend her last two and half months at her own house instead of in a nursing home.  I did what they did for four days when I went to visit in March and by the end I was exhausted.  When someone is pretty much an invalid, this means you have to do...everything.  It is an incredibly rewarding process and there are moments that you share when taking care of someone in that way that can change your life for the better.  But, it is not without sacrifice.

In some ways, I think the intimacy bred in the process of care taking might make the loss a bit harder.  There is the saying by Alfred Lord Tennyson that says, 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.  How true!  But, oh when you love deeply, it hurts deeply when that person whom you have loved is no longer there.  I really cannot even write anymore about this, as I am sure I cannot even begin to describe their own special journeys with my grandmother in her last months of her life.  But I do know that they did not regret one minute they spent with her, no matter how weary they grew, no matter hard the task.  Because, true to my grandmother, she bestowed blessings when she could bestow nothing else.

Those blessings live on and I see them in my family members as they reach out to each other and especially, as they reach out to me.  After everything we had been through with my grandmother, I have more family member's phone numbers in my phone than I ever have had in  my life.  And, I actually use them (the numbers, not the family)!  I have weekly talks with cousin, Blair, and my Aunt Norma.  I have new Facebook friends and can sneak a quick peek into their lives a half a country away.  And I have a myriad of special moments stored in my memory that would not have happened if my grandmother's life had not gone as it did.

One moment, God continually brings to my mind daily.  It was towards the end of the visitation and my cousin, Petie, (whom I have never known even remotely well until she started caring for Grannie) gave me a hug and said I love you. I don't know why that moment was so profound, save this:  Petie and I had lived our whole lives bonded only by the blood that runs through our veins, but now, oh but now, we had shared Grannie.  Grannie had a way of sealing relationships, of putting them back together the way they were meant to be all along, cultivating them so that they would be ready to grow and mature.

In death, new life.

A reason to have joy.

1 comment :

  1. What a very, very special grandmother :) Sounds like she left the best inheritance you could ask for.


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