Thursday, February 12, 2009

One year ago today...

One year ago today, a special part of my life died. The woman who taught me how to read and helped shape my worldview breathed her last breath on earth, and life as I knew it would forever change. February 12 might be just another day for many, but for me it holds a deeper meaning--the anniversary of a bygone saint: my grandmother, Virginia “Granny” Hastings.

A wash of memories has poured over me today. I see myself washing the dishes with her, arguing across the table with my brother Paul while she would listen in and occasionally referee, showing her the books someone gave me, complaining that fractions are too hard, playing my new game with her, receiving a reminder to practice piano, ranting about the travails of growing up as she patiently listened, watching her dice tomatoes, re-living the weekend as I told her about my most recent adventures, riding to my weekly piano lesson, watching Antiques Roadshow together, listening to her tell stories about her life as a little girl. The memories extend for years...

My grandma was more than my cook, cleaner, home school teacher, babysitter, and even more than just my grandma. She was one of my best friends. I write this as I sit in the house where she lived. The house where I would come over and eat her home-cooked scrambled eggs in the morning, run to when I had a hurting boo-boo, a new joke, a funny idea, a hard math problem, a new dress, or gum in my hair. And one year ago, it was here where I sat in the rocker by my grandma’s hospice bed, listening to her breaths strain for more air as her lungs failed her, the feeding tube automatically cranking in more food from time to time, the gentle hum of the oxygen tank providing pure oxygen through the tube. Gradually her breathing slowed and then stopped altogether. There was no need for the machines anymore so we turned them off around 6:30 p.m. One year ago.

Life is different without Granny around. No more kisses on my “ouch”ies. Two less listening ears to share my thoughts. I miss the hugs. I miss all of her.

Nevertheless, God has been faithful, and I’ve come to find a new kind of normal.

While I was writing this, the phone in her house just rang. Only my family calls this phone anymore, so I picked it up expecting my mom or dad.


“Hi, this is Jeff with Feature Films for Families. Is Virginia there?”

“Um, well, she’s…"

Talk about awkward. What am I supposed to say?

“She’s unavailable.”

“Well, I’ll just call back another time.”

"Actually, she won’t be avail…”

“Thank you.” Click.

You can call again, Jeff, but she will never pick up the phone.

I’m only now beginning to realize the effects of one of my grandma’s actions: her prayers for me. I always knew she did that, but I never gave it that much thought. The fruit of those prayers will continue to reap a harvest long after she’s gone. And now I can’t even begin to thank her. Literally, I can’t. At least not face to face.

Learning from the past can be difficult to do because there’s a question necessary to ask, but hard to answer. Do I wish I had done things differently? Sure, I do wish some things had been different. I think the answer anyone would give if they were honest with themselves is “Yes”. And I’m no exception. Now I see things that sometimes I lacked in showing her: respect, compassion, obedience, patience, and understanding. At times, I assumed she just wouldn’t understand what was happening so I wouldn’t bother to explain.

What does it mean to live with no regrets? There are no more chances to do it over again with Granny. But as long as there are others in my life, there’s still opportunity for change.

The greatest lesson I learned is not one my grandma verbally told me, but one that her life and my life shared. No one is ever too old or too young to influence someone else’s life. For all of you current and future grandparents, you don’t have to be a see-you-on-the-holidays-grandparent, but instead you can be involved in the greatest treasure God has given you--your posterity. My grandparents made the choice to live close by to their grandkids, whether or not that made their life easier or harder. And by doing so, they became the molders that shaped the next generation, because my brothers and I are the ones who remain even after their lives on earth have come to an end. I can never thank them enough for the lessons taught, the memories given, and the legacy passed on--simply by being there for me.

One year ago today, my grandma died. But that’s not how I think of it. One year ago today, my grandma finished the work on earth that God had for her to do, and then she went to her real home to be with Jesus.