Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dear Grandma,

(A little something I wrote and read at last Saturday's service)

I do not even know where to begin sharing memories of you or expressing the countless ways that you have blessed so many of us in your time here on earth. I know that for me personally, I have countless testimonies of the ways that you have shaped me, built character into me, taught me about life… as well as dozens of memories with you, too numerous to recount, each one so precious.

One memory so vivid in my mind, is the way your backyard used to be in the summer months. I remember the way the sweet honeysuckle vine wrapped up the trellis on your back porch, creating a sweet-smelling canopy, which you carefully pruned and guided. Beyond that was the little paradise that you dubbed, “the secret garden”, a few magical feet of foliage and flowers with a stepping stone path through the middle, flanked with an arbor to one side and your honeysuckle vines on the other.

And the magic did not end there. On the other side of the yard hung a rope swing, its thick supports stretching 20 feet into the air, ending with a board that you had cut to length and drilled holes in, in your “workshop”… the garage where you mastered the use of all your husbands carpentry tools after he died.

To the left of the yard was what we called the creek, really it was the rain water runoff channel that spanned the length of the neighborhood, but you had a gift for making the ordinary, extraordinary, and so to us it was your very own creek, and we were the lucky ones who got to play in its slow moving current.

And of course this paradise would not be complete without one final detail, a favorite pastime for which the backyard provided the perfect setting, and that was reading books. Every few days we would make the arduous journey on foot to the library, to fill our canvas totes with as many books as we could carry. At the time it appeared to be a huge expanse of woods that we journeyed through to the local library, looking back now I can see it was only a few blocks from your house. We would trek home with our borrowed books and you would insist that we ate lunch, and brushed our teeth before cracking open the first pages of the most promising title. We would each find our favorite spot to read and then settle into an afternoon in another place, traveling through page after page of written words.

You taught us so much about life through those lazy summer days, and I had no idea how much we were learning as our legs dangled off the edge of the swing, our eyes glued to the pages of our books. Thank you for passing down such precious pastimes to us, for taking all the things that you loved and teaching us how to love and appreciate them too. For showing us how to take pleasure in the simplest things in life as we grew up in a world becoming more enthralled with computers, cell phones, and video games every day. Yours was the place where every distraction was left at the door. Thank you for that.

Fast forward a few years, and the memories keep coming. I remember moving in with you while attending a college nearby. You thought I was there so you could keep an eye on me, so that I could be close to my classes and campus. The truth was that dementia had begun to creep its way into your mind and we knew you needed some company.

We had so many good times those two years. We told stories, shared our days, and laughed until we cried, making light of your increasing memory loss. We stayed up late into the night talking, me cross-legged on the couch, you with your feet up in your favorite easy chair.

I remember other times, sitting in my room and hearing yelling downstairs... I would rush to the living room, only to see you with your hands in the air, yelling at the TV screen where the opposing team just hit a home run against the Phillies. You were a passionate sports fan, which is one of the few things that did not rub off on Nicole and I. Which was fine by you, because you had 9 other grandchildren who were just as passionate about a good game as you were.

I remember when Mike, who was then my boyfriend of a few short weeks, brought you flowers for your garden, and you fell for him with me. I remember the two of you discussing “hunting tactics” and your favorite ways to “take care of” small rodents in your younger years. I left the room while the two of you cackled away.

Which reminds me of your laugh. Your infectious laugh. It would shake your body and make your eyes water. You had the best sense of humor, it would draw us in with you, and leave us with tears in our eyes, doubled over in laughter.

Your ability to laugh became one of your greatest strengths in the last few years as dementia ate away at your memory. For some, getting older and losing health breeds anger and bitterness. But not you, you blossomed into an even more gracious, kindhearted woman as your mind weakened and your body slowed. You let go of what you could not control and savored time with those you loved. I admire the way you aged so gracefully, and smiled so easily at the increasing challenges you faced.

Grandma, I love you so much, I already miss you terribly, but know you are having the time of your life riding your bike along streets of gold, basking in the glory of your Heavenly Father. Thank you for being such an incredible grandma, I couldn’t have asked for more.

Love, Your granddaughter

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