My grandmother passed away on Friday. She had a stroke a few weeks ago that began to shut down her body and she declined rather quickly. When a person is 93, you submit a little easier that it was their time. Not making their presence from this earth any less missed, but the culmination of a long life lived and the reality that these bodies were not made to last forever, eases this transition. And most importantly, her Savior was waiting to greet her. The picture of that moment of longing finally happening is so, so sweet.
My childhood memories of her vary greatly. She lived in Florida for most of my growing up. I remember the anticipation of her Christmas package that would arrive. She must have had a 10,000 square foot roll of a certain tissue paper wrapping. I still remember that it was white with holly berries and leaves on it. We received presents wrapped in that print for YEARS. I remember the several trips to Florida to visit her. I remember her visits during the summertime. I remember not understanding why she didn’t think it was proper for me to be running around barefoot. And I remember not understanding why she would always cry when she prayed. Thankfully, I get that now.
My grandfather died when I was only 2. I remember when she got remarried. I was 10. And I wasn’t sure how I felt about watching elderly people kissing. :)
I remember how when I was younger I didn’t understand why she seemed to always have an opinion about something or felt the need to make her thoughts known. At times, it seemed quite critical. But I also came to admire her strong convictions and unwavering faith. And over time, I saw an incredible softening. My phone calls and visits in the last 10-15 years were always extremely pleasant and left me thankful for the time and conversation.
Several years ago, it was made known that she wondered if I would like to have her piano, an item that she cherished. I certainly did. And we talked about it several times. But I also knew that I did not want to take it from her too soon – before she was ready to part with it. Taking a piano out of one’s ownership is a little different than a book being handed down. There would be a large empty spot in her room. And I knew my grandma would cry. And I didn’t want to be the one that did that to her.
After she had her stroke a few weeks ago and while she was in health care, it became clear that she would likely not return to her apartment in the retirement village. I was encouraged by my aunt and parents to find the time to come and get the piano. So, we hauled a trailer and drove the 2.5 hours to get it.
When I visited her that day, one of the first things she asked about was when I was going to come and get the piano. I told her we had already loaded it up and I was taking it that day. Her eyes squeezed shut and she began to shake and sob. I sat down next to her and held her hand, telling her how thankful I was to have it and that I would enjoy it for years to come. She calmed down eventually. We had a nice visit. It was clear that her mind was not what it used to be. But she was entertained by our boys wrestling and fidgeting in the small room. She even sang a little song from her childhood at one point. She laughed and joked. She apologized for her condition and that she couldn’t get up from her chair. She asked about when dinner was. A lot. And as we were getting ready to part with her, she looked at me square in the eyes and said, “Now when are you going to come and get the piano?” So….I had to break it to her again. And again, endure her eyes squeezing shut as she began to sob.
|2 weeks ago|
I’m thankful to have that final visit with her though. And I’m really thankful to have such a treasured item from her. My dad has asked me to play a couple of songs at her funeral on Saturday. Mind you, I have not played the piano in front of people much (or even to myself) for years. Makes me all edgy and anxious. Playing in front of others has always done that to me. But, I’ve been practicing on her piano these past 3 days more than I’ve practiced in the last 15 years.
Its sobering to realize the brevity of our lives on this earth. And most people don’t live to be 93. Thankful to have the time with her that we did. And thankful to know that she is soaking in her heart’s greatest longing with the One that loves her the most.