Today is Thanksgiving 2017. I'm writing this with tear-filled eyes. It's been a difficult week and an even harder morning. Although I fully recognize that pain and heartache is an unfortunate part of life, it doesn't make the hurt any easier.
I haven't been around death much in my life, but the last few days have brought back thoughts of my grandmother. She was a spunky, tenacious, independent and stubborn woman. I'm pretty sure some of her traits passed down the generational line to me (and my family would probably agree).
I only have a few memories of my grandparents because all of them lived on the east coast so our visits were very infrequent growing up in the MidWest. I didn't have a close relationship with three of them. In fact, I only have memories of my grandfather through pictures because I was too young to remember our time together. So, although their passing over the years was painful, it didn't affect me the same as my grandmother's death a few years ago. It broke me and introduced me to a new type of pain.
To better take care of her, we moved my grandmother from the house she built with her husband in Florida to an assisted living facility near us in Illinois. I spent more time with her during the last few years of her life than the total number of hours spent with all my grandparents combined. My boys got to know their great-grandmother and likewise, they brought extra joy to her life.
Every week, my mom or I would take her out to lunch and then to Walgreens to get her special soap, miscellaneous toiletries, medicine and of course, her hard candy and chocolate she still craved. She was a spry woman, that's for sure! After her husband/my grandfather died from lung cancer many years prior, she still enjoyed time out with friends at the theater, getting their hair done and going out to eat. She even got remarried at the young age of 85 to a wonderful man who treated her like gold! Guess where these young kids went on their honeymoon - Europe!!! They were the true example that you're never too old to enjoy life or find love!!! We got to know this incredibly kind man for the small handful of years he had left on earth.
May 2002: The day grandma got remarried. I missed my Graduate Degree graduation to attend her ceremony in Florida..
We enjoyed holidays with grandma and as her health decreased, we knew our time with her was coming to an end. Two days after my boys and I visited her (main blog post picture above), she took a turn for the worse which led her to hospice.
July 2014 . . . I was leading a small team on a serving trip to Jamaica, but grandma's health was uncertain. I remember giving her a kiss as she laid quietly in bed and then quickly walking out of the room, fighting back the tears as I walked to the car. My prayer was that she would last one more week until I returned to the States. Unfortunately, God had other plans as a few days into my trip, my husband called me to tell me she had passed away. Sure feels like a long journey when riding on planes to get to a funeral.
Grandma was in a wheelchair toward the end of her life and one of her caretakers told her a story once about her grandson who was also in a wheelchair, but passed away at a young age. My grandma said she looked forward to dancing with him in heaven one day. So . . . that's what I envision when I think of her. Smiling. Dancing. Singing. Surrounded by a God who loves her more than I do.
This morning I woke up to hear that a friend's father who I knew only briefly but quickly cared about passed away. Two days ago, a girl who I traveled overseas with 10 years ago (but stayed in touch with her family) died in a car accident, leaving three little ones behind. A family friend's daughter suddenly died who was only in her 30's and engaged to be married. I also got the news that a friend is now battling a fierce cancer and another person who needs to stay anonymous is on aggressive cancer treatment . . . all while my incredibly strong and brave past college-roommate is getting the last of her reconstructive surgery from her cancer battle. This news came crashing down this morning and boy does it hurt. It's painful to know others I care about are hurting, longing for one more day with their loved one. To know that others are in physical pain, fighting to smile through the holiday to cover reality. To know that others have a long journey ahead with endless tests, treatments, and unknowns.
If you'd like to help relieve some of these families' financial burden, please click the pictures to donate.
I wish I had all the answers. But I don't. I wish I knew the exact words each person needed to hear. But I don't. I wish I could provide comfort to those hurting. But I can't. However, I know God does and even when things don't make any sense, I find comfort in His arms. I will continue to be present. To pray. To love.
Treasure every moment. Quickly forgive. Don't judge. Smile often. Love always.
Every day is a gift. Be thankful for today because we are not guaranteed a tomorrow.
Grandma passed away quietly one week before her 97th birthday.