A few days ago, I called my Grandma Violet. I hadn’t talked to her since we left Wisconsin, and my father recently told me that her health is continuing to decline. (For those of you who are newer to my blog, my Grandma has been in hospice care for almost a year suffering from congestive heart failure. Her body is extremely weak and fragile, but her mind is as sharp as ever. She can still play cards and do crossword puzzles with the best of them! 🙂 )
Last weekend, her house was “pillaged” by her children and grandchildren. It was a planned event; Grandma is not going to be able to move back home, and her house needs to be prepared for a new occupant. When I was there in August, I was told to take home whatever I wanted, so I chose some kitchen mementos, a butter dish, a sugar bowl (we needed one), pictures of the girls that I had given her, and some books, including some devotional books. So over the weekend, other family members came and took what they wanted, while the rest is being sorted through to give to charity. I guess there’s still some bigger items left along with some smaller stuff to go through, but Grandma was not a packrat, and she only had a small house, so it’s not too bad. (Not like what JJ and I are going to have to deal with someday when we have to go through OUR parents’ homes! We are dreading that day, let me tell you!)
As Grandma and I talked about her home being essentially dismantled, she mentioned how her daughters found a scrapbook of cards from her 25th wedding anniversary party. Apparently as Grandma looked through these old cards, she couldn’t even remember who some of the people were. She suggested that her daughters throw that scrapbook out, as she remarked that all cards get thrown out sooner or later. I was reminded of MY wedding cards, my wedding cards that, 8 years later, are STILL packed into a big gift bag and sitting in an upstairs closet. I have meant to do something with them all these years, but as of yet, nothing has changed. When I shared this with Grandma, she emphatically said, “Throw them out!” Really, Grandma? I replied. She then said:
“Emily, if I can leave you with one piece of advice, it’s to throw it out! No matter how nice those cards or other things are, they’re going to get thrown away sooner or later. You might as well do it sooner and not wait for someone else to have to do it down the line later.”
Honest to goodness, those were as close to her exact words as I can remember. Well then! I have always greatly respected my Grandma’s opinion, and that respect has only increased in my adulthood. So, as I pondered her words, and thought about the boxes of old Christmas cards that sit upstairs (that I’m going to DO something with! Someday! Really!), and other items from my past that I don’t use but can’t seem to let go of, I’m realizing the wisdom in her words. Plus it’s kind of Zen/Feng Shui, too (although, not that THAT matters!) to get rid of stuff and create serene living spaces, free of clutter. JJ is certainly interested in “clutter-free living” lately. If he really wants to get something done, he drives down the hill to our local library, where he can spread out on an empty table and work uninterrupted. He’s been after me to de-clutter the house, something with which I struggle. Old habits die hard, but I’ve also been too tired for the past 2 years to do much of that, but The Time Is Coming. Baby J’s sleep IS going to improve; I am taking steps to make that happen. And once everyone’s sleeping well again? The de-cluttering will begin!
The night after this conversation with Grandma, I couldn’t fall asleep. I was thinking about her advice, and how she said that if she left me with nothing else but this, remember to “Throw it out!” As I pondered other things she had left me, I remembered how she has said that she doesn’t understand why God has kept her here on earth so long. She’s literally almost died about 3 times in the past 4 years, and yet every time, she’s rallied and gotten better again. Why IS God keeping her here? Is it just to pass on wise words like these to me and other people? Or is there a bigger lesson?
And then, it hit me. My Grandma is a living example of trusting in God, no matter what the circumstances. I can’t IMAGINE being in her shoes, being in hospice care for almost a year, essentially waiting to die. Because, you see, while I’m not scared of death (I know I’m going to heaven), I AM scared of dying. Humans were never created to die. But thanks to Adam and Eve eating from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden so long ago, now we die. My mortality has been making an impression on me over the past few years, and thinking about Grandma’s dying has made me … uncomfortable. It’s weird to think that she IS dying, right before my eyes.
But, over these past years, even from 2000 miles away, I have seen her strength and her trust in God. She trusts that His timing is right, and until then, she is happy and content with her life circumstances. Her money is gone, her home is dismantled, her funeral arrangements are settled, even her casket is chosen! But still, she is happy and content, eager to hear about the lives of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and even able to make jokes about her own death. We visited Wisconsin while I was pregnant with Baby J, and when Grandma asked if we knew what we were going to name the baby, we said that we did, but that we weren’t sharing the name with anyone. Grandma promply responded with a twinkle in her eye, “Well, you have to tell ME! I might be DEAD before the baby arrives!” Everyone laughed, and I responded that no, we were NOT telling her — that way she would have to stay alive long enough to see the baby born. Well, here Baby J is almost a year old, and Grandma is still here. She’s made other jokes about dying, too, and those humorous moments have shown her total ease with the status of her life. She definitely looks forward to being in heaven and free from the constraints of her tired body, but whether she lives or dies, she is at peace.
Grandma’s complete trust in Jesus as her Savior, her total contentment with whatever her life circumstance, her equal acceptance of both suffering and joy, her willingness to roll with the changes that life sends her way — THAT is truly her greatest gift to me, and the gift that I will carry forever in my heart. I can honestly say (albeit with tears in my eyes as I type) that I am no longer as scared of dying as I was a few years ago thanks to the gift that my Grandma has given me in fearlessly dying as a trusting child of God. That gift means the world to me, more than any material thing I took from her home. I will be grateful to her the rest of my life for that gift, and I pray that I can pass that gift on to my children and grandchildren, too.
(And, Grandma, I promise I will throw out those old cards!)