Today my mom and sister called with some hard news: my Grandma (my Mom’s mom) had a stroke and she will most likely not be alive a week from now. She is 95 and is in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s. Her quality of life these past few years have not been good. She’s ready to go home to Jesus.
But as you can imagine, I am so very, very sad. I’m sad because I really, really love my Grandma. And even though I’ve been preparing for this day, I’m still not ready. It’s like when the “it” person in hide ‘n seek yells out, “Ready or not, here I come!” and I’m still looking for a place to hide. I’m not ready for this!
I was very tempted to re-blog something for today. I really didn’t feel up to writing. But as I prayed for my grandma, something (actually, Someone) reminded me about the nature of thanksgiving: it’s not just for the good times; it’s also for the hard times. We are to give thanks in every situation.
What makes my Grandma’s impending passing hard is also what makes giving thanks in this situation possible: the great memories we had together. We’ve had five decades of wonderful, beautiful, amazing life together.
And so I just want to take a brief stroll down memory lane. This will be one of those blogs that is more for me than it is for you, dear Reader. But here is where the power of fellowship can be felt through the Internet: your presence in reading this with me helps me to get through this hard passage of life. And maybe it will bless you, too, with some sort of insight, practice or inspiration. God is amazing in how He works, isn’t He?
I just want to share three little snippets from my life with Grandma, three memories that I’m really thankful for:
1. My grandma always made my favorite dessert for my birthday every year: strawberry cheesecake. That’s like almost 50 cheesecakes! Grandma’s cheesecake was the best; heads above anything that the Cheesecake Factory could produce. She made it with such skill. She was an amazing baker (she made something different for each of us 5 grandkids for our birthdays). Her strawberry topping was made from homemade strawberry jam. That strawberry cheesecake was her way of saying to me, “I love you, Dougie.” (only Grandma can call me that!)
2. My Grandma made me an afghan when I was twelve years old. At the time I was a big UCLA basketball fan because of John Wooden’s teams (it was the ONLY time I was a UCLA fan!) So the color of the afghan was: Blue and Gold (hopefully Rob Acker is not reading this – it will give him more leverage over our school rivalry). It’s still on my bed – right next to Letty’s afghan that Grandma made for her as a wedding present 32 years ago. The afghans remind us of God’s “covering” over us as we sleep each night: “Guard us as we sleep … that we might rest in Your peace.”
3. My Dad had a heart attack during the summer of my fourth grade year. My Dad’s dad (Papa) had just died from a heart attack a year earlier. I was so fearful. But my Dad survived. While he convalesced, Grandma and Grandpa took us four kids on a mini-vacation, because nothing can give you a relapse faster than four little kids screaming around the house. We went all over California. We fished for red snapper off the Carpenteria pier. We went clamming at Pismo Beach. We climbed up Morro Rock in Sequoia National Park. We explored the Crystal Caves in Kings Canyon National Park. We saw the oldest tree in the world. We had a blast! Grandpa told us his stories. Grandma would cook our favorites (Prime Rib, baby!). They just loved on us … and it healed us from our sense of loss, fear, and uncertainty.
I learned through that time what “Grandparenting” means. Little did I know how that memory – as well as the rest – would guide and prepare me in my own relationship with my grandsons. Grandma, as well as Grandpa, set the “gold” standard for us. And I hope we are doing them proud.
So I say, “Thank you, Grandma, for all the ways you loved us and shared your life with us. You shaped my life in ways that have made me a better person, a good-hearted person, a God-pursuing person. And I say, “Thank you, God, for my Grandma. I see Your love through her. Please guide her safely into Your arms.”
Thank you, dear Reader, for walking with me down this path. Your presence gives me comfort.
Thanks for the memories.