A little over a month ago I lost my grandmother. She was one of my closest friends, my rock, and my hero. I find myself tearing up as I sit to write this post. When she first passed, I knew I wanted to honor her memory, but no amount of words ever seemed as if they’d be enough.
Through the past month I have moved forward with life, still fighting the sting of the pain and the loss of a grandmother I so dearly loved. I knew her time would come eventually, but she was one of those people who was always there. Knowing the time would come and experiencing that time are two completely different aspects of life. I never wanted to think about the day I would have to lose her because I didn’t know how I would find the strength to face it. And as I sit here a month and a few days later, I’m still not sure if I do. It still seems surreal.
Even so, the words came.
From the inside looking out, I struggle finding the words to explain it. It was one of those rare moments – a moment of impact – one that not even the most eloquent of words could describe the allure of. The kind of moment that becomes immortalized in song and word, yet far more beautiful.
I sat at her bedside, my hand ever-so gently relaxed on her arm, as I sang my favorite verse from Messiah/You’re Beautiful to her – When we arrive at eternity’s shore, where death is just a memory and tears are no more. We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring, Your bride will come together and we’ll sing, You’re beautiful.
The tears fell from my face onto the rocking chair. I saw the faint flutter in her eyes. While it felt unnatural praying for the very thing we spend our entire lives avoiding, it was the moment she and I both knew her time was arriving to come home.
She died of stage four breast cancer. It was a hard-fought battle, yet one that made her stronger as a person. Back in October when we learned the cancer had metastasized to the brain, we knew what it meant. There are days the most difficult decision we will make is when we decide what we want to eat. This was not one of those days. After a journey that felt both so short and so long, I sat by her bed that Friday night, and I knew the day I dreamed would never come had emerged.
She is one of a rare breed. One that once she has that moment of impact in your life, you will never be the same. She’s one of those people you can never forget, even if you wanted to try. Though in a sense of honesty amongst yourself, you know you never really want to forget.
It was the last night I would spend with the woman who had such a profound impact on my dad’s life and later my entire family. I couldn’t quite find the words to say. Not even I love you felt like it could be enough. Still through my tearful eyes I could see the exhaustion of her body could not stop her from smiling. I know she told me she loved me too.
Words didn’t feel like enough, but music did. I became too emotional to sing, so I started playing music instead.
My grandmother had a funny thing about taking me to southern gospel singings growing up. I hated them. I thought they were boring and would never end. Yet in those moments I sat by her bedside holding her hand, the Precious Memories album by Alan Jackson felt right. I turned on “In The Garden” and just let it shuffle.
Indistinctly, I saw her facial expressions change with each song. In The Garden changed to Softly and Tenderly, which changed to I’ll Fly Away and then to The Old Rugged Cross. It was during this song I saw her eyes glance to me and felt the light flick in her hand. We shared that moment together. We knew her crown was coming. We knew she would soon stand in the presence of our Father.
What proceeded was the most memorable of the entire night. My parents joined me at her bedside and we started to sing to her. As How Great Thou Art came on, an atmosphere filled the room I’m not sure can ever be replicated in this lifetime.
With heavy hearts and tear-filled eyes, we looked at my beautiful grandmother with both joy and sorrow as we sang one of her favorite hymns. I choked back what I could as we finished singing. Goodbye really is the hardest part.
A moment of impact.
The quote from C.S. Lewis states “When I die, I pray all of hell rejoices that I am out of the fight.” At 2:30 am on the 10th of December 2016, I have no doubt that’s how the fallen world felt. She fought the good fight, she finished the race, she kept the faith.
Amidst the chaos and the pain I’ve felt for the last month, I’m forever comforted by the words of Paul – to live is Christ, and to die is gain. My grandmother, the most God-fearing, caring, tenacious woman I have ever met, has gained far more than this world could ever offer her. She no longer lives in an earthly body broken by age and cancer, but now walks those beautiful streets of gold in a lovely, heavenly body given to her by the Lord.
That night I thanked my grandmother for being a guiding light in my life. I thanked her sitting on my couch, holding me while I cried, and loving me at the moment in my life I felt most unloved. I thanked her for teaching me that no matter what you absolutely never give up on the ones you love, even if everyone else is begging you to. I thanked her for showing what an authentic love for Christ looks like. Most importantly, I thanked her for choosing to be my grandmother.
Even still, she inspires me to become a better person, as she often did to so many around her. She fought like a girl until the very end. I’ve never been more proud to call her my grandmother.