Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My grandmother's legacy

Last week my sweet 93 year old grandma went into congestive heart failure. Yesterday I got the call that she was in active death and I took off to MI to be with my mom and family.

This morning at 11:35am she died. I have to tell you...it scared the hell out of me to be so close to someone I love when they passed. It was just my mom and me and two nurses. I had been there for a while and had read some scripture (Romans 8 and Psalm 23) to her and sang a bit. Because of her pain she was on heavy meds and had not eaten or drank anything since last Wednesday (she was in a nursing home and under the care of hospice...they were wonderful, btw).

She started moaning and gulping for air. I literally hid behind my mom...crying... at one point I peeked out and yelped out...'love you gram'.

I know, wimpy.

But then, I sensed God...so strongly... I started praying asking Jesus to usher Gram into the presence of God... I'm generally not one of those Christians who breaks out into prayer with people I don't know. Probably should be one of those Christians, but, well, anyway...

I felt like I could cut the presence of Jesus in the room with a knife. When I finished praying and said "amen" grandma breathed out her last breath.

She was gone.

I am so thankful to God that he allowed me to be a part of that special time. It renewed my faith. God is. Jesus is the great I AM. Tonight I am rejoicing and look forward to seeing my grandmother again.

And I'm also thinking about the legacy Grandma has left behind.

It's not going to be noted in TIME magazine. Her legacy is not about wealth or power or talent.

Her legacy is her marriage, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. She was a sister to fourteen siblings, a wonderful aunt, a friend, a hard worker.

Memories from my childhood surface and glow in my mind. I will be doing the dishes or picking up a a loaf of bread at the store and a feeling comes over me. Something I can’t actually pin point. Sometime in my past that is blurry, but warm. I can’t remember if I was in first grade or fifth grade when it happened, if it was a sunny spring day or the dead of winter. But when I think about it, I feel good.

A lot of these memories involve my grandmother. Ask any of us grand kids about our grandma and our stories will be similar. We will tell you about playing with the tub of plastic red monkeys that hook one to another on the warm tile floor in the guest room, or about receiving a brown grocery bag full of presents every Christmas Eve. Someone will remember staying at Grandma’s house for a week in the summer, how she would take us to the dime store to pick out a toy. Her standing on the door step of the next door neighbors’ house, ringing the doorbell, coaxing the older neighbor kids outside to play. And almost all of us will talk about endless hands of cards, about five dice shaken and released, in the hopes of getting enough points to “get you on the board.” Someone will probably mention Mass with Grandma, the ominous Catholic Church…organ music filling the space so fully that we actually breathed the music in and out. Her faith affected all of us, whether we believe or not.

At grandma’s we ate what we were served. If she stayed with your family and happened to wake you up at seven o’clock on a Saturday morning, and quietly ask you to ride your bike to the corner store for a gallon of 2% milk, you did it, without refusal or complaint, astounding even yourself. And after you grew up and moved away, whether it was down the street or to another continent, once in a while you received a note, scraggly lines from her own hand, telling of mundane every day things. “God bless” or “Love and prayers” from Grandma.

Now we grandchildren are sprawled out like a spider web, in different towns and States. We are interconnected by wispy lines of our childhood. The lines are thin, seemingly non-existent, but strong like fishing lure. We can't break them. Believe me, some of us have tried.

All because of one little woman who lived well for 93 years, with dignity, faith and smiling until it was her time to be called home.

Love and prayers, Lil' Gram.


  1. Oh Gillian. I sit here crying... knowing what wonderful peace you have and the awesome memories you will carry with you always. It is a great feeling. Your Grama sounded like an incredible lady.... one that will live on with you forever!

  2. What a magnificent story. While I am sorry for you loss, I am so happy that you've found such comfort and triumph in your faith. Hugs to all.

  3. What a beautiful story! I am so glad that you were able to be there with her at the end. Целую!

  4. Gillian, what a beautiful description of your Grandma. Your words brought spotlight moments of my own Grandma. What a joy to know you will be reunited again one day! Jesus has gone on ahead 'to prepare a place for her' and (I like to believe) that her room in His mansion was finished and he called her home. Thank you for sharing a glimpse of this special lady with us.

  5. and a wonderful legacy it is. In the Ukrainian church we sing Vichnaya Pamyat which means Everlasting Memory, may her memory always live in on in those who loved her.

  6. so sorry to hear of your loss. i am so happy you could be there and have that experience. praying that you continue to sense His peace and presence in a strong way. what a wonderful grandmother and memories you have! pattie

  7. you write beautifully, gillian, and i'm so happy you have such beautiful memories that bring you such comfort. how amazing to be able to be so close to someone as they meet jesus. i am happy little gram met my gramps :) let us know if you need anything. love & prayers

  8. Jooniper,

    I'm so sorry for your loss. I know you will miss her until you meet her again. She was such a sweet lady here on earth. Imagine how sweet she is now, with no sin nature! I'm so glad that you were there with her, and able to feel God all around you, reaching out His hand to take hers and bring her home. I'm jealous. I can't wait to take His hand too.

    I'm praying for you, and for your mom too. Love you friend...

  9. Sorry about the loss of your grandmother Gillian. I know you will miss her. My grandma passed away in July of '05 and I miss her so much. I wish I could've seen her with Jack - she would have gotten such a kick out of him!

  10. Beautiful post.

    So sorry for you loss, but as you say, you and your Grandma will meet again.

    In the meantime, hug your girls and continue to keep her legacy alive.


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