Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Life Well-Lived

I'm finally taking time to sit down and catch my breath. Ever since we received the news of Grandma's passing, I feel like I've been in "fast forward" mode.

My first introduction to Keith's grandmother was almost twenty years ago. It was the summer of 1988. Keith and I were both getting ready to do our ministerial internships for Bible college. We had chosen to do them at a large church in the Detroit metro area. His family had kindly offered for me to stay at his grandmother's home for the summer. She had been living alone since his grandfather's passing in 1984.

She had quite a "punny" sense of humor, his grandma. And a funny little chuckle when she thought she'd said something funny. But I'm a bit that way myself, so I could appreciate it! She was on the go quite a bit, between church activities, shopping, and golf. We really didn't see each other too much, except for the occasional evening when we both happened to be at home. She was involved with the church choir, too. Since I was doing a music internship, there was another place of common ground for us. During that summer, the choir took a trip to Portugal. I stayed in Michigan while the music directors and choir were gone. After she returned, Grandma began spending more and more time with the father of some other choir members. Soon, a romance blossomed between Grandma and Lloyd. He was a man of prayer, and quite a sweet gentleman.

The following summer, Keith and I were married. Grandma joined several family members in making the long trip to Kansas for our wedding. It was so special to me that so many of them made such a journey for us! It truly showed their love of Keith and the closeness of their family ties.

Grandma and Lloyd were married a couple of years later. Unfortunately, we had just moved to Missouri, so were unable to attend their ceremony. We all knew she had found a gem, though!

Some time later, while we were attending a church in Highland Park, MI, Grandma and Lloyd began riding to midweek services with us on a weekly basis. Even though the congregation was mostly made up of young, twenty-somethings, the church was located in a bad area, and the music was quite "lively," the two of them truly enjoyed coming to the services.

Soon after our first son's birth, Grandma had her first stroke. It wasn't long before both she and Lloyd had to be admitted to a nursing home, due to their failing health and their inability to care for each other's basic needs. By that fall, Lloyd was gone from our lives, and into the presence of the Lord.

From that time on, Grandma remained in the nursing home. During the time we lived in that area, we made every possible effort to visit Grandma on Sunday afternoons. I am so thankful for those times, as our sons got to know her a little better each week. After we moved out of state, we tried to make at least one visit to see her whenever we were back in Michigan, or else she joined the family for whatever holiday we were celebrating. We have fond memories of talking, laughing, and singing hymns together as my husband accompanied us on his guitar. However, the passage of time only caused Grandma to become more confused. It wasn't unusual for us to visit, and wonder if she would remember that we had even been there.

The last time I saw Grandma, she had failed so much. She was weak and frail. She slept a lot. In her final months, she had to be admitted to the hospital for various health issues. Finally, on January 22nd, the Lord took her into His presence.

My husband has several letters his grandmother sent him while he was in college. Those letters are a priceless treasure, full of her words of encouragement, notes about the happenings in her life, and reminders that she was always praying for him.

At her funeral Saturday, it was a time of rejoicing in a life well-lived. There were humorous memories shared, as well as many accounts of the faith she lived out. It was difficult, as any funeral is, but it was also beautiful. It was so wonderful, too, at the dinner afterward, to see the faces of so many people whose lives she touched. An incredible testimony to her almost-90 years of life.

Upon our return home, we discovered that Saturday was also the memorial for Saints Timothy and Titus. One of the Mass readings was from 2 Timothy 1:2, 5:

"Timothy, dear child...I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois..."

We have a little devotional book that goes along with the daily readings. This is a short quote from Saturday's devotion:

"I am fascinated by Paul's reference to Timothy's grandmother, according to my concordance, the only place in the Bible the term grandmother appears. Paul says the faith first lived in her. Why is it that a grandmother's faith can be so deeply alive? Perhaps it is because she has received and given life through three generations of the journey. She has taken part in so many stories where love was stronger than pain and God brought life from what had seemed like death." ~Patricia Livingston, Living Faith

Isn't that amazing? That was the devotional for the day of Grandma's funeral!

I am so thankful for my husband's grandparents. By the time we had been married for less than a year, all of my grandparents had already passed on. His father's parents and his grandma all took me in as if I was their natural-born granddaughter. They showered me with all the love they gave their own grandchildren. I am truly blessed to have been a part of the affection they gave so freely.

We will miss Grandma in so many ways. But we all are better for having known her, and for having been loved by her. Above all, I am thankful for the faith she passed along to her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great- great-grandchildren. As the songs says, "Thank you, for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed."

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