Please Check Your Rollater Here, You Will Not Be Needing It Beyond These Gates

When I call my maternal grandmother for semi-regular phone chats, at some point I ask her how she’s feeling in the aches and pains department. She usually underplays the back pain or the leg pain with some cavalier comment like, “Oh there are good days and bad days.” So often she will change the subject to something for which she’s thankful. And every conversation includes her saying how richly blessed she is to have such a wonderful family.

She and my grandfather (who passed away four years ago) have lived extraordinary lives. Her days have not been without struggle – growing up during the Great Depression, watching her father leave the family when she was just a girl, having a still born child after being exposed to a gas leak, losing her husband after 61 years of marriage, enduring debilitating pain from arthritis – yet no trial could squelch her joy. It runs too deep. Both she and my grandfather have exuded joy, laughter, strength, generosity, and graciousness. That is their legacy. I am the one who is so richly blessed to have such an admirable lineage.

I love the memories of Grams humming while working, breaking into song and dance during conversation, and laughing uproariously. Laughter is big in our family, and we usually feed off of each other to a point of no return. When Grams laughs hard she breeds tears with no breathing and no noise, just open mouth and squinted eyes, and then she throws back her head and puts a tissue over her face – maybe as a way to mask the laughter paralysis.

The examples of humor in our family are endless. Here is an exchange between Grams and my mom from last year after Grams had a miserable bladder infection. Anticipating the Q & A time with her friends at dinner that night, she called my mom at work with the following question.

Grams: What’s another word for ‘crotch?’  I can’t be telling my friends that I have a pain in my crotch!

Mom: Gee, Mom, I don’t know.  Let me look it up in my thesaurus. [Looks up ‘crotch’ in Roget’s Thesaurus.] There’s only one word here, Mom.  Angularity.

[Both start to lose it.]

Grams: So I can tell my friends that I have a pain in my angularity?

Mom: Yep.  Matter-of-fact, that sounds so good and genteel, you can even use that in your Christmas letter next year!

[Grams has to get off the phone, presumably to put a tissue over her face.]

A queen of puns. Able to wear big, silly bear paw slippers yet still look perfectly put together – hair done just right with classy jewelry and an outfit that matches her furniture. Wise. Beautiful. Challenging card player. So crafty and clever. Always ready to say how much she loves us.

I learned some valuable April Fools jokes from Grams. She taught me how to make homemade picture frames in 6th grade. She and my grandfather introduced me to the classic movie, True Grit. Their marriage was one to emulate. Their faith was one of the important models in my own faith journey. I have rarely seen such humble sacrifice of time and money for those in need as I have seen with Grams and Grandpa. Their lives have been an offering to God and an overflowing gift to others.

***

I received an unexpected phone call yesterday. I knew when my mom’s voice broke during the message that the news wasn’t going to be good. Grams passed away. She missed a regularly scheduled brunch in the dining room of her retirement community, and her friends reported her absence to a nurse on staff. The nurse found Grams in her apartment around noon. Shortly after, my mom arrived at the apartment. There Grams was sitting in her chair in the TV room. With cookies beside her and a reminder note to meet her lifelong friend for Sunday brunch at 11:30, she did not sit down yesterday morning knowing that she would not be getting up again.

But you know, as unexpected as this was for all of us, I find great peace in knowing that she was not unprepared. On her footstool lay a page and a half of notes she had taken from the Charles Stanley sermon on TV that morning. For most of her 87 years she professed a faith in the God of the Bible and an acceptance of Jesus as her Savior. In her final moments she continued to worship Him and study His Word, not because of an obligation to perform religious routine, but because of a personal relationship she sought to deepen. She was not unprepared; she was ready at any unsuspecting moment. She was ready at this moment.

Mom and I cried on the phone together as she said that she wished Grams wasn’t alone when she died. I wished that too. But, as indicated in Grams’ sermon notes, one of the discussion points of Charles Stanley’s message yesterday morning was an elaboration of Jesus’ proclamation, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Grams wasn’t alone at her final breath, and she isn’t alone now. She is forever with her Savior.

It is no coincidence that Charles Stanley’s memory verse of the week is Romans 6:4 – “We have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

My late grandfather wrote a beautiful letter when his mother passed away. I cannot find better words to express the loss of a loved one who has this personal relationship:

“1,952 years ago, a Man stood on a hill near a small lake far away from here – and said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” I am sure I have never understood those words as well as I do right now. Thank God for Easter morning! The grave is not the end!

You go on ahead, Mom. We’re here between Good Friday and Easter Sunday – and because of what these two days mean, we can still look forward to more celebrations like you wanted – when all your family is home again – where there is no more hurting, no more loneliness, no more tears, and no more dandelions!”

You go on ahead, Grams. We will look forward to celebrating with you again!

Details, Details

My friend’s water broke last night, another friend is going to the doctor today and may get induced, and about a dozen other friends and family members have due dates set for late 2008/early 2009.  With all of the birthing around me, especially the one(s) this week, I’ve begun to wonder what kind of phone chains will be established to deliver news of the deliveries.  This thought immediately took me to last November.

At that time, Brian and I had the same cell phone model.  Of all days, OF ALL DAYS for Brian to grab my cell phone and take it to work with him, it happened to be the day that a dear friend, Christie, went into labor.  I was given the high honor of relaying her news to some other friends, and now my phone was in the hands of…A MAN!  Not just any man…MY HUSBAND (you’ll see what I mean by this in a minute)!

On my way to work I took Brian’s cell phone and did two things: 1) called my friend’s husband, Mark, and left a voicemail saying that the best way to get a hold of me was via Brian’s cell, and 2) called Brian and told him to call me as soon as he heard any baby news (in case Mark didn’t get the voicemail).

Later that day I received a phone call from the proud father.  He said that he sent a text to my cell phone first, but then got my message to call me on Brian’s phone.  Christie had done wonderfully during labor and the baby boy was healthy and beautiful.  Awww, a boy!  I had waited nine months to find that out.  I was so ecstatic for them.  Immediately after Mark and I got off the phone, I carried out my duties as phone chain messenger.  There was so much excitement in the air that it wasn’t until hours later that I realized there could have been a real kink in the chain —  Brian understood the importance of relaying any messages right away, why didn’t he contact me as soon as he had received the text from Mark?

So I called him to find out…

Brian: Hello?

Me: Hey.

Brian: Hey.

Me: I heard that Mark texted you. Why didn’t you call me?

Brian: Oh yeah. They had their baby. It’s a girl!

Me: A GIRL?! No it’s not! It’s a boy!

Brian: Wait a second. [Checks text message.] Oh yeah. It’s a boy.

Reinforces My Hypothesis

My hydrangea bush continues to flaunt its personality. The massive flower from June that I showed in my last post has faded to a green with rosy tips as it rounds out its life cycle. At its peak it was a pale blue, almost white. The color of hydrangea is dependent upon the pH of the soil, which is why I am perplexed to see this bush produce other flowers that are a deeper range of pinks, blues, and purples. So we have a range of color and color depth. Could the soil vary so much within this small space, causing roots that feed different branches to grow in soil with widely varying acidity? Or is this bush just bizarre?

As I walked around to the back of the bush, I discovered an even more massive flower than the first one. Also green now (and the current masthead), this flower is almost the size of a basketball. Is this normal?

We should probably have testing done…maybe the backyard really is radioactive.

Praying Legacy

We have often speculated that our tiny little backyard has traces of radioactivity; plants and insects seem to grow unusually large there. In the case of our hydrangea bush, we welcome the over-sized growth. Here’s a bud from June that eventually became massive.

<small>A new bud on the horizon</small>

Growing to become ridiculously large

It’s more pale than some of the other flowers, but beautiful nonetheless.

More pale than some of the others

Some of the flowers are so big that they cannot stay upright without the support of the surrounding leaves.

Some of the flowers are so big that they cannot stay upright without the support of the surrounding leaves

While documenting the mutant flowers, I stumbled across this little guy…

So cute

Keep praying, my friend

I couldn’t help but wonder — How large will he grow to be? And is he the grandchild of this praying mantis we saw knocking on our door in 2006?…

Knocking at our door

(This one was probably about 6 inches long.)

Probably about 6 inches long

Upon closer examination, I really do believe the two are related. They had similar features and mannerisms. They shared the same work ethic. And they both spoke with a British accent.

The Entertainer

A couple weeks ago, my husband barreled down the stairs and across the living room, stumbled over the over-sized ottoman, and then collapsed onto our over-sized chair. Brian is both coordinated and athletic, but occasionally around the house he carries himself with this sort of lazy, bulky gait. Sometimes it manifests as sort of a limp, sometimes it’s more like a clumsy sedated state of being.

One time in particular, his stumbling sedated state culminated into one of my all-time favorite bloopers. It was late at night and Brian had fallen asleep on the big chair. I gingerly woke him and told him to go upstairs to bed. Usually when I wake him up his first response is to rhetorically mutter “Wuh, wuh?” This time was no different. After the “wuh, wuh?” he scooted across the chair and ottoman, stood up, took one step forward, and then collapsed to the ground. Nothing had impeded his step other than his own motoric malfunction. He had rolled into a fetal position by the time his entire body hit the carpet, like a caterpillar would do if you poked at it or a person getting beat up would do to protect their gut from a kick. Unphased, Brian stood back up and walked off heavily to bed. He has no recollection of this event, but sometimes, when the world around me is quiet, I visualize this incident and laugh out loud.

Actually, it just happened. Someone just passing by my office stopped and asked why I was laughing: “Are you watching a video online or something?” No, no I’m not, but this is the amusement that I get from replaying this memory. The closest I can come to demonstrating the randomness and sweet innocence of Brian’s fall is this video, only imagine it in human form.

So like I was saying, a couple weeks ago Brian barrels into the living room and says, “You know what you haven’t asked me yet?”

Me: “What?”

Brian: “What I want for my birthday.”

Brian, whether it’s your childlike eagerness for a birthday, or the way you use onomatopoeia, or the fact that you said “true dat” today, or your gait when you’re being silly…that goofiness (intentional or not) that typically is only fully unleashed within the comfort of our home, I love that part of you. The rest of you is not so bad either. Today I celebrate all of those parts that have me so in love with you. Happy Birthday!