Today we went to Grandma G‘s memorial service.
We had a little trouble getting there, which you know if you’ve “liked” That’s a Jenn Story on Facebook (and if you haven’t, you’re totally missing out), but it was lovely once we finally got there. All of her children were there, and some of her children-in-law, and three of her grandchildren. It was kind of amazing that many made it, since most of us are pretty far-flung and traveling to and in New England in January is not optimal.
Uncle Ted gave the tribute and talked about how Grandma G used to iron sheets and sing hymns at the same time. This is an interesting memory–partly because ironing sheets is crazy, but I remember that she did that and also, as he made the point, it was positively symptomatic of the care and comfort and peace she tried to imbue into her family and her friends and her home, entirely fueled by her relationship with God through her trust in Jesus. It’s also interesting because back in my early 20’s, I went through this sonnet-writing phase, and wrote one about her trilling hymns over the vacuum cleaner. I guess it’s safe to say that for Grandma G, even housework was worship–which, I think, is just how God wanted us to live–gratefully acknowledging Him in all our work that He cut us out for.
For someone who lived as seemingly traditionally as she did, she was pretty spunky. She went to college in an era when women didn’t, necessarily. Her father offered her a pre-State-of-Israel trip to the Holy Land; I’m not sure I remember if she took it, but I want to say she did. She joined the nursing profession, although once she and Grandpa started a family, she only worked in it when they especially needed money. She and Grandpa started a Christian school in New Jersey which still is going strong. But she seemed to feel her calling was her family–which was defined more broadly than the strictly biological sense. She really loved her people.
The last time I visited her in the nursing home section of the retirement facility where she and Grandpa moved in 1994 or so, she remembered exactly who I was, but she didn’t remember much of my current events. “So, what have you been up to since I saw you last?” she asked. Then she glanced at my left hand and beamed. “Getting engaged, I see!”
This was in September.
“Grandma,” I said, “I’m married.”
“Oh!” she said, looking hurt, “Why didn’t anyone tell me about it?”
“Grandma,” I said again, “You were there.”
She didn’t remember, and frankly, it’s not too surprising, because the week my Paul and I got married, she had fallen or something and been in the hospital, though she was released in time to attend the ceremony and family reception afterward. But up until the day itself, there was some doubt about whether she’d even survive to experience it. Still, it was kind of sad that she couldn’t recall being there. I showed her my rings up close and reminded her that the smaller of the two, my wedding ring, had been her mother’s engagement ring. That, she remembered.
At Thanksgiving, she and Grandma M joined my Paul and me and Dad’s side of the family at my parents’ house for our interesting meal and dessert. Because she still didn’t remember the wedding itself, it was like she was meeting Paul again for the first time. He had the brainwave to get a photo of the two of us with the two grandmothers because, “You never know when you’ll have another chance, at their age,” he said.
After the photos, Grandma G gave me as big a hug as her tiny fragile frame could, and got teary-eyed. “I love you so much,” she whispered. “I’ve loved you your whole life. And I’m so happy for you. He seems so wonderful.”
“He is, Grandma,” I said. “Thank you. I love you, too.” She hung on a little longer, and then my Paul and I went home. And I guess she hung on a little longer after that, too, but it was the last we saw her.
I wonder if she knew. It seems like someone–even someone losing their memory–who could genuinely worship God by way of vacuuming the house, might be close enough to Him to have an inkling . . . Anyway. It was a good way to say goodbye. Until next time, Grandma. Sing–and love–on.