My sweet 95 year old grandmother died this week.
You may recall that I wrote about visiting her this past summer and how seeing her weakened, frail, demented condition broke my heart. So while I mourn her physical loss, I’ve already been grieving for some time . . . grieving the loss of the strong woman I’d once known, the grandmother who’d adored me, who bought me a big cookie for every birthday, who tirelessly played Rummy Cube or Clue.
As you read this, I’ll be attending her funeral in Iowa at the Lutheran church she always went to with its musty scent, high vaulted ceilings, and hard slippery pews. While I rejoice that she’s whole and strong again and skipping down the streets of heaven, I can’t help but ache that such an important person in my life is now gone.
Her death reminds me of the brevity of life, that the end will eventually come for all of us, and that life is really much shorter than we realize. I don’t want to depress everyone with my ruminations, but watching a loved one die makes us take stock of our own lives and how we’re spending our time. We’re reminded that time is finite, and that we’re all taking steps toward eternity’s door, some of us faster than others.
All of that to say, my grandma’s passing is making me reflect on some of the important things in life. As I look back on what she taught me, here are a few timeless lessons:
1. Make your loved ones feel extra special. My grandma and grandpa came to visit us for just about every holiday and birthday. And they didn’t do it out of obligation. They did it out of the pure joy of being with us. They made me feel special and loved. Every. Single. Time.
2. Take care of yourself, but don’t forget to eat ice cream. My grandma took her vitamins regularly, read the labels on food religiously, and exercised faithfully until the day she couldn’t walk any more. But she relished eating a piece of fine chocolate. And she rarely turned down a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
3. Cherish past memories, but continue to make them too. As an adult, I was always amazed to walk into my grandma’s home and see the little crafts and pictures I’d made as a child still hanging around her kitchen. She showed me the importance of remembering the past, but at the same time we continued to always forge new memories.
4. Make time to laugh boisterously. My grandmother loved to laugh. She had a wonderful, loud, contagious laugh. My dad could always tickle her funny bone, and so my memories of our many family gatherings involve games and laughter and having lots of fun together. I’m sure there were difficult times too, but fortunately laughter always seems to tip the scale.
5. Feed the ducks. Some of my earliest memories with my grandma involve going to the park near her house and throwing pieces of bread to the ducks. I’m not entirely sure why that was so fascinating! But it is indicative of what my grandma did every day of her life. She fed those around her. Not literally. Rather she was involved in the lives of many people, loving, helping, serving, praying. She spent her life feeding others and was full as a result.
I could go on and on. I’ve only just begun my list of life lessons I’ve learned from my grandma. She was a special woman. And one day, I’ll look forward to hugging her again in heaven where she’ll be whole and able to exercise and laugh and make me feel extra special. And who knows, maybe we’ll even feed some ducks.
How about you? Have you ever lost a loved one? What lessons did you learn as a result?
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