My Gram died this summer. I have been close to her and my Papa most of my life (in terms of relationship…for most of my life we were fairly far from each other in terms of geography), and the temporary loss remains deeply painful. This week I want to share the tribute I wrote for her funeral. May it be an example to you of how one generation can shepherd another generation in the ways of God.
Gram was so beautiful. She was always very concerned about her appearance, but she shouldn’t have been. She was beautiful. Death has a way of causing us to look back over the life of the one who has died, and as I did that over the past couple of weeks, my memories came almost in a series of vignettes that show her servant love.
As a child, I would sometimes get to be with Gram and Papa all by myself (this is almost as much about Papa as it is about Gram because, in my memory, Gram and Papa are inextricably linked together). I’m sure Gram was a very busy woman, but she set aside everything when I came to visit and gave unstintingly of her time.
She taught me how to bake and how to sew. She taught me how to swim and dive and play tennis. I’m sure she tried to teach me how to draw, but that lesson just didn’t take. She taught me how to welcome people into my home.
The next flash of memory is from my undergrad days at Harding.
So many weekends found me and a whole gaggle of my friends showing up on Vallejo Drive. It was a much closer drive than coming home, and I took full advantage. Copious amounts of home-cooked food (with many leftovers finding their way back into the dorm rooms of all who came), a listening ear to whatever problems I was dealing with, wisdom to share for how to be like Jesus, all of these were dealt out with a free hand in their home. Also, a few rescues from car troubles or accidents.
There are memories from my teaching days.
Again, I would escape to Gram and Papa’s for food, solace, and wisdom when life felt hard. Again, they would welcome me with open arms unconditionally. Always free to offer advice and counsel, but never holding it against me if I didn’t follow it. I learned quickly, however, that it usually worked out best when I followed it.
I remember bringing my choir students to sing at their little country church and give a singing class (they didn’t think bringing the band kids would have worked out quite so well…) and Gram and Papa throwing us a huge shindig out at The Place (their farm outside of Dallas). Those kids talked about the love that they felt and the food that they ate for months afterward.
The trips to Dallas didn’t happen quite so often after I moved back to Illinois, but I was very happy to discover a direct flight from Champaign to Dallas.
I flew pregnant, with an infant, with a toddler and pregnant…you get the idea. Every time, even when I brought with me a baby who wouldn’t sleep through the night, I was welcomed and loved. Gram would serve me so unselfishly every time I came so that I, as a young mother, could have a little break. She cared for me and my family, played with my babies so I could take a nap, sent me home with food so that I didn’t have to cook as much… Gram’s love always came out in service.
Which is the way it should be.
I’m not as good at it as she was, but I learned at her feet how to show Jesus love to those around me.
I am so grateful for the years we had with Gram living here in Springfield.
We were able to have so many more deep conversations about life and parenting and marriage. My girls were able to know her so much better than if she had still been in Dallas. I am grateful for the extra time my girls had with her, to be able to learn that kind of servant love from one who did it so well.
When I asked my girls about their memories of her, asked about what they loved about Gram, what came out most was her gift of her time and attention. Not everyone pays close attention to children, but Gram did. She played with them, did art with them, gave them little jobs like washing toys, and then did those jobs right along with them. My girls remembered Gram talking with them, taking them seriously. They remember her patiently explaining (probably for the one hundredth time) what every carved bird in her glass case was.
I’ll admit that I am greedy for more time. More time to just BE with Gram, more time to listen to her and soak up all of her knowledge and wisdom, more time to learn how to love like she loved, more time for my girls to know her, for my youngest to be able to remember her.
Yet I know that I have a choice in all of this. I can choose to be angry with God, letting my anger and grief drive me away from Him, or I can choose to be obedient and thank Him, clinging to Him and letting Him be all that I need.
So at least for today, I will choose this:
Thank You, Father, for the gift of my Papa and my Gram.
Thank You for giving me so many years with them, years of such close relationship and of so many beautiful times with them.Thank You for giving them so many talents and abilities and for giving them the desire to teach and share those skills with me and my family.
Thank You for their wisdom, for all that I have learned from them, for all of the wisdom that I now have stored in my own heart, wisdom that I can now pass on to their great-grandchildren. To the next generation.
Thank You most of all for making their hearts like Yours. Thank You for allowing me to see You in them, to see in their lives how You want me to live. Thank You for showing me through them how to live faithfully as a child of Yours, as a spouse and as a parent.
Thank You for the beauty that is their lives.
Thank You, God, for Your grace.
Gone From My Sight Henry Van Dyke
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone.”
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me — not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”