Wednesday, January 8, 2014

We Don't Always Wait Until They're Gone.

Sometimes, we really do know what we've got when it's right in front of us. Every. Single. Second.

I have my grandma's hands.

It actually hit me one day a few years back when I looked down one day and saw my grandma's hands in my lap. Except she was 65 miles away.

And her elbows. And the way she walks. So does my dad. I always hated how that looked in a picture or a video of myself until it dawned on me that it was just like Grandma.

I got a call from my mom one day years ago and she was gushing about a photo she, Dad, and Grandma had come across. It was a photo of Grandma when she was around 15 years old. Mom went on and on about how amazed they were that it looked so much like me. I was intrigued. The next time I was home, they showed me the photo and I honestly didn't see it much. I saw it in the way she stood (remember the elbows?), but that's it.

Right now, I'm praying that 1.) they still know where that photo is, and 2.) I see it this time the way they did.

A couple of other things that she graciously passed along to me. My well-endowed chest (that was rendered half its size four years ago thanks to modern medicine), my ability to fall into hysterical crying fits of laughter at the speed of light (often no one knows what I'm laughing about yet when I'm already crying and can't talk), the I-have-a-story-for-everything part of my personality, and my issues with anxiety and depression. And I'll take them all with open arms if it means living to become half the person she was.

She showed me that strong people have personal issues that don't have to make them less. She showed me that you can change the world one person at a time without flying off to other parts of the globe - and that doesn't make you less, either. She showed me that grace is for every person you set eyes on, and that it's never too late to learn and embrace something new - even if you don't understand it.

When Sean and I had Alexx 23 years ago before we were married, she could have hammered down some hard Christian values on us - and treated Alexx like he was not supposed to be here this way. But she loved that baby - and Sean and me - to within an inch of our lives. She supported us emotionally, financially when she could, and even helped make it possible for me to get back to school by keeping Alexx so I could attend classes again.

When Seth (now 10) was in the worst throws of autism, she never judged. She learned. And loved. She even loved my bully dog (Josh) after learning he was "one of those pitbull things that seems to always attack people" because she wasn't too old or stubborn to know that you can always be wrong - and can always admit you were wrong about something and learn the truth.

A few weeks ago, Josh and I were playing on her living room floor and he was wiggling his little butt and unique, curly tail up against her in her chair and she was loving on him - and I just wondered if there was anyone or anything this woman wouldn't accept and love when put in front of her.

When I was little, I loved the chest of drawers she had stored in her garage that her father-in-law made when he and my great grandmother were married and "setting up housekeeping." Grandma tucked that fact away, and many years later when Sean and I moved into our first apartment, she gave us that chest and it has meant the world to us every day since then. We have always called it "the Grandma chest" and it sits in our foyer - first thing people see of our home - with a photo of my great-grandad, great-grandma, and my grandad and great aunts as children.

I grew up four houses away from her and she and my parents still live in those houses today. So my boys have also grown up with her four houses away from Nana & Papa's house. They also grew up "running down to Grandma's" to play in the yard, play cards with her, watch tv with her or spend the night. In fact, Joel & Seth (15 & 10) have spent more time with her in the last few years than I have been able to because they've spent half their weekends there.

Today I am selfishly in mourning. The loss is on this end. She's not missing a thing.

I cried this morning out of pure joy thinking of her and Grandad being reunited in heaven after being apart for 41 years. She has waited and prayed and loved others for 41 years without him. She has seen all of these grandkids and great-grandkids - who abound from their love for one another - come along, grow, live, love, accomplish - all without him. She lived an entire life with him and an entire life without him - and she never gave herself to anyone else. She waited. For him.

She waited with the great faith - that she passed along to us - that God is true, that his words are true, and that she would live in heaven with him again one day.

I have a lifetime of things to say, but some things are best left in the heart to stay where they are the greatest comfort.

Death is hardest on the living left behind. I will miss her so much it will feel like a knife sometimes, but that just means we were doing it right. And when I think I can't stand that she's gone, I'll look down and see her hands sitting in my lap.

Sean, Grandma & me at my dad's baptism a few months ago.

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