It’s guest blogger day! Today’s devotion is brought to you by my very dear friend, Kristin Warthen. Kristin is an amazing woman. She balances work, life, kids, school, and so many other things with grace and poise. Kristin is one of those women you see and you want to be just like them.
I hope you enjoy her story as much as I do.
At 23, I held my grandfather’s hand as he exited the pain of cancer in this life and entered the rest of God’s love in eternity. And, I held my grandmother’s hand as she wept in grief at the loss of her partner for the last 50 years of her life.
I vividly remember my grandfather’s preparation for this moment. His last days found him entering in and out of consciousness, and every single time he woke up the conversation (whether through eye contact or verbally initiated) began with this question: “How’s your Mee-maw?” (We had been calling her “Grandma” for years, but my grandfather brought me back to my childhood by asking that question. Almost as if he were reminding me of all the times she’d cared for our wounds and broken hearts.)
“She’s fine, Grandpa. I made her at least lie down.”
He’d smile. And close his eyes, satisfied that his bride was cared for.
The care of my grandmother became his laser focus in his last days. He’d prompted each of us promise to look in on her, fix those things around the house he’d no longer be able to fix, keep her company. He even, we later discovered, had taken to hiding money around the house, so she could find it and have extra money to treat herself. Seriously, I swear we found over a thousand dollars hidden in different places.
It only made sense to her, then, that she would take time to find a way to ensure she’d taken a bit of care of herself for us, too. So, she took out an insurance policy on her own funeral. The only hitch: it needed to be used within ten years.
I remember debating this with her, too.
“Grandma, you aren’t that old. You really need something that doesn’t have a deadline for use.”
“Oh, Krissy-Cole. I’m not going to last another ten years without your Grandpa. I wouldn’t want to.”
And she smiled.
Eight years and three months later, this picture was taken.
She was in the throes of Alzheimer’s and didn’t recognize either of these girls. She was fairly convinced the blonde one was me and the brunette was my cousin.
A year after this—nine years and four months after her husband’s death—Grandma entered her rest in God’s eternal love. She kept her word. Less than ten years.
I’ve often looked at the photo above and wept—sometimes bitterly at the fact that my youngest girl never knew my grandparents like I did, like her older sister did.
And, to be clear, I didn’t originally intend to write about my grandparents at all when I agreed to guest blogging this week. No. Originally, I planned to wax philosophical about the role of community in grief, about how as relational people our very core changes when we engage grief as community, about how relationships shift and change, and we experience joy when we can live into a new future with our loss integrated as part of our story.
Then, as I celebrated “mini-Easter” this Sunday, allowing myself on Facebook (which I’ve laid at the alter for Lent), this photo popped up in my memories with this caption:
“She has no clue who they are, but she sure knows she loves them.”
And I smiled.
My grief exists. I mourn the loss of my grandparent. They spring to mind every day—and they have both been gone for years. But these moments—the ones where a picture or an heirloom or something one my girls says or my husband does remind me of my grandparents and their love for one another and for our family—these moments exist and continue as well.
These are the moments of joy in grieving.