Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sixty Characters or Less

A tombstone can only hold so much. It cannot tell your story or show pictures of your family. It does not show your bank account or your list of accomplishments. It is sixty characters, spaces included.
My grammee's ashes are being buried of Friday and my Aunt asked me to help her come up with these sixty small characters to embody the life of my beloved grandmother.
I thought back to when my brother and I went through my grandmother's things. We found all sorts of stuff that lead to much laughter and some tears. Jeremy opened one drawer to find about 500 of those little sample perfume papers. We erupted in laughter talking about Gramma's obsession with perfume, especially Elizabeth Taylor. Today, someone told me that Elizabeth Taylor died at the age of 79. I was reading a little excerpt of her life and was shocked to hear that she'd been married 8 times (Though, to her credit, she was married to the same man twice... so I guess that would only mean 7 husbands!) She'd also been in tons of movies, received an Academy Award and, of course had her own line of perfume. As I pondered those 60 characters and what Elizabeth Taylor's tombstone might read, I realized after death, it matters very little WHO you were and more WHOSE you were.
My grammee had a little plaque that she loved. She had it with her when she went into the hospital and my grandfather wanted to make sure that it came back to the house after she had gone. It said: The Lord is my Shepherd. My grammee belonged to Jesus. She gave until she had nothing left, she loved until her dying breath, she served and was broken for those in need.
A tombstone can only hold so much, but I believe these sixty characters give tribute to a woman who changed the world because she changed us. She loved us deeply and followed the Lord passionately.

Beloved wife, mother and grammee
"The Lord is my Shepherd"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Answers come in all shapes and sizes...

Ever since I was a child, little things have intrigued me. When my Gramma would take me into the store and tell my brother and I to pick out a toy, my brother would head straight for the GI Joes, which he would later blow up or shoot off the fence. I, on the other hand would find a very small pad of paper or a little ball and hand it to my Gramma as if it were the most prized treasure in the store.
My brother still laughs when he tells people how he would trick me out of my candy bars. My Grandpa would give us each a snickers. Jeremy would proceed to inhale three-fourths of his before I ever opened mine. Then, being the tricky older brother that he was, he would say, "Jamie, I'll trade you my little candy bar for your BIG candy bar." I, liking little things would quickly trade him believing that I got the better end of the deal.
As I have gotten older, God has taught me that he likes to answer even my little things. When Steven and I moved into our apartment several months ago, we had neither table nor couch. We began to pray for God's provision and a month ago, someone GAVE us a table and this week we found a couch on Craig's List... the only catch: the lady said that she had some other offers, but would give it to us at a great price if we picked it up within the hour. Well, they live in Richardson and we live in Uptown, a solid 40 minute drive on a good day. It was 5:30 on a Wednesday afternoon going north through rush hour traffic, good luck getting there getting there on time! But we took off anyway. Me, praying the whole way that it would be our couch. :) We arrived in record time to be met by a sweet family and the couch was perfect! I thanked her profusely and told her that she was an answer to my prayer. Her face lit up as she told me the story of the couch. She had put it on Craig's List a while ago and had a few bites but no one come through on it. So, she prayed that God would bring just the right people to buy the couch. At the same time we were praying for just the right couch. God answered her small prayer and my small prayer in the same couch.
Some people will hear this story and just hear a silly little story. I look at it blessed by an amazing God who also likes small things.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Saying Goodbye...

I received that dreaded phone call on Thursday afternoon that she was going quick. An hour and a half later, Steven and I were in the car headed to San Antonio. That was the longest drive of my life. Stories and memories flooded my mind of shopping trips and fun times. It finally fell on the last time I’d seen her.
Those two days we spent together were full of laughter and stories. We went on walks throughout the center and enjoyed reminiscing the days gone by. Her only requests were cream filled donuts and chicken feet, two of her favorite foods. As I left that Sunday, I had no idea what I was really saying goodbye to. I thought I was saying goodbye until next time, I didn’t know that that would be the last time I’d hear her sweet voice say, “Goodbye little Jamie… I love you. Come see me again soon.”
Tears filled my eyes on that ride to San Antonio as I recounted my grammee’s little quirks to Steven. He just smiled and offered his shoulder as I wept into his shirt. Hearing my dad cry on the phone might possibly been the thing that hurt the most. My dad is the head of his family… he is the strength, the pillar, but to hear him cry because he may never see his mom again made me a blubbering mess.
About 2 hours outside of the city, my sister called and asked me if I wanted to say goodbye over the phone just in case she didn’t make it. I didn’t understand how an infection could ravage her body so quickly, but by the time I said hello, she could only listen and not speak. What do you say to the woman who has loved you, held you, encouraged you and prayed for you every day for 28 years? Through broken words and slight sobs I said goodbye to my grammee. I told her that I was on my way, but that if she needed to go home and be with Jesus, I understood.
Steven continued to drive at a rather rapid pace and I prayed that I would get there in time. As we pulled up to the hospital doors, I jumped out to be met by my mom… I had made it, she was still with us. I walked into her room to see a woman I didn’t recognize. Her face was taut and her eyes were wide. This was not the plump faced, jolly woman that I had spent the majority of my childhood with, but she was still my grammee.
I drew my hand to her face and got real close to her and said, “I’m here Grammee.” Tears began to stream down my face as I told her over and over how much I loved her. She had waited for me. I was finally there and she had held out for me to get there. I choked back sobs as my sister, mom and I sang her favorite songs and kissed her face.
Finally, I whispered in her ear, “Its ok Grammee… you can go home now. We’ll see you soon.” They gave her morphine to make her comfortable and she slowly closed her eyes. We continued to sing and love on her for the next hour or so.
Her breathing slowed to 8 breaths per minute. Each breath was labored and seemed to take all that was in her just to push the air out of her lungs and pull it back in. And then she was gone. No dramatic exit. She just stopped breathing and slipped quietly into the arms of our Savior.
We cried, but she wasn’t. We wept, but she smiled as her eyes were changed and she saw the face of our Savior. I wondered out loud if she was immediately walking through the heavenly gates or if she stood next to us , comforting us, reminding us that she was no longer in pain. My heart broke, not for her, but for me. Never again would I get to hear her little voice say into the phone, “Hi little Jamie.” Never again would we laugh and tell stories. Never again would we shop and eat until we were sick. At least not on this earth. I smiled through my tears as I pictured my grammee in the arms of Jesus with no pain… running, jumping, dancing. That’s how I will remember my grammee. She is not the old woman in the bed but the young woman living death to its fullest in the arms of her Savior. Goodbye little Grammee. I love you. I’ll come see you soon.