Monday, November 19, 2007

Grandma, 1906-2007

I feel very sad right now, but also thankful.

This morning, while I was sitting next to Göran on the bus on our way to work, I got a call on my cell phone from my dad. He told me that about an hour earlier, my grandma had passed away.

It was logical. It made sense. Grandma turned 101 in October. Over the last couple of years her health had slowly been declining to the point that she was completely bed-ridden, had congestive heart failure, and was constantly getting pneumonia. So I knew this day was coming.

So I asked Dad a few questions. He promised to call me soon to give me more information about funeral arrangements. Then I went to work. Gradually over the course of the day it sunk in. Grandma died. And I found it really difficult to focus on my work, and I found my thoughts constantly going back to her. Maybe I should have gone home, taken the day off. I told a few friends, and the word spread fast. Friends were coming up to offer hugs and condolences. My closest friends know how important she was to me, because I keep a photograph of the two of us right in front of my desk on the wall in my office. The Human Resources manager told me the firm wanted to send flowers to her funeral, and could I give her an address. I guess I was grateful for people's kindness, but it only made it harder for me. Talking about it somehow only made me feel sadder.

One of the things grandma always used to talk about was how she could hardly wait to see my grandfather again. Death separated them over forty-five years ago. But no more. I kept having this image in my mind all day, of my grandpa Jay, waiting there for her just beyond the veil. I never knew him. He died before I was born. But I so want to meet him, to see the two of them together finally.

Grandma's love and her example have really been a beacon to me. And in the last two years, I have made special efforts to let her know how much I loved her, and she did the same. I know she was disappointed that I could not become a full-fledged member of the Church. That broke my heart. Though I also know she was proud of my efforts to become reconciled to the Church and to begin to live as much of the gospel as I could. My parents read her some of the articles I've written in which I bore my testimony, and she told them how much she liked them. And on my last two visits to see her in February and October 2006, I had some very powerful experiences with her that have grounded me spiritually and given me great hope. I am so glad I made those visits now. Whenever I am tempted to feel sad, I think back to those recent visits, and the promises she made me, and then back to all my other memories of her, and I feel a great sense of peace and gratitude and happiness. I'm really pretty lucky to have had such an incredible woman in my life for so many years.

I will miss her very much. But in another sense, she will always be very near me. Thinking of her has always motivated me to do better, to be a better person, to be more humble and loving, to love myself, and be grateful for life. I want to continue to do that, to live a life of faith, love and hope as my way of honoring her and everything she did for us. That was her greatest gift to me, and I want that to be my greatest gift back to her, the only one she can still receive.

9 comments:

Mr. Fob said...

I'm sorry to hear about your loss. She sounds like a great person.

J G-W said...

Thank you. Grandma was not afraid of death. She looked forward to being reunited with her sweetheart. But she loved life too. She was always very physically vigorous and active. She loved good food and long walks in the cold air. She rode a bicycle into her 90s. I think the last year was hardest for her, because she didn't even have enough energy to walk. So this is no reason to mourn. She had a great life, and leaves behind many, many people whose lives are richer as a result of her having lived it.

She was one of the most loving people I know. She loved me and Göran unconditionally. She fully accepted him as one of the family (came to our wedding!). She was deeply devout as well, loved the Church with her whole heart and stayed absolutely faithful to the very end. She was an example of how, through faith exercised daily, we can truly become sanctified through the course of our lives.

Bill McA said...

John,

Sorry to hear about your grandmother passing. I don't think I ever met her, but she must have been such a wonderful person to have raised your father.

Love, Bill

J G-W said...

Bill - She made extended visits frequently all the years I was growing up, about once a year. So I wouldn't be surprised if you met her at least once or twice.

But, yes, she was an amazing woman.

Beck said...

At times like these, words are so inadequate. Though I didn't know her, I feel I do by her living on through you and your example.

My thoughts and prayers go out to you.

Chris said...

Condolences.

GeckoMan said...

John,
As you go back in your mind to reflect on her life lessons and to miss the spot she occupied in your life, I hope you will have the quiet space to fully fill up in grateful mourning. I can't really explain it, but as I have lost both my parents, I have experienced that tender place to sob and revel in the mystery of life and loss; it is a parting of the veil place for the Spirit to whisper as well.

My heart goes out to you and your family. You can rightfully celebrate a life well lived, and I hope your time together is sweet.

J G-W said...

Thanks, everyone. Lots of mixed emotions. There is sadness. I do feel like my grandma's example and love played an important role in helping me to set aside my pride and seek to gather with the Saints. I had some very important spiritual experiences on my last two visits with her. I am grateful I did not miss out on that time spent with her. I think this would be a much more mournful time for me if I had not taken the time I did. (Maybe a lesson for all of us - do not procrastinate!) As it is I feel sadness that she is gone, but also much, much joy and gratitude for her life.

I am actually looking forward to the funeral, and to the time I will be able to spend there with family, remembering and celebrating her life, and reaffirming our faith in an ultimate reunion.

Cadence said...

so I am kinda in an exact situation. My grandma is old we used to be close and now she can't remember much. It is sad, he husband died in the 70s and she has lived alone since (now she lives with my aunt) Its just a waiting game, as with most old people. I don't have many feeling and will be glade when her time comes. So with that I will just trail off in mumblings...