December 26, 2007

Grandma's Gone

You’d think after 38 years of burying gerbils and praying over dead birds, I would be able to accept the truth that my grandma is gone. But I can’t. Is it because I spent so many hours at her bedside listening to her struggle between two worlds that I still hear her? Is it because her humor and love were woven through so much of our lives that I still feel her? At this moment I don’t want to be part of the world that no longer holds her but I have responsibilities that are holding me. I’m exhausted, unsure, dazed... and in quieter moments, relieved. I was angry when she was being held in that cruel place -- robbed of both earthly joys and heavenly peace. I begged God for her death and the freedom it would afford her. I believe with everything I have that she is now walking with God Himself. So why can’t I stop crying? The Hospice staff told me that NOT to cry is to diminish the life that’s been lost. Okay... But it’s more complicated than that -- and simpler. Like in many things, my children ended up being the teacher.
The morning we lost her, I sat down with each of my children separately to ease them into this new reality of life without their great grandma. My oldest, 8, is so used to seeing me as the poster child for bravery that he didn’t know what to do with my tears. In his confusion he just stared at me with a smile on his face, speechless. (Note to self: sign Lucas up for sensitivity training.)

When I told my daughter, 6, she got smaller and smaller as she sank into the couch. There were no smiles, just closed eyes and the natural reaction to retreat. But all of a sudden she sat up, looked to the heavens and prayed with fervor, “Grandma, start getting a house ready for all of us because we are going to be living with you soon. Please make mom’s room purple because that’s her favorite color.” Ahhhh. That’s my bootstrap girl.

My youngest, 3 1/2 was the trickiest. He adored his grandma and would miss her the most. Just a few nights before he had prayed, “God, please don’t take Grandma to heaven. She can’t walk and it won’t be fun on the clouds if she can’t walk.” Not sure how to explain this huge earthly loss to a three-year-old, I decided to focus my comments on how God loved Grandma so much that he would make sure heaven was fun for her. I assured him that God had already given Grandma a new body, free from pain. With his legs draped over mine, he listened as I painted a new picture of her dancing amidst the clouds, breathing freely and singing with angels. He looked out the window with a sweet smile on his face, satisfied for the moment. So was I, for the moment. But then he turned to me and said, “But now we can’t hug her and kiss her and that’s sad.” There it is. Simple and complicated. Sweet and torturous. Heaven and Earth. Life and death.

We miss you, Grandma.

Mary Gladys Breden died December 26, 2007

March 1, 2007

Seasons and Second Chances

I want to share a song that is perfect for March -- when things are starting to be born under our feet but we’re oblivious, wearing boots, and aching for Spring. This time of year I always have this feeling of anticipation and of needing to say goodbye to old, stale ideas about myself and the world. Living in the Midwest, we are lucky to get to experience every season so fully. I think it would be hard to really feel the renewal of Spring without our winters. When I hear “Every Season” by Nicole Nordeman, I am reminded of the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth that marks so much more than our landscapes. I am reminded of the beauty and purpose of my spiritual winters. I am reminded of our God of second chances when I am “frozen” with my own failures. I am reminded of the promise of spring. She writes:

Every evening sky, a invitation to trace the patterned stars.
And early in July, a celebration for freedom that is ours.
And I notice You in children’s games
In those who watch them from the shade.
Every drop of sun is full of fun and wonder.
You are summer.

And even when the trees have just surrendered to the harvest time.
Forfeiting their leaves in late September and sending us inside.
Still I notice you when change begins,
And I am braced for colder winds.
I will offer thanks for what has been and what’s to come.
You are autumn.

And everything in time and under heaven finally falls asleep.
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation shivers underneath.
And still I notice You when branches crack
and in my breath on frozen glass.
Even now in death you open doors for life to enter.
You are winter.

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced, teaching us to breathe.
And what was frozen through is newly purposed, turning all things green.
So it is with You and how you make me new
with every season’s change.
And so it will be as You are recreating me
in summer, autumn, winter, spring.

- Nicole Nordeman