Thursday I had the privilege of going with my mom to visit her mom, my Grandma, at the hospital. We shared many laughs, had many sweet moments and Grandma even imparted wisdom that was unforgettable.
“You know,” she began, “Kids ask a lot of questions! And sometimes you don’t know if you should say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ so you should just say, ‘Hmmm.’ Then they don’t know what you said and you don’t have to answer them right away!” We giggled at her idea, making sure to take note for the next time our kids asked a question we didn’t have an answer to.
Our conversations wandered round and round some of the same old trails, Grandma often asking where she was and why she was in the hospital, her fingers constantly wandering the edge of the blanket, busy as ever.
Friday we returned to visit Grandma who’d been moved back to her own apartment. While standing beside my Grandma’s bed, I had the chance to sing her some of her favorite hymns, to hold her hand and have an occasional moment of conversation. The family was having a meeting with a hospice nurse about how to care for her, and I had opted to stay by her side. In recent years, dementia had made it hard for Grandma to remember much of anything from one moment to the next, so we often discussed the same things; where am I? Am I home? Am I sick? As I yet again assured her that she needed to rest and we had medicine to help her on the way, my eyes lingered on her hands…The hands that made thousands of home cooked meals for her ten kids. The hands that were thankful to have worked in a cannery. The hands that sewed clothes for her family and taught others how to sew, too…The hands that made endless amounts of homemade bread…
“Grandma,” I ventured, not knowing if she’d respond with lucidity, “I was just thinking about…I wonder how many loaves of bread you’ve made?”
She was quick to reply with a slight smile upon her face, “Well, you see…I made five loaves of bread at a time because that was all that would fit in the oven. And I’d make bread at least four times a week.”
“Grandma, you’re saying you made at least twenty loaves of bread a week?! That’s incredible! I don’t know how you did it!”
“Mmhmm. It’s what I did!” She replied, always humble, always matter of fact.
Grandma was gifted and adept and able to do so many, many things. It never ceased to amaze me that she could raise so many kids, and help raise the neighborhood kids, as well. I recently learned that it was her that many kids went to for counsel, for advice, for a friendly ear. Grandma was always ready to love, to serve, to give, to help, at any hour on any day. She was truly great at most everything she did, with the exception of only one thing…she had a really hard time sitting still. From before sun up to well beyond sun down, she never liked to be idle, it just wasn’t her style.
I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when she looked up at me from her bed on Friday and asked me a question,
“Jaklyn? Jaklyn, will you do something for me?”
I was quick to reply, “Of course, Grandma! What do you need?”
A pause before she answered made me wonder if she’d again lost her train of thought.
“Jaklyn? If there is something you see I should be doing, a job or something, would you tell me what I need to be doing?”
“Oh, Grandma! You don’t need to do anything! You need to rest and let us do something for you for once!” I assured her.
She quieted for a moment before responding, “Oh. But you’ll tell me if there’s something, okay?”
My mom and I were able to stay late into the night with grandma on Thursday. It was hard. She was in severe pain, struggling, yet full of grace for those around her. I knew her time here on earth was short, but I still didn’t want to let her go. Aside from my incredible parents, she’s been the biggest influence in my life. The lessons she’s taught me in life by her words and her actions I will carry with me forever.
Early this morning, Grandma passed from this life, away from the pain of her illness and into the embrace of her loving Savior. She will be missed by multitudes, and remembered with love, by all. My heart aches, not only for myself and my loss, but especially for her kids and the rest of our huge, extended family that she loved so very much.
As I sit and remember our last visit together, I can’t help but remember Grandma’s question and think that I have one more job for her…
Grandma, dance with joy and freedom! Sing your favorite hymns with your beautiful voice! Bask in God’s love!
And Grandma, when you get a minute will you do a job for me after all? Will you hug my dad for me?