I had the pleasure to be with grandma through five of her last days. My arrival from the opposite side of the country was unplanned, but a welcome season of togetherness. She didn’t really know I was there — most of the time, anyway — and when she did acknowledge my presence, it was only as a familiar dream, not as a family member.
She went to Jesus ten days after I said goodbye and flew back to my home in Canadaland. My neighbor, my cheerleader, my Gram. Just three weeks shy of her 90th birthday, she finished her journey.
As I sat at her bedside, pouring thickened apple juice into her mouth, I had lots of time to wonder: am I living well? Am I living today so I can finish my journey triumphantly well, whenever that time may come?
Fostering a family of love
Loving on others has an astounding rate of return. For Gram, loving her family was her speciality. Bathtime at Grandma’s house meant a dryer-tumbled warm towel. Visiting meant cookies and kisses and backrubs. Game-time was together time, where memories were built. Fostering a family of love meant that all three of her scattered kids traveled from the far corners of the country to visit in the final weeks, three of her grandchildren and two of her great-grand-children traveled across several state lines to see her. She and Grandpa raised a generation of sacrificial love — a love that keeps on growing as their legacy blooms.
If I do anything with my life, I want it to be said of me: “She loved.” Whether that’s family or friends or co-workers or strangers. God has given me love so that I can love others.
Building memories with joy
Even in her final days, when most of her waking hours were spent lost in an unseen world, smiles and hugs were more common than frowns. She would smile off into the distance, reach out and hug her invisible friend, make occasional eye contact and smile…always smile.
She built a life of joy, so joy was her completion. How can I build a life of joy-filled memories? Traditions of togetherness, laughter even in pain, a culture of choosing joy instead of wallowing in selfishness and complaints. Finding joy in holiday traditions, creating memories with family recipes, add laughter to routine tasks. I choose joy.
Creating a culture of sincerity
As we grieve our loss (and of course rejoice in her gain — she is finally reunited with her favorite veteran, her handsome husband, her dear dear Arnie), I am astonished to watch how many people have been touched by her life. I still remember how active she and Grampa were in their community and church, how many people knew them by name even just walking through Wal-Mart. I am learning now how many people here have been hugged by her.
If I can serve others happily, give of myself selflessly, and invest abundantly in people, then I will create that culture of sincerity that will be another step toward finishing well.
We will all leave a legacy. Mine will not be hers, but I pray that mine would reflect Christ in love, sincerity, and truth just as hers does.