Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A worthwhile view...

My friend Ray posted this on his blog and I felt the need to share it as well with my 3 or 4 regular readers. :) Considering I am playing the "conservative church lady" in Ethics today for our sexuality presentation, I wanted to offset my "playacting" with something with which I agree. Think about it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I've "been away."

I've said it a lot recently, but I'll say it again: I haven't been blogging very regularly lately. I'm trying to better discern a healthy mix of sharing online and sharing with people face to face. But another reason I've not blogged much this past week or so is because my grandma died on October 30th. She died peacefully in her sleep at the nursing home where she had lived for the past few years. Grandma was eight days away from turning ninety-five years old. She lived a good, long, love-filled life for which I am extremely grateful, and yet I still am sad and grieve the loss.

It's an odd thing; grief. I know that Grandma is finally at rest, and I don't wish she were still alive, but I still grieve. When I moved to Seminary, I put some pictures of family members up on my refrigerator. I put two of her up. One picture was taken more than twenty years ago because Gram has her arms around YS and me. The other picture was taken just about two years ago, and shows Gram holding Howard when he was a little baby. I love those pictures because Grandma has big smiles on her face. She really loved us kids. Even when she couldn't remember exactly how we all were related, she knew that she loved us. I am also very fortunate because even though Grandma was VERY forgetful, she was still herself, even to the end. She had a lot of one line funny remarks, and was always quick with a smile. She was so special and I loved her so much.

I was reminiscing about Grandma the other day because I was thinking about when I was a kid, how Gram and I would sometimes share a birthday celebration. Her birthday was November 7th, and mine was the 10th. We would have a family dinner and open presents and have cake. And even though Grandma had almost seventy years on me, she always let me feel extra special on my birthday. But, that's who she was.

Grandma lived about a block away from me growing up. We would go out our front door and run through the church yard and be at her house. Visits to Grandma's house were normal things. Grandma ran a nursing home in the town where I lived until the mid or late sixties. Her parents had started it, and she ran it when they got too old. But, the state came in and said they needed to have an elevator and various other things that a nursing home in a town of 400 people couldn't afford, especially since my grandma and her family didn't charge people what they couldn't pay. So, the nursing home closed down after they found places for all the residents to go. Well, all the residents except for one: Donna.

I don't know what was wrong with Donna. I just remember that Grandma took her to live in her house. Donna was bed ridden and probably weighed all of seventy-five pounds. She had dark brown hair, couldn't talk, or do much of anything. She would open her mouth and go, "AHHHH AHHHH AHHH." Not in pain, but as her way of communicating. Donna's bed was in the living room (it had rails on it and couldn't fit into the other rooms, I think). When Grandma got a cat, it would get up there and lay in the bends of Donna's legs. She seemed to like it. Donna's sisters would come visit sometimes, and they were so grateful that my seventy-something year old Grandma was able to take care of her. Thankfully, back then, the doctor still made housecalls and would come to see Donna. I think that's a part of what made her living with Grandma possible.

Oh, another interesting thing to note...Grandma had two children: My dad, and my aunt Joyce. Joyce was born extremely mentally challenged. I don't think she could talk either. She could walk though, with help. I remember Grandma going in to her room and helping her walk out to play "cards" with us little ones. So, Grandma took care of Donna and Joyce (who we pronounced Joycee) at the same time, until Joyce died of a heart attack when I was four years old.

Eventually, Grandma had to ask Donna's sisters to find a new place for Donna, because Gram was getting too old to take care of someone so intensively. Donna moved away then, and I don't know what happened to her. She probably has died by now. She wasn't that old when Grandma had her, but that was still almost twenty years ago.

Grandma was a beautiful and caring woman. She gave selflessly and sacrificially to those she loved. Despite having lived through wars and rumors of wars, the Great Depression, the death of husband, and BOTH her children, a grandchild who died at birth, and countless other events, she didn't get cynical. She laughed, she joked, and she poked gentle fun. She loved her family (which was small, considering she had been an only child), and she was willing to try new things, even as she got older and older. My grandma was very "go with the flow," and yet she still managed to get things done. She was a really special lady and I am grateful for the many, MANY warm memories I have of her.

In honor and memory, I give you one of my refrigerator pictures (considering if I were to meet you on the street, you probably wouldn't know me from this picture). I give God thanks for her life, and entrust her to the tender compassion and care of Jesus Christ, who has conquered death and who has promised to be with us always, even unto the end of the age. Thanks be to God!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Knowing and Being Known

It's been a long time since I've posted anything substantial, dear readers. I'm dreadfully sorry. Life has been busy. Anyway, I'm going to stop making excuses.

Several weeks ago, I went to Illinois to preach at a church near my home church, and to spend some time with my sisters, their significant others, and Howard and Sunscreen. I also decided that I needed to go and tell Ma that J and I got engaged. After worship on Sunday morning, I headed over to the Supermax to see her.

When I got there, I walked in the front door, through the door to walk down the hall to her unit, and then input the code to be able to swing open the gate to get into the dementia unit where Ma lives. I walked around the corner and looked around at the people sitting at the tables where they eat. I saw Ma sitting at a table with another woman, and as I got closer, she looked up, smiled, and said, "Hi, Trisha!" I was SO thankful that she knew me. She's been slipping a bit more lately, so it was nice to have her "with it" enough to know who I was.

I sat down at the table with Ma and the woman with whom she was sitting. Ma's tablemate would mumble something every so often, and repeat the same words over and over, and I couldn't really understand her, so I just shook my head and said, "okay" a couple of times. I turned my attention to Ma and asked her how she was doing. Ma can't speak in complete sentences anymore, and often uses words that don't belong. So, we can't have meaningful conversation, but she knows I love her, and I know that on some level, she is still able to love me.

After Ma quit talking for a minute I said, "Well Ma, I have something to tell you. I got engaged!"

It didn't register with her. At all. She piped up with new and different things to say. But she didn't acknowledge what I'd told her.

So, I just asked her some more questions and let her tell me the things she was saying, all the while feeling a bit bummed that she couldn't share with me in my joy of being in love and planning a wedding. But, I figured she wouldn't get it. I'd just hoped a little bit that she would have some spark of excitement. But she didn't.

What I did have joy in though, was that she knew me. It's a hit and miss thing when I go see her, whether or not she will know who I am fully. And when our visit was all said and done, and I said, "Goodbye. I love you," I walked to the gate, re-entered the code, walked down the hall through the door to the hallway, and input the code to get out of the Supermax. But, I left knowing that that day, she knew who I was.

As I reflected on the experience, I got to thinking about how NICE it is to be known, and how often we take this familiarity for granted. And I got to thinking about how we are known by God. As a Christian, I can say that I "know" God (in a certain sense; I can never FULLY know God. What I mean is that I know of God and the salvation God offers in Jesus Christ) and am fully known BY God. God doesn't forget me. I believe God knows me in my joy of becoming engaged, and as I grow in love toward J, and I believe God knows the pain I have in my heart because Ma is not well. God knows. God knows me well, as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:11. That God loves me and knows me is something I cling to in times of hardship, even though I may not always seem like it does much for me. It does.

To know and be known is a great and merciful thing. With faith that God never forgets who we are, may we live. Thanks be to God.