Celebrating Life

Wow. What an exhausting last several weeks. I feel like I'm finally beginning to settle back into something, although sometimes I'm not sure what that something is!

I said "see you later" a few weeks ago to the Grandparent I was closest with. "See you later" because she gave her life to Jesus and is with Him for eternity, where I will one day be as well. What a sweet and joyous reunion that will be.

My Grandma Judy & I when I was 4 years old.
I haven't blogged for awhile for many reasons. One, saying "see you later Grandma" was much harder in the deepest parts of my heart than I anticipated, and much more than I let on. It always seems like it will be easier because I will see her later. But it was hard. I just felt emotionally exhausted. Two, I have sat down a few times and couldn't find words to do her and the grace and mercy God has showered on her life justice. And three, I've just needed a break, almost feels like from life! My house is a wreck, my graduate work has gone untouched for weeks, my blog vacant, and all the extra things we've been pursuing have been left on the back burner... it just feels like too much energy at this point. But, I'm feeling on the mend. Jesus is alive and powerful. The protector of my heart, the healer, the restorer.

We all gathered in Kennebunkport, Maine where my Grandma spent the last many years of her life. Her and her friend Sue owned a lovely bed and breakfast for years and retired it in 2005. My Grandma's Memorial was a beautiful time of celebrating her life and celebrating what God has done in the life of our family...the way God has continually pursued our family through the darkest of years and the brightest of years. It was a beautiful testimony of the restoration found in Jesus, of the mercy and grace he constantly pursues us with.

My Grandma's 16 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren (missing two in the picture)
My mom, sisters, and I spent the day after the funeral going through all my Grandma's stuff. It was something I originally was not looking forward to in the gut of my stomach, because I was afraid of the sadness it would bring. But actually, it turned out to be a great time. It was sweet to go through her things and remember all the memories and things through what we found. She kept most of the letters and cards I've sent her over the years, and one of my favorites was the one I wrote to her way back in college telling her all about this special guy in my life named Jon. I told her she would be so proud of the kind of guy he was! I even included some pictures for her of him back then. It was cute. We found poems my Grandma wrote a long time ago as well, and I was able to take an old family jewelry box and a ring of my Gradma's.
The jewelry box and book of poems.
Since I can't even begin to write or describe all the things about my Grandma that I want to. I will just highlight a few things.
  • She was that over the top, fabulous, eccentric, out of the box family member. She was not your typical Grandma by any stretch of the imagination and she had the coolest old lady wardrobe ever! I mean really, how many granddaughters inherit TONS of really great shoes when their Grandma passes away? She always wore eccentric accessories including lots and lots of hats! So in honor of her, us girls wore hair accessories to her funeral (some of the little girls did too, and it was quite adorable). 
  • She was probably one of the most gullible people I have ever met. You could tell my Grandmother just about anything and she would believe you! Once as a kid, I bit off the tops of candy corn and told her I lost some teeth. The "Tooth Fairy" magically visited me that night at Grandma's. Ha!
  • I think her snack and drink choices have never changed in all my 27 years! She only drank diet Schwepps Gingerale and Diet Pepsi. I think both of those liquids had replaced the water content in her body. She loved anything lemon and had a major love for Starbucks coffee ice cream, Smart Pop white cheddar popcorn, strawberry sundaes with strawberry syrup (always said with her most adorable New England accent) fig newtons, and whoopie pies.
  • My Grandma had a knack for falling asleep in mid-conversation, waking up 30 minutes later, and continuing right where she left off, completely oblivious to why we were all laughing hysterically. (Note: this is why we were never allowed to drive with Grandma in her younger years. Haha).
This list could go on and on, but I will finish with part of what I shared at her funeral. My Grandma was always young at heart. About two years ago, we were visiting Gram during the winter. We drove through a huge storm and there was tons of snow.  We were sitting in the living room and Grandma went to take her dog outside. She got all bundled up in her snow gear and headed out. She didn’t know we were watching from the window. She got to the top of the driveway, which is a little bit of a hill, turned her walker around, sat on the chair part of it, and pushed off! Down the driveway she went arms and leg spread out, happiness spread all across her face as she let out a shriek of joy. She got to the end, and it took her about 5 minutes, but she got back to the top of the driveway and did it again! I guess it was her version of sledding! After she got back to the bottom the second time, she got off her seat and made several snowballs and were throwing them all over the place with much enthusiasm. She started walking back up to the house and I see her plop on the ground. I jump up, thinking she fell, but when I caught site of her again, she was making snow angels in the snow! I didn’t get my camera until she was up the stairs and into the house. She rounded the corner as if nothing unordinary happened. I smiled so big and said, “Grandma, looks like you were enjoying the snow! Smile!” And I took her picture as she struck a classic Grandma pose, hands poised, head tilted back in a sassy cute kind of way. Watching that snow scene unfold was like looking through the sweetest storybook, and as much as I wanted to grab my camera to capture all her snow activities, even more, I didn’t want to miss out on seeing her experience such joy. I wanted it to last forever. 

 My Gram when she came in from the snow that day.

I realized as I was writing out this story, that now it is lasting forever. The joy, happiness, and childlike heart she had in the snow that day, is what she is experiencing right now, in the presence of Jesus. She met him last week. Jesus. The one who created her. The one who sustained her entire life. The one who loved and pursued her. She met him. She stood before him, before Jesus. The fulfillment of hope for her. The longing of hope for us. 

My Grandma that showed me parts of her heart that were real, raw, and challenging. She has always believed in me and the calling God has placed on my life. Always told me that she knew I would continue to love and serve Jesus. Always told me she was incredibly proud of me. Always encouraged me to remember the Lord and how He has blessed me. These conversations were great encouragement for my soul. 

People falsely claim that because they believe in God, they will be shielded from harm, and if it finds them it will not hurt too badly. Equally insidious is the false claim that if pain finds you it is evidence of a failure in your beliefs. That is a lie that I think we may sometimes tell ourselves so that we can feel like we are in control. This is not the message we were intended to hear.

Life is full of beautiful people, knowing Jesus, yet experiencing dire pain. No, our lives will not be absent of pain, but the way we process that pain is what will be different. The journey of those painful experiences is what differs.
 Grandma & I at my wedding.
 No, your faith or your beliefs cannot change your odds. It doesn’t hedge your bets, and it doesn’t build up a buffer zone that will keep life’s circumstances from finding you. BUT, it can shape your perspective on the narrative of your life.  I Thessalonians 4:13, says, “We do not want you to be uninformed brothers about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope.”

Life is not supposed to be this way. We were not created to experience pain like this. We were not created to experience death. God did not create the world and life to be this way. Then sin entered through Adam and Eve and it all changed. Death, pain, and sadness is now interwoven throughout our lives. It is because of this, that Jesus came. He came to be a rescuer... to rescue us from this world that is not how he made it. He sent Jesus to die for our sin, to rescue us. And one day, he is returning, but not as a humble, gentle baby this time, like we celebrate on Christmas day. This time, Jesus is coming as a Warrior, coming to complete His rescue mission, coming to make everything right again. One day, the pain of losing Grandma will be made right.
And so.... we have HOPE.


ReSoNate said...

Even though I've not met you nor your Grandma, this post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your heart, for choosing Hope in the midst of grief, and for demonstrating a God-centered perspective.

Santiago & Ruth Arteaga said...

thanks for your post Rachael - very touching and full of inspiration for all of us . . .

Julie said...

Amen, my friend. Amen.