When I was 22 years old, it became abundantly clear that my grandma's health was taking a turn for the worst. In a matter of months the vibrant woman I had always known as my dad's mom and grandma was suddenly slipping away. Thankfully during my senior year of college my weekends were three-four day long ones, which allowed me to make a handful of trips to visit her in Arizona before she passed.
On one visit around Christmas, my grandma was hospitalized. We visited and I could tell that she was fighting to want to keep on living on earth. It was the first time I ever felt any form of defeat from my grandma's spirit. It wasn't in the words that she said, but there was a subtle sadness in her eyes. She was sick of being in pain. We played Cribbage, grandma's favorite, my dad's favorite and I assume most of the family cherishes it as their favorite now, too. I'm sure she won. I helped her use the bathroom before I had to leave to head back home. I had never felt my grandma's dependency on me in that way.
I remember crying in my car, with the distinct realization that my grandma's sprightly spirit was slipping away. It seemed like a new wave of adulthood swept over me.
A couple of months later I had just arrived in Phoenix for the weekend, when I got a phone call from my dad that grandma had had a serious stroke. My parents were on their way from Blythe. I was with my aunt on my mom's side when I got the news, and knew it was not too far from the end. My Aunt Anne knew how dear Grandma Lillian was to me. As I started to tear up over dinner she explained to my preteen cousins why I was so upset. She began to rattle off the wonderful qualities my grandmother had, she had tasted it in her own interactions with her, but more so saw the sheer blessing of a mother-in-law Lillian had been to her beloved sister (my mom).
The next morning I drove to the hospital across town. I am pretty sure that all of the her six kids and their spouses had made it to Phoenix over the night (maybe one was missing). They decided to start hospice care. I walked back to her room with my parents and some other family members. They had told me she wouldn't be able to speak and she only had limited use of her left side. I took her left hand and told her, "Hi grandma, I was already in Arizona when I heard you had a stroke." My words seemed to comfort her as she stared and focused on my eyes. "I love you so much." She squeezed my hand with so much strength, and after a couple of minutes I had to let go. I didn't want to cry over her, I wanted to leave her smiling.
Two weekends later at her memorial service, I remember standing up and sharing, "I'm about to graduate college, and while I don't know what my future holds or exactly what I will do. I know I want to be like my grandma Lillian. I want to love Jesus and people the way she did."
My grandma had such a wonderful blend of gentle meekness and witty spunk. She remembered you and took interest in you, and the things you were interested in. She was so patient. She didn't mind a mess from grand children frosting Christmas cookies. But I really think grandma was generous. Generous with what she had, yes, but how much more generous with who she was. I am ever grateful to the gracious God Who loved her first and put His loving Spirit in her! What a blessing she was, and what a blessing her legacy still is.
Tonight I saw some saving bond notes that she started giving us for Christmas when were older; the last one I received was from Christmas of 2008. It made me remember her and I began to miss her. What a blessing to know that this is not the end! Grandma Lillian is absent from the body, but she is present with the Lord! And to quote Sara Groves, "And from what I know of Him that must be very good."