This is a letter to my Grandma. I wrote it when I found out she had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. At the time I was far from her, on the other side of the country attending school. Thankfully, I was able to come home and spend time with her in her last days. She will always be an inspiration to me. I love her dearly. I hope that this letter can bring comfort to others who are going through the grieving process.
I’ve had a sense that it was coming for a few months. Something inside of me just felt that a huge struggle was soon going to appear on the horizon. When I felt that we needed to come home over our very short break between semesters, I tried to ignore the feeling that perhaps it was because I needed to see you. When you saw me that Easter afternoon, surprised at my arrival, you ran to me, wrapped me in your arms, and did not let me go for at least five minutes. The first words you spoke reminded me how close you live to our savior. “I was just telling Jesus this morning how much I was going to miss my [Lamikin] and her sweet man.” Once again, I felt that tug of impending hardship, and once again, I tried my best to ignore it. When we were visiting later in the week, you reminded me how a baby in the womb has no idea that there is life outside his mother – and that when your time came to leave this earth, you knew that you would be passing into a new life. Your eyes filled with tears more than usual that day, and later when I brushed your hair, I marveled at how your hair seemed just like mine – how years and years apart in time, there were so many similarities between us.
And then I found out that you have cancer – cancer that could very well take you away from me and the rest of our family very soon. When the words first crawled through the phone line, they seemed to pause before entering my ear; they knew they were unwelcome visitors – that I had been avoiding them for months. But words are stubborn, and once said, they usually make it to their destinations. For a moment, I sat calmly – Doctor Mode – taking in the details, calculating the amount of time I could expect to have with you, wondering if you would be home when I got there. And then I slipped down that slope to – What Can I Do? Mode. I thought of you and how much pain you will endure; I wished I could brush your hair every night and sing you hymns – and hold your hand and stroke your arm as you drift to sleep. I wished I could reverse every day of my childhood that you spent comforting me – repay those tender hours with equal devotion. I thought of Grandpa, and how I just can’t imagine him without you… and it made me realize he probably can’t either. I wished I could hold his hand, hug him while he cries, and tell him that his tenderness is his greatest strength. I thought of my mom, your baby, and wished more than anything, I could hold her tight and cry with her, and help her through this trial that nobody is ever sufficiently prepared for.
That was enough to make me cry, Grandma, but I want you to know that I was not crying for you. I am absolutely certain of the love that you have for Christ – of the relationship that you have spent your entire life forging. You taught me the meaning of faith; when Grandma prays, things happen. There were times in my life when that was the ONLY spiritual truth I was certain of. You taught me to pray; you taught me to have faith; and you taught me that the greatest strength that I could have as a woman was the strength to let go of my pride and give all my worries and troubles to Jesus. And today, I am doing my best to do that. I am handing this all over to Him and knowing that He knows better than I do.
Grandma, in the midst of all of my worrying about others, I finally allowed my mind to go to the deepest part of my grief, and I have to admit, it’s a selfish place. As my eyes overflowed with bitter tears, I could almost see myself pregnant, your soft, life-worn hands rubbing my belly “In the holy name of Jesus, in the holy name of Jesus, in the holy name of Jesus”. It was a precious moment – one that subconsciously, I have always looked forward to, perhaps even taken for granted as a real part of my future. I thought of the feeling of a child within me, moving in a way that I know I cannot even imagine – the smile in your eyes because you know the feeling. I saw it all so clearly, and I wanted it. I still want it. I still want that moment and all the moments of you with my baby that I always assumed would follow it. The four generations picture, you giving my babies silly nicknames like you gave all of us, and just knowing that you had seen me fully transition to womanhood. Honestly, as I thought of all those things, I was angry with God for a moment. I felt robbed of the future I wanted – the future where I could be both mother and granddaughter – a link in a chain that truly is endless.
And then, I remembered last Christmas, when you were freaking out since I’d just gotten married, and what if I got pregnant while all the way in Idaho? How would you be able to pray over me and give me comfort and help me through that transition in life if it happened while you were in Illinois, and I was so far away? I remembered how you placed your hands on my babyless belly and prayed that if you were not there to pray for me when I got pregnant, that God would bless me not to feel too much pain, and that He would bless my labors to go quickly and my babies to be healthy. At the time, it seemed to me like you were being a little silly; after all, I was on birth control, and the rest of the family was looking at us wondering if I was secretly pregnant. But now I see that it was just another instance where you were able to see things as they really were long before I could, perhaps without even knowing it.
I’ll never forget, Grandma, when I was little and you would hold my hand while I went to sleep – stroking my arm or my forehead. I remember how you said that if you were ever not there to hold my hand, that I could just hold my other hand and know that you were with me. I remember when you gave me the afghan you knit for my graduation – how you said that you had prayed for me the entire time you worked on it and that any time I felt alone, I could wrap up in it, and you would be with me. I want you to know that as I sit here trying to put my love, adoration, and yes, grief, into words, I am blowing you kisses on an “I love you” wave and sending you hugs and kisses through the phone. Your love, grace, faith, and kindness have shaped my life – and they will never stop being a part of who I am. Though the time will soon come when you will pass from this life into the birth of the next, your legacy will live on in me and everyone else whose lives have been shaped by you. And I know, that someday, when I hold my babies, I will see the hand of heaven in the fullness of the cycle of life – and I will know that you have already loved them, blessed them, and probably given them more wisdom than I could ever imagine.
I love you so much, Grandma.
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