Those who have gone before

A friend of mine is dealing with the recent loss of her beloved grandma.  She asked the other day how long it takes until it gets easier — until she can go from OK to sobbing in a minute.  Of course, there is no set timeframe for grief.  Everyone handles it differently and takes their own time to process it.

Knowing what this friend is dealing with has brought back memories for me.  I lost my maternal grandfather back in 1998.  It was the first real loss in my life.  It was a sudden heart attack that had him fine one minute and gone the next.  To say it shattered my world and broke my heart into pieces would be an understatement.  In 2006, my paternal grandmother passed away leaving my heart in pieces once again.

Time does heal wounds, though it definitely doesn’t remove them completely.  I think of both of my lost grandparents frequently.  (My paternal grandfather died a couple of months after I was born, so I don’t remember him.)  I think of my grandpa sometimes when I look at my little girl and see her red curls bobbing around.  My grandma and all of her sisters have red hair.  My grandpa always thought it would be nice to have a red-headed little girl.  Neither of his daughters had red hair.  I don’t have red hair and neither do my brother or cousin.  But, my daughter does.  She defied the odds with her red hair considering my hair is dark brown and my husband’s is black.  She defied the odds even more with her blue eyes just like my grandpa did, as I’ve mentioned before.  So, I think about how smitten my grandpa would be with this little girl of mine.

I think about my grandma when we are together with family.  There is little in this world that my grandma loved more than children.  She had four of them herself.  You could just see her face light up when she was around a little one.  I remember very well a photo of her from years ago that we had on display at her funeral.  She was holding a cousin of mine who was a toddler at the time.  She had that sweet smile on her face and looked totally content.  Because she was.  She saw children as blessings from God and loved spending time with them.  I think about how she would like to know how much our family has grown since she passed away with the addition of five more babies and one more who will be born any day now to my cousin and his wife.

These are folks who have shaped who I am.  I carry them with me everyday in all that I do.  I don’t always think about it.  I don’t always realize it, but I know they are there.  I have so many wonderful memories with both of them that I will always cherish.  I will never be able to go fishing in Tennessee without thinking of my grandpa.  I will never be able to go to a camp meeting at church without thinking of my grandma.  I snuggle under her favorite blanket almost daily.  I mourn their losses even still.  My heart breaks with missing them even years later.  But, I know parts of them are parts of me.  And I am thankful to know I will see them both in heaven one day.

This has all been on my mind off and on lately as I have been praying for and thinking of my friend dealing with this.  My grandma and I had a brief discussion about my grandpa the other day and how much he would have loved his great-grandchildren.  And then my mom sent me this photo:

She and my grandma had taken my daughter to lunch while I was working and had an appointment.  They stopped by to visit grandpa’s marker on the way home.  My mom asked my daughter to sing, and she proudly stood and belted out a tune.  I don’t know what she sang.  My mom didn’t remember.  And sometimes my child makes up her own songs, so it can be hard to say what she sang.  But, I do think her little voice was heard in heaven that afternoon.  I have a feeling that both her grandpa and grandma looked down and smiled on her.  And I thank God for letting them be part of my life, even when it hurts to have them gone.

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