A few years ago during a heart procedure, I had this fear that I would one day be called to eulogize my grandmother. I didn’t necessarily panic, but I felt wildly inadequate at the thought of having to do so. Thankfully, my family didn’t ask me to, but because of who I am, I need to write down just a smidge of who she was to me.
I don’t know how to love small. I love big and fast and wild. I love as though my heart will never be broken, with reckless abandon, and I get attached. And after this weekend, I really get why. Because of Her. During her funeral this weekend, I felt weird. It really felt like she was asleep and I just wanted her to wake up and offer her commentary on the whole event. I can hear her say my name, “Jenn”, with a slight rasp and sweetness that I will never hear again, and I imagine her throwing her head back at all the people who wanted to just stop by and see her. I could imagine her getting tickled and annoyed at the antics. Her eyes would twinkle, and she would have said “Bless their hearts” a bunch, because she said that often, and meant the full southern-ism of the word. If only we’d had a whole bunch of pound cake and coffee at the funeral home. She would have welcomed everyone in with a hug and that sparkle of a smile and said, in that sweet tender voice, “come sit down a while”.
I have been so lucky to not have grief like this in at least 7 years. Grief that is palpable and present and unwelcome. Grief that wants to invade my dreams, and my smells, and my random unexpected moments. Grief that embarrasses me and makes my vulnerabilities known.
A few hours after the funeral, my brother and I had a chance to go to the grave. I had a camping chair. It was odd and surreal, but I sat there for a few minutes and I allowed myself to feel some of the grief for the hole that it’s in my heart. And then I got tickled thinking about my grandmother, so I did the Bobbie Sue thing to do, I made sure to re-introduce her to her new neighbors.
I have barely skimmed the surface of knowing what it will be like without her. She was a Force. Not that she was loud or dramatic, but she was this huge presence in my life. She was the glue for our family. She was the backbone, and the prayer warrior, and the caretaker, and the love -- all rolled into a 5’6” woman. (Who I discovered this weekend used to be closer to 5’9”. This gave me hope that I’ll be daintiER in my old age. )
Her pastor spoke at the funeral and nailed it on the proverbial head – she was the Proverbs 31 woman.
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
I can go through each of these twenty verses and tell you a story about Bobbie Sue because she embodied them all. I fall into verse twenty-eight.
At thirty-seven, I know that there were things my Grandmama could not do. But at ten, and at twenty, and even at thirty, I was unaware of most of that. She could do it all. She could make you a dress, or make you a cake. She was salve for wounds, either by her touch, or by something in her cabinets. She worked hard, and didn’t sleep all that much. She prayed hard for her family, and God honored her prayers. There were many days that she waged spiritual warfare on behalf of her family and her church and friends. It will be extraordinarily hard to carry the mantle that she did. Most of the time, she carried it as though it was weightless. The older I got, the more I knew better. That mantle wasn’t easy or light, but she never - not one time - resented carrying it. She knew its weight and the power of that calling on her life, but what she knew more, was its reward. She knew that Heaven was sweeter than we could fathom or dream.
I wrote this on Facebook shortly after her passing, but it’s still just as a true -- Friday wasn’t just Good for her. It was glorious. In my finite brain, I imagine that in that instant after death, she opened her eyes and walked into the expanse of glory. Her body restored and her hair bright red. Family and friends met her and welcomed her. Because I know her, I know that her arms were high rejoicing Her Savior and she was excited. I can’t even begin to imagine the excitement of getting to see loved one that she hadn’t seen in years. Her last brother, my Uncle Jr passed away just a few years ago and in my head, I think he’s the one that met her with a big hug and a “Hey Bob!”.
What my grandmother got, and what my grandmother instilled in my family and in me, was Jesus is everything. From the stories she would tell about her childhood, to being a living testament of God’s grace and healing and provision, she loved The Lord. And more importantly, she lived it. If I’m being truly honest, she lived it with some sass. She loved Jesus and served him up until her last breath. She loved to worship, throw her hands in the air and praise The Savior for his deep, incomprehensible love for us. I remember shortly after I graduated from high school, twenty years ago, that my grandparents went on a mission trip to Mexico. I remember thinking how silly that was that my 65 year old grandparents wanted to serve in Mexico, but that trip personified her character. And while she never took another official mission trip, she treated everyone as though they were her mission. She had a lot of yard sales, and worked hard to raise money for those who served all over the world. She gave and gave and cooked and baked and gave some more to make sure that those who were doing what she could not, could do so well. I can’t even begin to tell you how many care packages and meals she made for people. There was a span of a year that she took in four of us at different times after we had our wisdom teeth out. She sat with the broken and dying and sick, and loved. So unabashedly. So deeply. She prayed into the wee hours of the night. She interceded for so many people and for her family. She went to prison to visit a few. She got up early and stayed up late. (And according to every story I have ever heard or been privy to, she made a lot of biscuits.)
I don’t know that I will ever be able to adequately describe how much I loved my Grandmama, and how thankful I am to God for allowing me to be a part of her life. (In spite of my joking, it was always her world, and it was a divine privilege to be a part of it.) But I am not sad for her. She lived an amazing life. She was the best.
To be a fraction of the woman she was…is ten times the woman I am now. What a goal.