01 October 2011

Remembering Her

I used this picture as a teaser a few months ago, promising to tell you more about my trip to Minneapolis. Much like this picture, it was glorious.

Traveling to and from Haiti is always an adventure, I’m finding. As we have already covered, I don’t do culture shock well, so that’s a factor. But 30 hours of travel time and 5 airplanes (including one that didn’t fly) were a factor, too… I don’t love traveling by myself, and immigration agents make me really nervous. (It’s my country—why can’t I just come in?)

But it was so worth it. 

This is my grandmother. It made her really, really happy that I came. It wasn’t cheap to send me, but she’s been there for me my whole life. Like, literally. The school concerts, the soccer games, the plays, all of it. So with David’s blessing, I did my best to “complete the set,” because all she wanted for her 90th birthday was to have the whole family together. 

And so together we came. I don’t remember who said it, but at the time, we commented on how nice it was to be together, celebrating something awesome. I caught up with family I hadn’t seen in over fifteen years. I laughed with aunts and uncles. I read books to my first cousins once-removed. I walked to ice cream with my parents and my sister and my cousin. We played a ridiculous game. We toughed out the rain and cold for family photos (taken by the fabulous NoemiPhotography). We talked late into the night. (I told you it was glorious.)

And on Sunday afternoon, when some family had gone for a walk (and some were napping), I sat in a lawn chair in the sun with my grandmother. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure time slowed to a stop for us. She wasn’t quite the woman she’d always been. After all, ninety years take their toll. She couldn’t see the birds in the yard, so I described a few to see if we could identify them. We chatted a about life in Haiti, past family functions. I got to hear her infectious laugh.  

Then, time resumed its normal speed, and the people napping woke up and the people walking came back. I threw things back into a suitcase (including some rhubarb I was praying made it through customs) and headed home. Over the next two weeks, I settled back into life here with the husband I love.
And then she died.

If you didn’t feel prepared for that, I’m sorry, but I wasn’t prepared for it, either. The doctors say it was a heart attack, but I just think she was ready. She had known and loved Jesus for a long time. She got to love on all of us one more time. Her eyes were failing, and her ears, and her lungs…ninety years. For twenty-seven of those, she was there for me, and I’m grateful I got to hang out with her that weekend. 

My family celebrated her life today, minus me. But I’m there in spirit. Today, I remember her. You can’t encapsulate a woman like this in one blog post, so it’s tempting not to try…but I think I must.

She used words like “maven.” She had the patience to sit with me and my sister while we fed the ducks for the millionth time or sewed plastic canvas projects for my mom, her daughter-in-law. She believed in using all the cookie dough…no snitching from the bowl. She went places like China and Micronesia…and yet, when others walked out, she stayed. She delighted in being part of our lives, however mundane.

She read with me. She read in front of me. She fell asleep reading, God only knows how many times. She took the time to read this blog (once she increased the font to a readable size for ninety-year-old eyes). She had access to the secret world of the library, behind the desk (I was consumed with jealousy over this). Before I could even see over the counter, I remember going in and asking to see her, as if it was totally normal for all grandmothers to be found in libraries.

She did not abide pretense or politeness when the truth was better. When I was five, I greeted her and a friend with the information that my cat peed on the rug and my daddy slept in his underwear…and she loved it. She laughed out loud and wouldn’t have dreamed of scolding me. When she thought I shouldn’t get married at twenty, she told me so. When I visited her while I was in college on a break, even when I didn’t know what to say, she still appreciated it and told me so.

Part of me feels betrayed that she left…I have more life left to live, after all, and I’ve never had to do it without her. But I have hope left, too, and it’s holding firm to the belief that she lives in God’s presence. I don’t know if she can see me. In fact, I highly doubt it. But I don’t doubt the promise of God, that she’s living a life eternal, because she trusted in Jesus Christ.

But I still miss her. 

Thanks for your prayers for my family.


  1. Oh christine, I know your pain. It is so hard to lose a beloved grandmother, "ready" or not. God be with you as you grieve.

  2. That was a beautiful post about your grandma. I'm so glad I was able to know her; she was such an amazing and loving person!

  3. I'm just now getting caught up on my blogs. So sorry to hear about your grandma. It's never easy. My grandma passed away this last summer. We thought we had a few more months with her, but it was only two weeks. She waited till all the family came in and said goodbye. After the last goodbye, she passed away. Grandma's are so special. So glad you got to spend that last birthday with her and spend some special time.