The anticipation of a visit from Grandma and Grandpa J was exciting for young me - Every. Single. Time. Grandpa would have balloons and Grandma would have tupperware boxes full of cookies that she made. I don’t remember, sorry mom, if we had a lot of homemade cookies when I was young, but I do remember Grandma J’s. Even as the years went on and the cookies were not as good or plentiful, the child-like excitement was still present. My husband got to experience it and some of my older kids hold on to that memory.
Grandma J was a good grandma. You never doubted that she wanted to be with you. She was always fully engaged with whatever you were doing. We did crafts (how many communion cup wreaths and bulletin necklaces did I make with her?) together, we did puzzles, played the piano, colored, and I have many Easter egg coloring memories. She loved to talk and I loved to hear her stories, no matter how many times I had heard it before. I loved how she would tell a story that was somewhat embarrassing, or silly, and she would cover her whole face with her hand and silently laugh. I can see her doing that right now in my mind.
She taught me to cross-stitch and she tried to teach me to make clothes, but that was not something that ever caught on for me - and she never judged me for that. She taught me to cook. (Old legend has it I would stand on her stool in her Moscow, PA, kitchen and crack eggs for her at age two) She taught me to knit. She taught me many things, but one important thing she taught me was how to love my husband well.
When I got married, Jason and I spent our first Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa J’s. Eight weeks married. The main purpose of the trip was not Christmas, but the celebration of the J’s 50th wedding anniversary. What an honor to see that commitment - even Grandpa's commitment not to eat cake.
Fast forward at least a decade, I loved watching the example of Grandma and Grandpa J’s love for each other. They read the Bible together, they held hands, told each other’s stories, winked at each other (at least Grandpa J’s sparkly blue eyes did a lot of winking), rubbed each other’s back. The love and respect (even if it seemed gruff sometimes to an outsider) expressed between them was something to behold. Like a school-girl crush, I loved the way that Grandma J wore Grandpa’s wedding ring, even if it was way too big, after he passed away. Those two had such a passion for each other. A love that I pray Jason and I can imitate in decades to come.
When Grandpa J passed away, Grandma J was beyond crushed. I can't even imagine. She was hopeful to follow him quickly, but the Lord had other plans. Plans for her family to take care of her and honor her. And what an honor it has been.
I know I was only a small hand in Grandma J’s care, but I loved the times I was able to help. I understand her well-being was a bigger burden on others, but what an honor the Lord gave us to tend to her this past year. I loved my days I got to sit with her in the hospital while she had pneumonia. She felt horrible, she wanted to get home to Thrive, but she was kind, she was thankful I was there, and it was a joy to help her those days.
It was clear in the last few months that Grandma J wouldn’t make it much longer. She was clearly getting weaker, less social, and no stories were being told. Heather and I were discussing today, on our way to meet with the funeral home, how thankful we were she was able to join us for Easter. Dad went up and got her to make sure she could spend Easter with the great-grandkids, no matter how tired she was. It was our last family gathering with her. My last cup of hot tea shared with her. The last plate of cookies we set in front of her.
Our timing is not the Lord’s timing. And we can never plan as perfectly as God.
The Thrive staff was an incredible “other” family for Grandma J. They have truly missed her in her time of illness and weakness. Apparently, today, she got up. She got dressed. She went to Bible Study. She ate a great lunch. She stuck around and was social and hanging out with her friends. They were thrilled to have her back. Then she went to her room, took a nap, and awoke in the arms of her loving, faithful Lord. What a blessing, for all her friends at Thrive, to have one last day with her. What a blessing that her last hours were fun, rather than stuck in bed. What a blessing Thrive has been.
Mom and Dad headed out of town this morning, having no idea what the Lord had planned for the day ahead. When we got the call that she was in her last hours, JR (who could get there fastest) rushed up to see her, but he was only a few minutes late. As JR, Heather, and I left Thrive, following Grandma out, the residents of Thrive lined up at the door to pay their respects for their friend, Freda Belle. They all hugged us. They loved her so much. And she will be missed. Missed by so many.
As frustrating as this is, with mom and dad out of town, with me planning to take the kids up to see her on Friday, what a blessing to know she isn’t struggling to get enough oxygen tonight.
What a sweet reunion she and Grandpa J must be having.
I look forward to seeing them both one day. And maybe, just maybe, there will be a tupperware box of cookies waiting for me.
Most likely...the best cookies ever.