My day began at 4:30am when I heard Granny moving things on her bedside table. I raised up to see her sitting on the side of her bed. I moved to her and turned the light on. “Granny, what do you need?”
“I need to know if this pen is mine or not. I had another one but I can’t find it.”
“It’s your pen, Gran,” I confirmed. “What do you need it for?”
“Oh, I’m going to go home so I was getting my things together.” She answered.
“Granny, it’s 4:30 in the morning. You don’t need to go anywhere right now.”
She glanced down at her watch. “Well, it is, isn’t it? I guess I’ll go back to bed.”
I tucked her in, helped her take off her hearing aides and glasses, kissed her forehead and moved to get back in bed.
I lay there in the dark listening for sounds that would alert me that she was getting up again. Usually, when she is confused and is that awake, we will go through this routine more than once. I prayed that God would calm her mind and allow her to rest again.
I tried but couldn’t fall asleep after she became calm and still. I couldn’t see now for the darkness but because I had seen before, I knew she lay there, small and frail and vulnerable. My heart swelled with love for her. If only I could tell her all that fills my heart. I blamed dementia for taking her memory. I blamed myself for not appreciating her as much as I should have 15 years ago when she could have understood.
The things I know of Granny’s life before I came along are few. She didn’t talk about herself much. She had to be directly asked. Granny’s life wasn’t about herself. It was about everyone else.
I do know that her life has always been hard.
Granny was born in 1927, the youngest of 6 children. Her childhood, in the throes of the depression, was bleak and difficult. Her parents struggled to clothe and feed them.
A few years after graduating high school she met and married my grandfather. They both became Christians early in their marriage. They had 4 children. My Aunt Cathy, the oldest, a baby boy, Michael, who died of pneumonia at 6 months of age, my Aunt Brenda and then my mother, Darla.
She worked alongside her husband as he pastored churches and both of them worked extra jobs to make ends meet when it was needed. In May of 1969, my grandfather, her husband, died of brain cancer. My mother turned 12 that month.
After his death she worked at a meat market and then as a telephone operator. She attended college at Kent State to become a teacher, I believe. I remember that she told me that she withdrew because they wanted her to read books for a class that she didn’t believe were decent. “I didn’t see how they had anything to do with teaching,” she told me. In 1973, my great uncle, Fred, her brother, asked she and my mom (my aunts were married) to come to Mississippi to live with him. He knew that the winters in Ohio were difficult and didn’t want her to have to deal with them.
They went. She began work on the line at what was then ITT, a telephone factory. She worked diligently and became a inspector for the line. She worked hard at home as well, gardening, canning, homemaking and helping my mom with all of us. She taught Sunday school at a local church. She worked at ITT until she retired in 1989.
After a few short years of relative peace, 1992 held a horrific car accident for Granny and Uncle Fred. They were on Hwy. 72 between Corinth and Memphis when they stopped at the bottom of a hill for a school bus. While they waited, a semi-truck came over the hill and hit them. With a broken neck, head injury, with the rest of her body battered, she was never physically or mentally the same. Uncle Fred would die 2 years later after a continued decline in health after the accident. She lived alone at home until she was unable to anymore. She stayed with my mom and my Aunt Cathy before coming to live with me almost 2 months ago.
There were so many other things that are between the lines of those 6 paragraphs. If she wasn’t carrying her own burden, she was carrying one that was imposed upon her. When the world fell apart around her she stood strong in her faith. She was peace to others in turmoil.
She was quiet, shy around those outside her close, small circles. Her expressions seemed stoic because she seldom revealed how she really felt inside. More, I believe from self control and her upbringing than from an inability to share. We were privileged to see the Granny that few knew. A granny that was uninhibited with her joy and her love.
She was gentle without wilting. She never forced her way. She took life as it came and made the best of it, whatever it held. She trusted that God would take care of her in the future as He had in the past.
She was kind and good. She gave and gave and gave of her time and resources even when there was no hope or thought of reciprocation. Her gift was always truly a gift without strings or conditions attached. She was faithful. She kept her word. She knew no prejudice. She knew right from wrong. She was hard on herself but always forgiving of those around her. She wasn’t perfect. But her mindfulness of others and selflessness allowed one to look past those imperfections.
The other day a friend of mine posted a Facebook status saying that she was still trying to decide what she wants to be when she grows up. Several other friends responded that they were trying to figure that out as well. I can relate because I am filled with hopes and dreams that I haven’t realized yet. I thought about how I’m almost 34. If I had followed the timeline I created for myself at 18, I would be much “further along” by now. My definition of success then is different than what it is becoming now. Being with Granny everyday and reflecting on her life is slowly changing it into something that the world would find unusual.
I still would like to continue blogging. I would love to write at least one book. I want to go to seminary. I really like to teach or facilitate Bible Study. I hope that one day I will be able to do that regularly.
But what if God just asks me to live the life I have now? What if my blog only ever has 11 followers? What if He never asks me to write a book? What if He never allows me to go back to school? What if I live a life that no one notices? What if God wants me to have an “everyday” life?
I find I’m more than okay with all of those possible eventualities. I want to be what God wants me to be. All the beautiful, wonderful things I have told you about Gran may never be known by anyone on earth other than those who love her and ones who read this post. Was it all for nothing? No! Has her life been a success so far? Yes! It has been an amazing picture of what a Christ-follower should look like.
2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT) says: “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”
Gran is that clay jar. An everyday clay jar, that is used and has cracks and nicks from hard use and constant wear. But, you don’t see the clay jar, you see the shining Light that is within her. The actions of her human self were from the Power that lived within her.
Gran has the honor of the high calling of an everyday life. An everyday life that Jesus fills up. Her life isn’t about earthly gain or selfish ambition. It is about touching the lives around her with the love of Jesus. Even now, afflicted with a mind and body that don’t do what she wants them to do, and with a deep desire to go to her Heavenly Home, I can still see Jesus in her.
Granny has helped me decide what I want to be when I “grow up”. I want to be a clay jar. One that no one notices because of the Light of Jesus that shines in and through it. One that doesn’t care about the job that it is given, but works diligently to glorify the Master.
Anna’s hope for her blog is to share her journey of “becoming.” Besides being a wife, mother, and RN at her local hospital, she is, newly, a full-time caregiver to her Granny whom besides being a loving grandparent and great-grandparent deals with dementia. Anna spends her spare time with her family, blogging, crocheting, and watching old movies. She also enjoys the theatre when time and money allow. You can follow her story at Anna Becoming.