On May 22, 2016 at 2:45 a.m. I was sitting next to my grandma’s bed holding her hand when God entered the room and called her home. This event was truly one of the most precious gifts that I have ever received and one that I will carry with me all the days of my life. This one short moment in time signified the end of an earthly relationship that had meant so much to me, but it also signified the beginning of a heavenly relationship that will comfort, encourage, and strengthen me in the days, weeks, months, and years that will follow. My grandma left this world in the same way she lived her life. She left this world with quiet and unwavering faith dipped in love and compassion for her fellowman. Everyone who knew my grandma knew that she lived her life this way, but upon her earthly death, this point has been proven over and over again.
As you all know, my grandma and I were very close. We were two peas in a pod. Our souls connected on a very deep level that most people were able to recognize. We looked at life in a very similar way. It is true that we lived very different lives in different times in history, but our souls collided with each other, and they will forever be linked and will never be parted by time or even death. I have heard people say that the first year after someone dies is the hardest. It has been called “The year of firsts.” There is that first day, that first birthday, that first holiday, and it ends with the first anniversary of the person’s departure. I have experienced the year of firsts, and there have been many days when I missed my grandma’s earthly presence. There have been times when I have gone to the phone to call her. There have been times when I have thought for a moment, “I need to check on grandma.” There have been times when I was struggling and my first thought was to call her because I knew she would make me feel better. She always had a way of making everything seem better, and I have longed for that comfort and release only to be quickly reminded that she is no longer here. It has been an adjustment to get used to the new life that I now lead, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that my grandma is still with me. She has made her presence known, and I have felt her next to me almost every single day since she has gone to heaven.
She comes to me like waves upon the shore, soft and steady at first and then suddenly she crashes upon the shore and I feel her so intensely that, at times, I can hear her voice or feel her touch. There are times when I truly do catch a glimpse of her. I know that may sound strange, but she always told me that she would come back to visit me after she went to heaven, and I know that she has and will continue to fulfill her promise. She always told me that she would never turn her back on me, and I know that now that she is in heaven she continues to be a part of my life. It is just in a different way now. It is a way that actually is more powerful than it was before. I know that she is in heaven working for my good and the good of all the people that she loved here on this earth. That is the thing about my grandma; she loved deep and wide. So many people were touched by her love and countless peoples’ lives were made better because of her presence. Showing love was one of her callings, and she had the ability to make everyone feel loved and important. She was not ashamed of showing love to people and truly went out of her way to do so. If I could emulate my grandma’s life, I would hope that I could love half as much as she did, and I hope that I can inspire others to show more love. If I could do that, I would deem my life a success.
My grandma spent her life telling her story. The stories that she told encouraged people and gave them hope. Nothing pleased my grandma more than being able to share her story with others. She relished in the joy that came when she shared her story with someone new, and she loved to tell the stories over and over again. They never grew old to her, and she gave God all the credit for the many blessings and miracles that she received in her life. She knew that she was unworthy, and she never stopped praising God for all that He had done for her.
My grandma left me with so many gifts. These are not tangible gifts that will wear out with time. They are gifts that will only grow and strengthen with the passing of time. They grow every time I tell one of her stories. They grow every time I remember a lesson that she taught me, and they grow every time I remember something funny that she did or said. That is something that some people do not realize about my grandma. She was blessed with a sense of humor like no one I have ever known. In fact, someone once asked me what I miss the most about my grandma and I quickly replied, “The laughter.” She made everyone laugh. She made herself laugh, and she had the most infectious smile that truly did light up a room. I hope that I have inherited my grandma’s sense of humor because I saw how it sustained her through the trials of her life. It served her well. She was able to laugh at life, and she encouraged others to do the same. That is a gift that she gave to so many.
Something else that most people do not know about my grandma is that she had a passion for writing. She filled hundreds of notebooks with her writing. Many times she recorded the stories that she told people, sometimes she copied Bible verses, and other times she wrote about her life and the lives of the people that she loved. She told me once that she had to write. She never understood why she had the passion to write, but she knew that it was important. She even wrote a short book about her mother’s life entitled Miracles From God For Mom. She was so proud of this little book and passed it out to everyone she knew. She wanted so badly for people to know about the miracles that God had performed for her mother, and she truly believed that they would strengthen peoples’ lives and help them have more faith.
My grandma did not have much formal education. In fact, she left school when she was in the sixth grade. She always felt like her lack of education limited her abilities, but, through a lot of coaxing from God, she forced herself to write and to try to put her words on paper. Even though my grandma lacked a formal education, she was one of the smartest people I have ever known. She had incredible wisdom and had a knack of knowing what to say and how to treat people. That is something that can never be obtained from a degree. My grandma knew that God wanted her to write a book about her mother’s life, but she argued with Him and tried to get Him to ask someone else to write it, but God was persistent. Then one day she gave in and decided that she would do what God was asking. Here is a small excerpt from her book explaining that day:
"One day I saw the Bible lying on the table. I walked over, picked it up, and it opened to Psalms. My eyes fell upon the 78th chapter. I began to read. The more I read, the more I cried and began to give God praise. Psalms 78 and the first seven verses were my answer. God really wanted Mom’s miracles put on paper. The sixth and seventh verses are very dear to me. They read, 'That the generations to come might know them even the children which should be born who should arise and declare them to their children. That they might set their hope in God and not forget the works of God. But keep His commandments.' This let me know that the Lord didn’t want this written just for me or even for my children, but He wanted this written for the generations to come."
My grandma wrote the above words on January 22, 1978, nearly forty years ago. She had a sense, even then, that the stories that she had been told and witnessed would remain relevant, and she knew that they would inspire people for generations to come. Now, the stories of her life are touching people. I have been hundreds of miles away from the place that my grandma spent the 90 years of her life and complete strangers will come up to me and say, “I love your grandma” or “The stories you tell about your grandma really speak to me.” When this occurs, I am filled with such joy and pride that I was blessed enough to know such an amazing women who had a story to tell that would change the lives of so many.
In many ways, I feel that one of my callings in life is to make sure that my grandma’s stories and the stories of her mother continue to live on. I truly believe that is the way God intended it, and He chose me to be the keeper of the stories. I have been able to share so many of them with all of you. However, like so many great stories, there is so much more to be told. So after a lot of prayer and prodding from God and the people in my life, I have decided to write my grandma’s story. The title of her book is called This is Her Story. I am not certain what the future of this book will be and how long it will take me to complete it, but I know that God can take a simple little story about a woman who lived her life in a small town in Southern Illinois and make it spread like wildfire. After all, it was my grandma who told me that all things are possible when we put our trust in God and that even when we think things are impossible, He can make them possible. I am so excited about being able to tell my grandma’s story and truly feel honored to be chosen to do it. The blessings I receive from telling her stories are worth more than any earthly possession, and I know that I am to tell her stories so that the generations to come might know. When I let that great privilege sink in, I am filled with such peace and PEACE MATTERS!