I was sitting at Vacation Bible School, helping out in the nursery. One of the other mothers had just taken her daughter out to change her diaper. She left her phone on the table. It began to ring, and one of the other helpers immediately picked it up and ran to take it to her. At the surface, there may not seem to be anything wrong with this scene. I admit, I’ve done the same thing as that helper. When someone else’s phone rings and they are not nearby, I feel this urgency to get their phone to them. Do you ever feel this? It’s a rather silly thought; I mean, even before cell phones, we had answering machines for goodness’ sake!
As we approach New Year’s Day, everyone’s thoughts are inevitably turning to resolutions – both the ones we broke in late January/early February this year and the new ones we hope will last in 2016. Maybe this year they will keep – maybe this year I’ll really start x, y, and z.
I’ve never been big on resolutions, but this year I think I’ve been inspired to make one. I recently called my grandmother. Affectionately called Grandma J, she is my dad’s mom and my only grandmother still alive. While we talked, we reminisced about my mother’s mom. My mother’s mom (Grandma) passed away just about two years ago and our family still grieves the loss of her physical presence with us. I recognize as an adult what a special family I have and how well everyone gets along, even crossing between my mom and dad’s family. My grandmothers were very close, they called one another often, visited when they could, and wrote letters to one another.
When my Grandma became sick, we were all shocked. None so much so, I think, then Grandma J. At least 15 years senior and already struggling with macular degeneration, Grandma J was struggling to live on her own. Because of her eyes, she could no longer drive and writing and reading were daily struggles. A few years ago, she decided to move into an assisted living community. Grandma, however, was still living on her own, driving wherever she needed, cooking her delicious Italian dishes and volunteering. Her transition from active to unwell to unable to care for herself was rapid. She lost the ability to swallow, then eat and talk. She had to write down everything and became very weak. It was an extremely difficult reality for all of us to adjust to.
As I’ve said, the decline of my Grandma was troubling for my Grandma J. She absolutely and completely loved my Grandma. To her, Grandma was a saint. Whenever I talk with Grandma J about Grandma, she always recalls how lovely, caring, and thoughtful she was. When I was last speaking with her, we started down this familiar road. But then, Grandma J veered off in a new direction.
She told me her eyes were becoming more troublesome and she was really struggling with reading, writing, and her general eyesight. But, instead of dwelling on this significant issue, she said to me, “It’s OK though, I just think about your dear Grandma Marilyn and how she had to write everything down. She really showed us all how to keep grace about her, even with everything she had to suffer though.”
All of us, each day, is dying in some way. It’s part of being human. Each day takes us closer to the day that we will die. This may seem harsh but it is the reality of our situation. My Grandma found a way to die gracefully and peacefully. She could have been angry or agitated – and I know she did have days where feelings of frustration, grief and anger welled up. She allowed herself to feel these emotions, accept them, and then offer them back to God. She prayed, she took comfort in the Rosary, she embraced her family and ultimately, she placed her trust in God’s plan for her life, regardless of how many days she had left on Earth.
Grandma J, I think, found something in Grandma’s death. She found an example of someone who embraced the life they had, regardless of how imperfect or hard it was at the time. I’m so glad that Grandma J shared these thoughts with me.
So what’s my New Year’s Resolution? To find a way, each day, to be at peace with where God has placed me.