This past week was the hardest I have ever had to walk through in my 32 short years of life. I am not unfamiliar with loss and grief. I feel as though I have been to a lot of hospitals and funerals but this week was the most personal one yet. My sweet, sweet grandmother went to be with Jesus after 87 years on this earth.
I know there is a lot going on in the world right now and usually I would be raising my voice loud and proud about the injustices of it all (because I do believe it’s an injustice). Instead, I have had zero capacity to give any attention to what’s going on because my personal life is full of grief and sadness. It’s full of this gaping hole that losing the gift of my grandmother has left. And I imagine a lot of other people are feeling this way, too.
This past week there were a lot of defining moments that I don’t know that I will ever recover from. Not in a bad way but in a way of “I was with my grandmother in the final moments of her 87 years of life” and I now see eternity, love and God differently. I love this world, y’all. I’ve traveled it and met the most incredible people. To me the Ukraine situation isn’t just something happening “over there” because for almost 6 years I traveled all over the globe and it made this world feel smaller and smaller every single time I got on a plane. It’s not some far off land to me– my heart beats for the global community to know Jesus. My heart cry is for the Gospel to make it all the way to the ends of the earth and I want to be part of it.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned after how many people showed up to honor my grandmother’s life last Wednesday it’s that we can change the world by loving and being kind to the people right in our own space. In our neighborhoods. In our own towns. Person after person would hug my neck and explain to me what my grandmother meant to them. That she was full of laughter and life. That the world “got a little bit darker” the day she went to be with Jesus. One woman I met went to high school with her. Another kid showed up on behalf of his grandfather who could no longer get out of the house but wanted to show how much she meant to him. My brother and I had childhood friends’ parents show up to hug our necks. My mom had friends show up that she has known her entire life and that are fixtures in mine. They have walked through a lot of life seasons together and hugging them felt like the biggest gift of all to me because they have been so constant.
Not a lot of people who pass away at such an old age have so many people show up to celebrate them. But because of the way my grandmother lived her life– intentional and full of grit, strength, laughter and love– she had us all in awe of just what she meant to her world. She lived independently, still drove and mowed her own (and her neighbor’s) yards. She wrote me a letter once a month and sent me a card on every single holiday– never late. She always knew exactly where I was in the world and wanted to know how I was doing. She would call on every birthday and be singing happy birthday when I answered. She saved every post card I had ever sent her from traveling right on her kitchen table. She would sneak money into my hand like we were doing a drug deal every time I saw her. She was the biggest supporter of the life I’ve chosen to live because it’s how she lived hers. She was full of adventure and knew that life was short and it needed to be lived. She didn’t let anything keep her down for long even in her last few years of being a bit clumsy and taking a few big falls. She knew the importance of going on trips (riding out a hurricane at the beach or making her way all the way to Alaska with us!) and slowing down to play cards with all her friends. She had that perfect balance of go go go and stopping to take it all in.
She understood that if you show up for people they’ll show up for you, too. She understood community is truly what keeps us going in this life. That the world will know we are disciples of Jesus by the love we show to one another. I got to be with my family for the last week with my friends showing up big in distance and then I came back to Colorado and went to a cabin in the mountains where I just got to be with my friends while they let me be exactly where I was and feel exactly how I felt. My parents and brother have had friends showing up constantly the last week and a half from coming to the hospital to dropping off food to just being there to talk and laugh and tell stories.
We can’t do it alone. We can’t make it through this life, good or bad, by ourselves. We can’t isolate. We have to show up for each other and let people show up for us. While I am so sad and will be for a long, long time I am so encouraged by the life my grandmother lived and how she constantly showed up for people and how they showed up for her and us in the last days of her life and the ones after. We can never thank our friends and family enough and we can never fully express how much my grandmother meant to us and how empty our lives currently feel.
But we hold onto the hope that she is face to face with Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. That she is free from all the pain she was having, that she is full of hope and life and joy and that she doesn’t have to fear war and famine. And that one day we too will get to do the same.
Here’s to you grandmother and all the lives you changed right there on Vann Circle!