She was 91 years old.
She was a parent of six kids, 4 unruly boys and 2 girls. She was a Nana to 12 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren and counting. She was a mother to all who knew her.
I hope I can be half as good of a mother as she was.
I spent every Saturday at her house growing up. You can get to know your grandparents pretty well when you spend time like that with them. I’m sure it’s one of the best things my parents had me do as a kid.
Time with Nana was special because: 1) You never felt judged and 2) You always felt loved.
She was the kind of person that you felt like you could tell anything to and many people often did. There were regulars at the grocery store that would unload all their burdens and cares onto her. And she remembered all of them.
She was also the kind of person that had limitless amounts of empathy. I remember her driving by herself and picking up strangers that were walking home even though she would get reprimanded by the family. Her face would look so confused as to why this wasn’t a good idea.
She was also hilarious… even when the world was falling down around her. She would say to me, “If you don’t laugh, you’re going to cry.” I specifically remember this one after she drove her prized Cadillac into the back of the garage.
I was able to visit her a couple of weeks ago. It was difficult to see her in the state she was in… because, well, it’s difficult to see anyone that has cared for and nurtured you now helpless and in pain. But it was also difficult because it was everything she always talked about fearing at the end and I felt helpless, too.
I just wanted to make it all happen differently.
I thought: That’s pretty much how I feel about everything! So instead, I tried to embrace the moments of my last three days with Nana.
I brushed her hair, the hair we were never allowed to touch as children because she got it “set” every week. I brushed it and thought about how she would brush mine as I laid my head on her lap.
I stroked her forehead and cried, silently thanking her for taking care of my cousins when they needed her… and apologizing that she wouldn’t be meeting any of my children on this side of eternity.
I fed her her liquid diet and laughed with her about how delicious it was.
I held her hand while she slept and she woke up and looked at me and said, “I’m gonna hold onto you and never let you go.”
Oh Nana, I thought, I’m going to hold onto your memory. Your laughter and sarcasm. Your generosity and ability to forgive. Your chicken! I’m going to hold onto the role model that you are; a loyal wife for 65 years, a woman that kept a clean house with a million kids running around, a mother that loved your children more than anything else and that would give them anything and everything you could… a follower of God.
She didn’t talk about religion much, at least not with me (although, once in a while she would make a joke when someone was being a “religious” hypocrite) but I have no doubts that she knew Jesus… because of her love.
Nana made everyone feel like they were the most special person in the world… because to her they were.
Oh how I’m going to hold onto that lady until I see her again.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. ~John 13:35 NLT