People have been asking me lately if my 'spirits are down'. The simple answer is no. The long answer is that I've had my moments of feeling discouraged recently, but all in all, my spirits are high. Yes, I've felt crappy for months and months now, but I know God has a purpose for my life and I believe that I will be healed, and if not, He will give me the strength to live life with some pain...and don't we all have to do that at some point? I think about my health issues and honestly, all I can think of is that so many people out there have so much worse, harder, more painful, even terminal things they're dealing with than I do. Why are my spirits still high?
Let me tell you about Grandma Jen.
We moved to MT when I was almost seven years old. We left all the family I ever knew in Nashville, and I was as sad as a little girl could be. We left cousins, aunts, uncles, and two sets of grandparents...one set in Nashville, the other in NC. Well when we got to MT, I learned that I had another great big family there! Cousins and aunts and uncles, and a great aunt Jen. She immediately became my Montana Grandma, 'Granny Jen'. (I eventually called her Grandma Jen as I got older and my cousins teased me mercilessly over my calling her 'Granny')
(This is not an eloquent tribute...just thoughts as they come, straight from my heart to the page)
Some of my most vivid memories with her...painting porcelain with her (she was an amazing artist)...sitting on her front deck eating strawberry popsicles or peach frozen yogurt.....birthday parties, Christmas and Thanksgiving at her house....her being there to support me at every sporting event, band concert, ceremony I was ever a part of...wrecking my cousin Connie's bike and tumbling down a hill on the farm and barely making it up the hill to her house, where she fixed my bleeding knees and elbows (and probably gave me a popsicle to help me feel better:))...walking around her yard with her as she showed me her magnificent gardens each summer.
Grandma Jen lost her first husband, Dave, whom I have no memories of, to a car wreck. She remarried years later to a jolly (that's the only way I can think to describe him!) man named Pete. She was so happy, and we were so happy for her. Just a few years after they were married, she lost him to cancer. She remarried once again to a man named Stan (who reminded me of Pete)...not long after they were married, he was in an accident and suffered severe burns and was life flighted to Seattle, where he would stay a long time. He finally got to come home, where she nursed him back to health, but then he got cancer and she lost her third husband. Grandma Jen lost her only daughter Julie, to cancer. They had spent countless hours and years painting together, starting a successful business out of their porcelain art, and I don't know, but I imagine they were best friends. Then, a little over two years ago, her son, my uncle Bruce passed away, also from a fast moving, ruthless cancer.
Through all of this, she still smiled. She carried herself with so much dignity, never burdening others with her pain, but continuing on in life to live it to the fullest as long as the Lord would allow her. She never went into depression (though I know she felt immense pain with each and every loss) or wore a frown. No, she still smiled. She still greeted us at the door with a hug and questioned us about how we were doing, how life was. She still had parties at her house, and though they became less frequent and she got a bit quieter, she had a tremendous peace that radiated from her. Peace that I simply cannot fathom having after all the loss. God was with her and you could literally see it. She was beautiful. She set the bar high for all of us...her children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends and acquaintances. She showed us what it means to be strong, yet gentle, loving, kind, selfless. She loved Jesus and had a quiet faith that showed up everywhere she went without words being necessary.
Grandma Jen lost the battle against cancer the day before yesterday. She wasn't afraid. She knew (as she told several people) where she was going and she was happy with the long, full life she was given here on earth. I am sure she's having a party in Heaven right now, no longer enduring the pain of cancer, nor the pain of so much loss. I imagine it was a pretty great entrance...meeting Jesus first, and then as he wiped the tears from her eyes and her eyes focused, what a joyful reunion it must have been, seeing all her loved ones who made it there first, who had been patiently waiting to see her again.
We will miss her like crazy down here. It won't be the same with out her sweet presence, but our memories will carry on until we see her again.
Back to the beginning...people assume my spirits must be down. I've been sick since Lily was born almost eight months ago, and recently had my gallbladder removed, which is what had been causing me to feel so bad. I've recovered from surgery, but my symptoms have actually grown worse. (I went to the doctor today and she is almost positive I have lingering gallstones in my bile ducts and pancreas...just glad to have answers and a plan to hopefully get better soon!) Like I said, yes, I have moments of discouragement, when I get weak mentally and dwell on the fact that it's my favorite season, and summer is short here, and I've spent most of my time on the leather couch sticking to it, rather than hiking, going to the park with my girls, taking evening walks, etc. BUT, my spirits are high.
Like I said, she set the bar high. She went through more than I can imagine (more than I dare to even begin to compare my little hardships to), and she still smiled.
She taught me to smile and be strong in the midst of hard things.
I will still smile.
December 6, 1930-July 8, 2013