When I was in seventh grade, the teacher gave us an assignment: to write an essay and give a presentation about someone we considered a role model, someone we looked up to, someone we admired. I wrote about my grandma.
I don’t remember what I said, and I’m sure I was extremely nervous to speak in front of the class, but I do remember that from a young age, she had always made a strong impression on me.
Some of my earliest childhood memories are with her. She’s the one who first took me to church and introduced me to Jesus. She helped to form traditions in my young life: baking cookies from scratch and decorating the Christmas tree with tinsel, dying Easter eggs and waiting inside with anticipation as our aunts and uncles had fun hiding them in the yard—often in the most clever places—so that we could hunt them down, BBQ chicken on the grill and annual summer vacations to Edisto Beach.
I didn’t visit her nearly as often as I should have when we lived in the same city, and we saw each other even less when we moved to opposite ends of the country. BUT this Mother’s Day, my aunt had so graciously organized a trip for grandma to go to Edisto—one of her wishes while she was on the east coast. So, we all planned to meet at the beach house that Sunday; the week leading up to it, I found myself getting more and more excited about seeing her.
As I was traveling to see her that day, as I was almost there, I received a text message that grandma was down on the beach with the paramedics. She’d had a heart attack, which wasn’t extremely surprising because she’d had heart surgeries and issues in the past. They took her to a hospital to be checked out, a hospital only ten minutes away from my house.
That evening they diagnosed her with acute leukemia. She passed away a week and a half later. So unexpected and too quick. I was able to spend time with her Monday and Tuesday--precious moments with smiles and laughter and sweet conversation.
She talked about my book Struck. She closed her eyes with a soft smile on her face and said that she saw it like a movie in her head. I told her I preferred a Netflix or Hulu miniseries. Ha--the dream! She told me how she had talked about the book with a man on a riverboat in France, how he had taken a picture of it, how he had looked me up on his phone and told her that I was beautiful. She loved my book, and she shared it with others. Here are two examples: her Amazon review and her Facebook post.
We were waiting for more information about her treatment, about whether she would undergo chemotherapy or not. Though no one is ever excited about fighting cancer, I was looking forward to the opportunity to have her stay with me as she underwent treatment at one of the best hospitals for her. I was looking forward to caring for her through the chemotherapy and to spending that time with her. She said that if I would bring a recorder, she could record some of her stories from the 1960s. I was really looking forward to that too.
On Friday they determined that there was nothing they could do to help her; she was having issues with too many systems. They couldn’t treat one thing without risking problems somewhere else. The best she could receive was comfort care. She slept most of the time I was there on Friday; she would wake up and apologize for sleeping. I told her she needed to sleep; I told her I was content simply to look at her beautiful face.
That evening, at home, I thought about how I wanted to tell her the rest of the story, to tell her how the Struck trilogy will end, to tell her about the sequel she had been anticipating. But, among my great regrets---she didn’t have the chance to tell me her stories, and I didn’t get to tell her mine.
She was a humble, kind, servant-hearted woman who was always giving her life away to others, to the least of these. All the comments people have left on her Facebook this past week are proof of that. More time with her would have been sweet and precious, more precious than gold. But because of Jesus, I’ll spend forever with her. Because of Jesus, this wasn’t the end of her life, but the beginning of an eternal one.
In honor of her life, I offer a very small token—this week Struck will be available FREE on Amazon Kindle and the Kindle App. She showed that she enjoyed it and that she was proud of me by sharing it with others. So, please download it for free this week (June 4-8), and share it with others.
You can find it here: http://a.co/8Pa0qlI