Earlier this week, I sat curled up in a chair thumbing through my phone, Googling something I never thought I would Google. “How to write an obituary”. Search.
I was sitting in the hospital room where my husband’s grandmother was lying, slowly waiting for the end of her life. She was 88 years old, and had been battling dementia for a year or more now. Her health had taken a quick turn, and she was able to communicate very little any more.
She’d surprised us in the past. There were at least two separate occasions where the doctors warned that “this might be it”, but she was back at home cooking up some dinner within a month. But this proved to be the one that she didn’t bounce back from.
As I reflected back over the short four years that I had known Nana, I smiled. She most definitely was a special lady. I first met her during one of her hospital stays. Brandon and I hadn’t been dating very long when she had a spell, and he suggested I just meet him at the hospital so I could meet his Nana. He seemed to think it wasn’t a big deal, but I was a nervous wreck!
You see, Brandon’s Nana held an extra special place in his heart. When he came back to Kentucky after his life fell apart, she welcomed him back with open arms. She gave him a safe place to stay, and never judged him for the growing, failing, and learning that he was going through. She just kept loving him and promised him that he would always have a home.
We hung out there quite a bit as we were dating. One evening, we were sitting outside and she handed me a ring off her finger, asked me what I thought about it. I told her it was beautiful, and she insisted I try it on. Strange request, but I obliged. Without missing a beat, she looked at Brandon and winked as she proclaimed “So it looks like we have the same size finger….about a size 8!” Very subtle, Nana!
But I learned a lot more about Nana this week, after I was asked to draft the eulogy. I needed some details and enjoyed learning more about her life. I learned that she met her husband of 60 years when she was in highschool, as he stepped off the bus in his sailor uniform. She declared that he was the cutest sailor she’d ever seen, and swore she was going to marry him. Later that semester, he ended up being her school bus driver!
When I asked about her hobbies or likes, the answer didn’t surprise me. It was all church. Even in her old age, she’d served on a volunteer basis. A few days a week, she would sit in the office and answer the phones and chat with people as they came through. She held a lot of jobs in her life time, but if you asked her what she did for a living, she would proudly answer “I’m a church secretary.”. Spending time with her brothers and sisters in Christ was such a fulfillment for her.
And she loved and served them well. There were many a young person that she claimed as her adopted grandchild, and they just as eagerly claimed her as their grandmother. One sweet family started calling her Mimi, as did their children. She was family to this young family that was far from home.
And it wasn’t just her church family that she showed the love of Jesus to. Her neighbor’s son had a tendency to get into trouble, and would periodically go MIA. This young man may have struggled, but he respected Ms. Millie. It may have been because she didn’t grill him on what he’d been doing, or where he’d been for the past month. She just loved on him, talked about the weather, then asked him to come fix something in the house, which he gladly did.
She just loved people. Her family knew well that if you told her “I love you”, she always responded “I love you too”. Without fail. As things progressed, she may not have known exactly who she was saying it back to, but she replied as long as she could put words together into sentences.
As I thought through all these things, I wondered what Nana would say right now if she were able to communicate to us. I think she’d encourage us to love people like Jesus does. As people who have been changed by the love of God, we have a responsibility to share that love with those around us, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. She would encourage us to give someone else that safe place in this crazy world, a home.
I also believe that Nana would have told us that death isn’t so scary when you have hope. You see…I’m excited for Nana! She has served her Savior her whole life, and now she gets to shed this old body that doesn’t work and brain that can’t recall, to go be face to face with the One she loved and devoted her life to. And that’s the truth, not some sweet platitude. She’s going to a real Heaven because she believed in a real God to save her. You and I should be envious of her homecoming.
If Nana were able to communicate to you tonight, I think she would want you to understand that. She would ask us to live with Heaven in mind, not so fixated on earthly things. And I think that she would say that there is only one way that this is possible. I think she would say that throughout her life, the words of her favorite hymn rang true.
“Without Him, I could do nothing
Without Him, I’d surely fail
Without Him, I would be drifting Like a ship without a sail.”
To those of you out there who feel like you’re drifting, failing at life. She would go on
“Jesus, oh Jesus. Do you know Him today?
Do not turn Him away.
Jesus, oh Jesus Without Him, how lost I would be.”
And since Nana’s a little bit busy right now…dancing with Jesus…I’d love to tell you more about how to be found by Jesus. He’s right there waiting for you, just don’t turn Him away today.