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June 19, 2012 / paperkids

The love that binds

“I wish i could be there, Granny.  I really do.  I’m so sorry”.  my voice was already unsteady, but Granny and I always seem to end up crying together.  We always have.  Mom has never been overly emotional in the slightest, but if the three of us are sitting on the front porch drinking a glass of wine and talking about the deep things of God, you can be sure that Granny and I will be shedding some tears before our glasses are empty.

“I’m having my funeral,” she said matter-of-factly.  “I told everyone, ‘I don’t want to be buried or anything!’  Everyone’s coming over and we’re just going to be together and that is going to be my funeral.”  Her voice sounded strong and upbeat in her Georgia accent, although I could hear a tremble in it.  Any minute we would both be crying, I could feel it.    When she had told me last summer on my visit to Florida that I might not see her again, I don’t think I really believed her.  She looked fine then, although I knew she got winded easily.  I didn’t really think the cancer would make such an impact in such a short time.

“God, Granny, I just love that idea.  I’ve been thinking about you so much lately.  I really need to be there.”  I did need to be there.  I just felt this abundant urge to be with these people that I’d spent way too much time thousands of miles away from.  I wanted to feel my mother’s soft hand on my forehead.  I wanted to  hold hands and sing and pray with my aunts and cousins and hug my granny instead of sniffling into the cell.

We were both crying now.  It was inevitable, after all.

“I know you do, honey.  But we’ll all be together some day.  The Lord is taking me and I’m going home.”

I couldn’t help but think of my brother, Tim, in that moment.  The thought of someday seeing him again has always made my heart leap with a strange kind of surreal joy that’s hard to put into words.

When we were very young we stayed with Granny and my aunt Molly for a while.  I have a memory that comes to mind.  The phone rang in the middle one night and what brief recollection I have is that of the adults in my family crying, hands in air, tears down cheeks.  My great grandfather in Georgia had passed away.  He was a good man I am told, and I wish I had memories of him the way they did.  He was a rock in the family as solid as they come. I heard that he and my great grandmother did whatever they could for anyone.  I heard that my great grandfather knew the Bible by heart and would read it in his rocking chair everyday.  I have brief visions of running through the rows of their garden in Joneborough, Georgia – so green and lush, tilled in the red clay.  They were good people, their love and faithfulness to God seeping into the fabric of their family for generations.  Watching my granny loudly praying and weeping that night will never leave me.  There was something so powerful about it.  I believed her voice could be heard up in the heavens.  Or maybe God was with us in that room, very, very close.

I have early memories of Granny and I spending time together and lately they have played heavily on my mind.  I was the oldest grandchild and we seemed to have a love of the same things.  Even at an early age, I loved to go out to eat and she would take me to the mall and we’d walk around.  She had a book on sea shells and we would walk the beach early in the morning, hoping to spot a perfectly intact specimen before someone else snatched it up.  She was never far away in my life.

As I got older and moved away eventually to California, we didn’t get to talk as much.  She had many grandchildren after me, fifteen in all, and eight great grandchildren whom she adores.  She’s always read the newspaper and would often mail me clippings or coupons from magazines that she thought I might be interested in.  I’ve always felt her love.

And my granny has a sense about things.  One night here in LA I got locked out of my apartment after work and walked several blocks to a pay phone.  A man came out of nowhere and tried to talk to me.  When I walked away he grabbed me and chased me for several blocks and I barely got away from him.  Strangely enough, it wasn’t the first time I’d been chased down on the streets, but this was just as traumatizing if not more so.  There was no one to help me.  Don’t ask me why I was at the pay phone or why I didn’t have a cell.  Let’s just call it total stupidity.  You’ll find me now an almost overly-cautious pedestrian.  A week or so later, I found out that my Granny had a dream that night that woke her up.  She  dreamed I was in danger and that someone was chasing me.  She woke up grabbing the curtains and calling on God “Send all your angels to watch over Sabra!!”  She was very shaken.  It was at the very same time on the very same night I was chased down on that dark street.   In a very lonely time, knowing this made me feel so protected and loved, like I was home.   It was just yet another amazing story of faith and God’s power in our family.

How it seemed to always bind us together.

Now, her body is brittle but her spirit can’t be stopped.  She is still doing what she loves when she can despite the pain, exhaustion and weight loss.  They still go out to eat and visit Goodwill for a good bargain.  And I do wish I were there, but I know that she is surrounded by love.  It’s a love that’s greater than cancer or grief or fear.   And I can feel that love all these miles away.  I think I can feel it because it doesn’t come from a place or a time.  It doesn’t come from all the things that have been said and done.    It’s His great love that brings us all together.

I decided to do a slideshow for Granny since I couldn’t be there.  Of course, I cried the whole time I put it together.  I scraped as many photos of our family as I could and some I had never seen before.  I briefly face-timed with my mom and Granny  flashed across my iphone screen.  Her voice was nearly gone and her body was very frail.  As soon as we saw one another, the tears came again.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I hoped she knew I wasn’t crying because of her physical appearance. (She’s still beautiful and always will be).  I hope she knows that  it was all about the love.

I love you Granny and will continue to pray every day!  You are always in my heart.

“God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him”  1 John 4:16

One Comment

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  1. Katie / Jun 20 2012 1:20 am

    Love this. Love you. Love your family.
    (And you are such a better writer than I ever will be… )

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