Wednesday, November 23, 2011

the wedding bells ring

"This wasn't supposed to be hard"...gosh, how I could totally echo those sentiments that my cousin Sean expressed at my Mimi's service this past Sunday night. This wasn't supposed to be hard. This was supposed to be relief -- relief from the horrible anguish of watching cancer take over the frail body of my mom's mother. This was supposed to be what we all wanted, an end to suffering and a joyous celebration. My sweet Mimi was finally free, finally healed, whole and completely satisfied -- rejoicing in the glorious presence of her Beloved, her true Himself.

But there I was, at Mimi's wake/rosary service, overcome with grief and an overwhelming sadness that was totally and completely unexpected. Rewind to the three days previous, when I received the news of Mimi's passing late Thursday night, I was in a total daze. I went completely numb and didn't feel anything at all. I don't think I uttered a single word or had any sort of "normal" reaction. And then I fell into bed and slept a dreamless sleep. There was no crying, no embrace, no one trying to comfort me...nothing. I was racked with guilt, searching for a reason as to why I couldn't find the tears, but chalking it up to the fact that I was so happy.

I had spent a few weekends with her after her diagnosis and had witnessed firsthand the helpless reality of the painful suffering she had been living. I can hardly describe how difficult it was for me to be with her, but how undeniably grateful I was that I lived within such close proximity and was able to be by her side as she prepared for her heavenly wedding. Words fail to describe (as can be observed from my previous post) all of the emotions I felt as I held the hand of the patriarch of our family. She had become so childlike and the entire experience was surreal. From feeding her ice chips to turning her over to her other side, I (for a few brief spans of time) had become her caregiver and the previous roles we once knew had reversed.

I am beyond compelled to speak of my mother's love for her mother. I have never seen anything like it here on this earth. Her deepest desire was to care for her mother, but unfortunately, she has had a very demanding job that has not permitted her to do the very thing she wanted to do most. My heart breaks for her as she grieves the loss of her mother because not only is she grieving the loss of her best friend, but she is also grieving the time that she didn't get to spend with her. The few times she was able to take care of Mimi were an absolute privilege and her greatest delight.

I had wanted to speak at her service on Sunday night, but I was too slow and things concluded before I got a chance. Perhaps it is for the best as I would have probably talked in circles and quite possibly could have failed to get even two words out before I became an inconsolable blubbering ball of emotions. But had I been given the composure to articulate myself, I would have talked about the sweet memories I had with my dear Mimi -- the times she picked me up from the bus stop and drove me straight over to Dairy Queen to get a blizzard. It didn't matter what time of day it was or that dinner might be just an hour or two away, she always obliged my sweet tooth. I would have talked about her purple velcro walking shoes that she kept in her car for when she would "walk the mall" and the plastic rain bonnet she would don every time the skies opened up and showered us with rain. I would have mentioned how she called Michelle and I her "little monsters" and "trilby" and how she referred to pants and shorts as "britches." I would have talked about her joyful spirit and how she never ceased to sing praises to the Lord (and always had her tambourine in the car should the mood strike her). I probably would have cried when I reflected on how she called me "her little Rachie" over the past 5-6 years and how she would always wait up for me when I made the drive to Austin. I would have laughed about how she always wanted to see what I was wearing and never failed to declare how adorable or cute my outfit was, but the joke of all jokes is that my sweet grandmother was mostly blind in the last years of her life. I definitely would have talked about how I got to spend last Christmas with her and how she asked me numerous times to do the "reindeer dance" for her of which I have no idea what moves constituted said dance, but I did my darnedest to make something up on the fly that was reindeer-like.

But above all the memories, I would have talked about her spiritual legacy -- the fact that she prayed five of her children into the kingdom and that because of her prayers, her grandchildren (myself included) have a deep faith based on a personal relationship with Christ. Her prayer life blows mine straight out of the water (in case there was any question) and I'm fairly certain her dialogue with Christ was constant, not a matter or starting and stopping, but a continuous stream of back and forth. I always remember the folded card propped up next to her TV that asked "would Jesus watch this with you?" Oh, how I made fun of that little card when I was a teenager and oh, how I respect it now and how it has influenced that which I put into my mind at this point in my it TV, movies or otherwise. There is no doubt in my mind that she prayed for me every single day and now that she is gone, I wonder if she'll still pray in heaven for my husband.

I can't help but laugh when I think back on one of our last conversations. She was feeling my hair and asked me if it was curled. I let her know that it was and then she firmly stated that I must do this everyday and that I also needed to wear makeup...everyday. Much to my chagrin, I will attempt to honor her wishes, but if you know me at all, there will have to be an element of grace in following such an arduous regiment.

As I cried the "ugly cry" at her gravesite on Monday, I don't think I really knew or was entirely conscious of all that I was crying for. I am sad she won't physically be here to see me get married or have babies. I am sad I didn't spend more time with her when she was still alive and vibrant. I am sad I didn't just sit with her more when she was watching her beloved Fox News on television. I am sad that my memories grew fuzzy and I have trouble remembering her in her prime, before she started going blind and deaf, before she struggled to walk and before Parkinson's had affected her body. I am sad that I can't dance with her again or watch her delight in something I have baked just for her.

But I'm not sad for her. As St. Augustine once said "Thou has made us for thyself and our heart has no rest till it comes to thee." Her heart is at rest and her joy is overflowing. It is too beautiful for words and so I can only leave it to scripture:

1 Corinthians 15:54-55
54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55 O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”

1 Corinthians 2:9
9 but just as it is written,

My heart is overwhelmed with happiness for you, Mimi. Thank you for preparing the way and for laying the spiritual framework that established our family's hope in Christ. I will miss you here on this earth, but I am so happy you have made it home. I am so happy you have made it to your heavenly wedding and if I listen close, I can almost hear those wedding bells ring. You have "arrived at eternity's shore and death is just a memory and tears are no more."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

giving thanks: part 1

thank·ful adj \ˈthaŋk-fəl\
Definition of THANKFUL
1: conscious of benefit received
2: expressive of thanks

I meant to start a month-long series of daily posts where I would give thanks for something in my life, but alas, life happened and my "best laid plans" were foiled once again. Nevertheless, all is not lost, so I will just pick up and post as I am able to.

It was a no brainer to dedicate my first post to expressing thanks for two of the most precious gifts in my life: Haylee Grace and Meredith Hope.

They are the apple of my eye, the icing to my cupcake, the light of my life and I feel so blessed to be a part of their lives.

I've loved being a part of every birthday celebration. I've cherished making cookies and other treats in the kitchen with them (well, mostly Haylee, but Meredith is always hanging around). Despite the insanity, I've treasured our trips to Chick-fil-a and our carousel rides at the mall. Christmas is more magical, but in reality, with them, everyday is more magical.

I'm beyond thankful for these two precious lives and have been taught so much about God's love in being with them. And for that, I can never properly express my gratitude...

Friday, November 11, 2011

made for another world.

As I briefly mentioned in a post several weeks back, my family was recently informed that my dear grandma, "Mimi," had a large cancer tumor in her stomach. Treatment was presented as an option, but she politely declined as she was done being poked, prodded, stuck and ultimately restricted to a sterile hospital room. It is a strange thing indeed to be given a sort of "heads-up" (pardon the slang) on when a loved one will be departing this world, beckoned by the Creator to leave their human, decaying body to join Him, in His glorious presence.

"It was when I was happiest that I longed most...The sweetest thing in all my life has been the find the place where all the beauty came from."
Till We Have Faces

"Nothing is yet in its true form."
Till We Have Faces

As I sit and reflect on the reality, the weight of glory if you will, I find it rather difficult to wrap my brain around it all. When I am with my grandmother, observing her frail body, it seems she is quite literally on the cusp of heaven...teetering between the edge of heaven and earth. The curtain between heaven and earth is so thin, it's almost sheer. I feel that in being around her, I'm almost is very surreal. I have found myself reflecting on this mystery, as we are unable to peek behind that curtain. "Eyes have not seen, nor ears have heard." I tend to be very uncomfortable with the unknown. I like knowledge. I like facts. However, it is not very me to know, at least not yet. I know I have this longing (as C.S. Lewis puts it so beautifully below) deep within me that yearns to be consumed by the fullness of joy found in the presence of Christ. In Him, everything good flows. He is the creator of all, and we have yet to experience being totally complete and satisfied in the sight of His glory.

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."
Mere Christianity

Paul's words to the Philippians seem to be resonating with me as of late, "to live is Christ, to die is gain." While at times, I feel an overwhelming desire to be at the throne of Jesus, basking in His majesty, praising His holy name. However, I know that He has desired and purposed me to continue to live on this earth...with every single moment that I take a breath. But what a glorious day it will be when I see my Savior's face and unite with my first love.

"God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love."
The Problem of Pain

And so we wait. We wait for the Lord to call Mimi home, but in all actuality, we wait for Him to call us home as well. But until that day, let us never cease to catch glimpses of His beauty here on earth. It is in the sunsets that He whispers to our soul. It is in the embrace of a friend that He shows us His love. It is in the crash of a wave that He shouts of His majesty. It is in the birth of a new life that He tells of His miraculous creativity.

"'You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,'" said the Lion."
The Silver Chair