Saturday, September 8, 2012

Emotional Roller Coaster

The title pretty accurately describes my life the last few weeks. August 17, our family packed up a rental mini-van and Bradley's little black car and headed to Florida. We were moving Bradley into a dorm on the campus of Southeastern University. Brad was dual enrolled as a senior in high school at our local community college, but various circumstances led him to stop going to school and work full time. This year began with some serious challenges for Bradley, but God is good and faithful, and He began opening doors for Brad to return to school, this time at SEU, where he is studying all aspects of the film industry. While most of his friends graduated from college this year, he is just now experiencing college life. As we said goodbye, I thought to myself, "How in the world do moms do this when their kid is only 18?! Mine's a few days shy of 22 and this is HARD!" Yet, we prayed together, hugged goodbye, and drove off to our next destination for some much needed family vacation time.

The next few days were filled with theme parks and literal roller coasters, finishing with a couple relaxing days at the beach.

Then we came home for two days, re-packed, and headed west to Texas for our niece's wedding. We arrived on Wednesday, August 29. I ran wedding errands with my sister-in-law, the mother of the bride all day Thursday. When we got back to her house that evening, I received a phone call from my dad, saying Grandma had passed away. I cried, but the overriding emotion was thankfulness to my merciful God for taking her while we were there in Texas, not waiting until we had returned to Tennessee. She's been missing Grandpa for 26 years, so it brought great comfort in knowing they were at long last together again. I pushed my grief to the back of my mind, so I could focus on helping with wedding details. We had wedding festivities all day Friday and Saturday, culminating in the beautiful wedding Saturday evening. I had left the house at 11 that morning and collapsed on the bed at 11:30 that night! What a fun time it was though!

Sunday we drove the two hours to Mart, which still reminds me of an old western town with the false-fronted stores on the main road. On the drive, I felt those emotions I'd pushed back coming to the surface. I coped by regaling my kids with stories of my childhood - much of which was spent at Grandma's. Many of these, they've heard thousands of times, yet they patiently listened and laughed at the appropriate places...some stories God brought to my memory, which I haven't thought of in years...

By the time we arrived at the funeral home, I once again had my emotions in check...until the moment I'd been dreading...

From the time I was a child and attended my first funeral, I have hated the tradition of viewing the body...I've never understood the need some people have to see it. I don't get the need to critique whether or not they "look good"...I believe with all my heart that Grandma's soul went straight to heaven in the blink of an eye and that she is there with Jesus, Grandpa, her parents and five siblings, and countless friends who went on before yes, I was dreading the inevitable. Since our portion of the family was last to arrive, I called my brother to see which entrance we were supposed to use. My dad had told me to park around back with the other family cars, so Tim said he'd meet us at that door. The last time I was in that funeral home was 26 years ago when my grandpa died, and I'd forgotten that the "back door" was actually the one that led straight into the chapel area. As soon as he opened the door, there to the right was her casket. Oh boy. Might as well get it over with.  So, I tentatively approached it and saw someone who looked very much at peace, but her clothes were too perfect, her hair too coifed, her face too...something...

Then my eyes traveled down her arm to her hand. And that's when the dam burst. Those were my grandma's hands. Those were the hands that had seen more than their fair share of the hot Texas sun...the hands that flew over piano keys, starting out with How Great Thou Art and ending with Yes, Sir That's My Baby! Those were the hands that pulled countless weeds and showed me how to shell peas properly, singing silly songs the whole while! They hid rubber mice under pillows and napkins, and waved glow-in-the-dark owl keychains from the doorway when we were trying to settle down to sleep. Those hands patiently taught me to sew and crochet, dusted my shivering fresh-from-the-tub body with talcum powder, and held my face ever so gently to tell me goodnight. Those were the hands of the strongest yet gentlest woman I've ever known. Those were the hands of my grandma. And I wept.

The funeral was a very sweet tribute to the woman loved by so many. I was touched to see so many cousins and church members in attendance. Grandma had outlived all her peers, so it was sweet that so many people who love our family were there to show their support.

From there, we drove the short distance to Kirk, where Grandma was born and raised. She and Grandpa owned the general store when my dad was little and after Grandpa retired from the Texas Highway Department, he became the caretaker of that very cemetery. He and Grandma lived in the little white wooden house across the street. The house is still there, and I was thrilled to get to show it to my kids. It was such a magical place, where imaginations ran wild. Grandma spent 93 of her nearly 98 years in that little town. In fact, the only time she ever left the state of Texas was to visit me when I lived in Mississippi in the '90's!

Following the graveside service, my sister and her family, my brother and his family, and my family and I all went to my dad's house for supper, stories, and to look through old photos. 

We spent the night, then drove back to the DFW area to spend time with my mom and pick up Lily, who we'd left at my sis-in-law's. We spent one more night there, then drove the long road home the next morning.

We've been home 4 days now and I'm still trying to catch up on sleep! As I reflect on the events and emotions I've experienced the last few weeks, I realize that woven throughout the roller coaster, are bolts of love holding it all in place...through the joys and the sorrows...followed by more joys and more sorrows, it is love that holds it all together...the love of a merciful Father, Whose timing and plan are best...the love of a Savior, Who has experienced all the same emotions we do and Whose compassions fail not...the love of a Holy Spirit Who comforts like none other...

May the roller coaster of emotions cause me to turn to The One Who loves me most and Love Him in return. May the roller coaster cause me to rejoice with the one who rejoices and mourn with the one who morns. In other words...Love The One and love the one...


  1. Jill, this is a precious ode to your Grandmother. She was a very special
    Love you all,
    Aunt Ann

  2. This was so beautiful... I cried!! Love you JILL>.

  3. you too, sweet friend!