I had such a strong woman as a grandmother. Her 15 year battle with cancer ended on November 11th, 2009. Very grateful I got to have a relationship with her and that I will see her again someday. The following is a letter I wrote to her one year after she died.
Tonight we had Mandarin Orange Cream Cake in honor of you. We tried to eat the whole thing in memory of your sweet tooth, but that didn’t quite happen. Grandpa came and so did Uncle Dan. It was mostly laughter with a few intermittent comments about the disastrous state of our country made cordially by Grandpa.
One year ago, today, November 11th, you left us and went away to heaven (an event I will forever envy you--at least until the day I get to do the same).
A lot has happened since the day you left. Your great-granddaughter Sophia was born; Matthew got engaged (he’s getting married next weekend); and of course, the most momentous occasion of all, Uncle Dan met Millie, the woman we’ve all been waiting to meet for a really long time.
I wish you could be here to celebrate all these things with us. It’s times like these that I wonder if you wish you could be here, too. Or, is heaven so amazing that you don’t mind missing two weddings and a birth? Is being with Jesus so satisfying that your family melts away to a distant memory and no thought of remorse ever fills your heart?
I won’t be upset if this is true. I don’t think heaven would be heaven or Jesus, Jesus if it weren’t. When I think about you, I always think about heaven. It must be a place of safety and relief. How could it be anything but those things?
Often I miss you and wish you could be here so I could ask your advice. But then I remember that you were never too keen on giving advice. You never wanted to tell someone what they should do. I could never figure out if this was because you didn’t feel confident that your advice would be helpful or because you wanted the other person to figure it out for themselves. It was probably a mixture of both. Either way, there have been several times in the past year that something has come up and the only person I want to tell is you. But you’re not here. So I usually choose to tell no one. God has yet to replace your presence in my life. There is left a small gap in the way things used to be. I wonder if every time I lose someone if that gap is just going to grow bigger. I wonder if those holes never mend.
One thing I am grateful for in being in a family of girls, is that emotions are accepted. Tears for you are shed freely, even one year after you left. For me those tears are a mixture of sadness and joy. Sadness because you’ll miss so much of the lives we still have left to live and joy because you are safe and healthy. Forever. Nothing can remove you from that safety or take away your health.
In Sunday School, we were studying Pilgrims Progress. We reached the end of the first book when Christian finally reaches the Celestial City. Our conversation, understandably, turned to a discussion of death and how we would spend our last days. The pastor who was leading our class said that he often asks elderly people if there is something they wish they could have done differently in their lives. A common answer he receives is that they wish they would have risked more.
I know you risked a lot in your life without really choosing to risk. I hope you were satisfied with your risks when you reached the Celestial City.
All in all, I am encouraged to risk more in my life. Not cliff jumping and sky diving risks, but risks with experiences and career moves and risks with relationships. Lately I realize, living life motivated by a desire to avoid mistakes is one of the greatest mistakes of all.
The Celestial City may seem far away for me. But when I put its distance on the timeline of eternity, its gates are just a few steps away.
So for now, there are things to be done and people to love.
I’ll see you soon,