Christmas 1998 I gave my beloved Grandmama a 300+ page journal full of life questions called "The Story of a Lifetime." In October 1999, she wrapped the completed volume and gifted it to me for my 25th birthday. I flipped through the beautifully handwritten pages in awe, then put the book on a shelf--only vaguely aware of the treasure I had received.
Sunday afternoon when I received word that her battle with cancer was over, I pulled the book off the shelf and dove in--regretting I had not read more sooner but still able to hear her voice in my head telling me the fascinating stories inside--of her youth, how she came to Christ, her long distance courtship with my grandfather during WWII, young marriage, parenting six children, the betrayal that led to her divorce after 40 years, how she enrolled in college in her 60s and was inducted into the National Honor Society alongside her grandson. Death, life, faith, regrets...she bared her soul in these pages. She was a blogger before there
was any such thing. :-)
Today we held her funeral, an event I've dreaded. Grandmama was a significant fixture in my life--a primary caregiver, a cheerleader, a pen pal, my neighbor and the person God used to get me to church where I could learn of His life changing love for me. Although almost complete hearing loss and vision impairment had made communication quite complicated in recent years, there was great stability in just seeing her. How do you close a chapter on that?
Much to my surprise, as I attended her funeral today I was buoyant with a feeling that she completed her 91 year race and despite a life full of less than perfect circumstances she lived faithfully and well.
The pastor's eulogy was so touching because it wasn't marked by regret. Instead of grief, I was filled with loving pride that I was reared by such a fine woman. She wasn't perfect--but she was the real deal. After heartfelt praise, the pastor used many of the words she had written in her memoirs--in effect leaving behind a commission for her five surviving children, 12 grandchildren and 13 great- grandchildren.
As he read her words, I felt like they were just for me:
Nehemiah 8: 10b "This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
There is a lot going on in my offline life that I cannot detail for the masses. After 8 months of fostering two of our girls and a month with their little sister, the winds are shifting, court cases are happening, decisions are being made, hearts are impacted and we are bracing ourselves for the unfolding of a story that is not ours to write--but most certainly ours to walk through.
I have spent several weeks feeling sorry for myself, battling weariness, fighting fear and just wanting to get to the other side of all this so I can rest and put the pieces back together. Honestly, joy has been hard to find--and today I felt as if my finally fully restored and healed Grandmama was looking at me with her glittering blue eyes and saying "Joy, Jennifer, Joy. Don't lose the JOY of the Lord because IT IS your strength."
On the long drive back from my hometown this afternoon I pondered legacy--and what it means to truly honor a life. My Grandmama's journey was rich and full--and it was clearly marked by joy that transcended circumstances and a faith that God was in it all.
Rather than simply mourn her loss, I want carry her story forward with a life that says, "I was watching, Grandmama. I was listening. Thanks for the legacy."
She has passed her baton and now it's my turn to run--with joy.