She was a Saturday morning Farmer’s Market loyalist before it was cool, gardening ran deep in her blood, and I still don’t know how she managed to bend completely in half to pick weeds for hours on end.
I inherited her small hands and feet - and her old time religion. It wasn’t until I was growing out of childhood that I learned that living next door (and across the street from) your grandparents wasn’t everybody’s experience, but it sure shaped mine.
It didn’t matter how mundane the accomplishment (anything from new pjs to my engagement ring), grandma and her unlocked back door was always open to be a listening ear, an admiring audience, a warm bowl of malt-o-meal, and a piling scoop of butter brickle ice cream.
She called me over one day when I was about 23? to give me something, and much to my surprise (and let’s be honest, horror?) she gave me the homemade quilt usually reserved for wedding showers, and proceeded to tell me, “I think I will probably die before you get married” - horror because I was already hyper aware of my flailing about dating situation. Ha. It makes me laugh now as it hangs on my favourite chair in me and my husband’s home, and it’s something I look at with gratitude and affection.
That quilt - complete with it’s dainty daisy pattern, and picked just-for-me yellow colours, makes me think of the brevity of life, and of my grandma. She had a full ninety-nine years, and thousands of choices. And many of these choices affect me. Two things I know for sure - she valued marriage (hence the quilt and not so subtle hint :), and she valued Jesus. I can still remember the old hymns being sung around me as me and my siblings went to “center corner” with her on Friday nights.
She had a heart for the church - if she couldn’t go (which was rare) she would send along that pink envelope - her tithe always ready week after week. She always drank noni juice, which we openly laughed at her “hippie noni juice claims”, but I stopped fast a few months ago while walking the aisles of one of my favourite all natural food stores in Toronto, when lo and behold a shelf full of noni juice in glass jars. Perhaps I inherited more than her small hands and feet?
She always won the bouquet of flowers at grandparents day for the most grands, she was always there, and I could count on a Braums hamburger on the way home.
Her and my other grandmother could be found always in a laughing fit, sitting as a pair at Thanksgiving, and I don’t know to this day what the joke was, and I’m not sure they did either, but they were always laughing.
She didn’t have it easy in her final days, and I wasn’t close like my early days, but I know right now she is talking to Jesus.
I learned to swim in her pool, I witnessed her tears when her dying cat was put down by another neighbour, I attended some of her TOPS meetings, and regularly helped her count her ever growing number of grandchildren, greats, and great - greats (pretty sure there were 78 when she died).
Her signature “right right right” phrase still rings in my memories this week as we honour her life - and her heritage of that old time religion that rings with present power. My throat swells to think of where she is today - rejoicing in the presence of her Saviour.
So drink the noni juice, embrace the laughing fits, mourn the loss of your cat and go to Hawaii, but also wait for your newlywed husband to return home as an active marine, go through seven natural childbirths, be there with a birthday card in hand every year for those grands next door, sing the precious hymns of old, cling to the church, go faithfully even when you have to be wheeled in, and ultimately, be clear on what this life is all about - because that old time religion has new every day mercy, resurrection power, and those final breaths turn into joy unspeakable.
Life is oh so short, and I’m so thankful that on a day much sooner than I’d imagine to think - I’ll see her again, and we’ll be talking to Jesus.