Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Grandma Jeanne

This is my Grandma Jeanne. She lives with my parents so I get to see her when I visit them. I can’t even begin to say anything intelligent about her amazing faith, faithful life, or zest for living. I really don’t want to even try. But she is on my heart these days because her memory is chewing away at its own edges with increasing voracity and the reality of what that means burns long and hot in my chest.

My grandpa had a heart attack and died decades ago while cutting the base off of their Christmas tree. He had already made gifts and signed the cards. She was left, shockingly, during Advent with all of retirement ahead of her and a boat of a car only he would drive.

She had been an only child whose address changed often as she packed and unpacked between the homes of her aunts. The early years had not been generous, but her marriage had given her a husband to dote on, four children and a hallway full of 8x10s. Home was everything.

Now, my dad tells me, sometimes he finds her sitting as the sun sets in the living room reading the same page of the paper over and over, tired with wrinkles around her eyes pinched slightly in fear.

“It nighttime, Grandma.” He says.

“Do I have a bed here?” She asked.

A bed.
Of her own.
She does not remember where it is or even if there is one for her. This breaks my heart.

Thinking about Grandma Jeanne and her crumbling mind always leads me back to early morning images of her returning from the one-mile walk around our neighborhood which she took almost every morning between cups of coffee. One day, as she was coming in, she turning and explained to me what it was she was up to as she made left turns around the grid of suburbs where my parents live.

“When I walk, I pray for my grandchildren by name,” she told me.

And I suddenly knew with great assurance that she had been holding me up all those years. I had felt her prayer. Known it. Rested in it, only to have it finally pointed out.

As I look at my grandma now I wonder about those daily prayers. Does she still pray for us? Can a woman still remember to pray even when she can’t remember if this world has a room for her? Where do the pieces of our minds, laid slowly to rest, go when they are gone? Do they spin and twirl like a feather on the wind, ahead to heaven where they are collected in anticipation of a new body?

I think maybe they do. I think maybe treasured scraps and corners of my grandma's mind are already with Jesus. And I am almost sure that the very breath in the lungs of this woman is prayer. Even if she does not know she is praying for me, I think her heart remembers as it pumps. Because her family is her life. And her heart is strong.

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