Thursday, August 13, 2009

He gives and takes away

I can't help but feel overwhelmed with trying to write today. Nothing earth-shattering has happened since we last saw each other here, but with any absence is a passing of time. I can't tell you where the month of July went because I feel like I may have skipped it all together. It blended all together with only the echoing of fireworks in my ear and a flip-flop tan to recall it was ever here.

It's hard to understand a situation when you are in it, which is why its always easy to watch the people in your life from the sidelines and judge and dispense advice. But, as I learned from a friend in college, sometimes you must step back and get in position to watch your life as an outsider, as that person on the sidelines who knows what to do. And so, I step back.

For some reason, the last month or so has weaved together the last years all together and the magnitude of all that has happened in my family and life has hit hard. It is a heavy load.

Ella has finally hit 24 pounds, which for those of you who know my heart and those of you who pray for your own little ones to grow, know that is a miracle. She was stuck at 18 pounds for an entire year (give or take a pound or 2 up or down every week). She is on the charts. It's on the lower end of the charts, but by golly, she's on the charts.

And even with joyous leaps like that, I still can't shake the feeling that this journey and task are too much for me. That she may never talk or sing. That she may never be able to eat without the help of a tube. That she may never stand up straight. That my heart might give out before I get to the end. That my broken heart will break hers. That my faithful Healer will not hear my snotty prayers.

And yet still, there is this tragic void from my Grandma's passing. This picture was taken the week before she died, before we knew how close to the end it was. I was afraid I didn't have a good picture of Ella and Owen and their beloved Grandma Sharon. She hated pictures, almost as much as me, but I'm forever thankful for her smile here. I'm sure she knew that this is a picture they would hold close forever and that their love was one of the most powerful things in her life and so, she smiled.

I've been remembering things like how she patiently taught me to sew and how she shared all her favorite musicals with me over bowls of popcorn and cans of Diet-Rite. I remember the glorious trip she took me on to Salt Lake City when I was 7 to visit my cousins. I flew on a plane with my Grandma, just us, and spent a week with her and my Papa. She spoiled me. We ate out every day and she bought me lots of souvenirs, including bells to hang on my Keds so the bears didn't eat me. If that isn't love, I don't know what is.

She was the kind of Grandma that made each of us feel like we were her favorite - like we could do no wrong, when several of us did our fair share, myself included. We fought over who could spend the night at her house and ran and hid when our parents said it was time to go. She always made Christmas cookies with us and took us school clothes shopping. She paid us for our good grades and insisted we have at least 2 celebrations for our birthday - 1 cooked by her and the other at a favorite restaurant. She bought my books all through college with savings bonds she'd purchased through the years. She worked a job in her 50's and 60's just to have enough extra cash to visit her East & West Coast grandkids whenever she felt like it.

But, it wasn't just us who felt her love. She faithfully delivered food to the worst neighborhoods in South Bend for St. Vincent DePaul for many years. Her knees were always bad and she wasn't all that strong, but she did it anyway. Sometimes I'd go with her and help her pack up the bags and make sure there was stuff kids liked in there, like mac & cheese and cake mix. We'd walk up to the door with gallons of milk and non-perishables, and with humility and grace my Grandma would deliver what often felt like a miracle. I thought people would be defensive and embarrassed for needing the help, but their responses played off hers: thankful, loving, humble.

Grandma always made sure that everyone we knew had family to be with on Christmas and Thanksgiving and if they didn't, they were our family. She opened her house to whoever needed it. She marched for peace. She gave money freely. She once even hid a man in her basement who was trying to avoid the Vietnam War.

She fought for peace and justice her whole life. That's how she showed God's love to the world. It worked.

It still works.

I'm sure she knew the good she was doing. But, it wasn't until her second to last day with an earthly body that we saw it come together.

The obituary became a group project, as we all saw unforgettable qualities that must be mentioned. We thought it only be true to her to mention her years of food deliveries in a rusted-out blue station wagon. We laughed about the trunk popping open as she drove over speed bumps.

All the while, one of the kindest nurses we had, was giving my sleeping Grandma more pain meds, more anti-anxiety, through her IV. She inquired about our mumblings and the woman she was caring for. It was the strangest thing that happened next.
The nurse told us of her being a new mom with no money at all, as her husband was on active military duty. A friend suggested she get help with food and other basic necessities till her husband was home or she found work again. And because God is cool like that, the cancer-fighting old woman whom she was caring for that cold January day, had once cared for her. She hadn't put it together at first, but once she did, her kindness was multiplied and her gentleness overflowing.

See, I don't know if you believe in miracles or not, but that was a miracle.

Sharing that with you made my burden lighter. Seriously. On the long tape measure of my life, this is probably only an inch or even and inch and a half. It only feels like the weight of the world when I don't pull the tape out all the way. Here's for hoping I don't snap my fingers as it flies back in!

We all know, with death comes new life. And in this dreary month of July, there was a bright spot. My first nephew was born. He is cute. He is wise. He is so loved. He came when our hearts needed him most.

Adrian Dash Mabry - we love you.


Still Learning Life said...

I think it is so amazing all that Grandma Sharon did!! I feel like it is so healing for you to share about the void you feel with her being gone, and also sharing about the fullness of her life.

Janefilms said...

Wow, what an amazing story about the nurse. I find that every death I am around, a wackily wonderful story like that comes to light. It helps, I think, the grieving process. Thanks for your share, your grandmother sounds like she was an extraordinary person...