You Are My Sunshine: A Tribute to Grandma Spud
I've chosen not to record audio for this blog post simply because I don't think I could get through the narration without crying. I wrote this on Friday, January 14th, 2022.
Today I woke up to news I’ve been dreading.
As I’ve mentioned previously, my grandmother—one of my absolute favorite people on the planet—was recently given a cancer diagnosis for the second time in her life. After going through the trials and tribulations of chemo and radiation over a decade ago, she opted not to pursue treatment this time around. Knowing what this meant, she desired to soak up and enjoy the time she had left with her freedom and family, rather than with prescriptions and medical appointments. At peace with her decision, and knowing her family supported her, she experienced a rapid health decline. For days now, we’ve been waiting, moment to moment, for the inevitable news of her passing. Today was that day.
Living 9,000+ miles away is particularly difficult in times like these. I was able to tell her how much I loved her via FaceTime—and I’m incredibly grateful for the technology that made that possible—but I think we can all probably agree that it’s not the same as actually being present. I’m not there to partake in the hugs, the reminiscing, or the sharing of tears and grief. I’m not able to do much more than offer up encouraging words, which always feel trite when delivered over the phone. I always knew this would be a possibility when I decided to live overseas, and I’m honestly not fishing for pity; I’m simply processing how loss is hard and being far away from loved ones only makes it harder.
In spite of this devastating loss, and the roller coaster of emotions I’ve experienced in the previous weeks, I’m doing ok, relatively speaking. Don’t get me wrong—I wept like a baby in need of a pacifier when I received the news, but when the tears (temporarily) stopped flowing, I felt a peace that surpasses understanding. I know it sounds cliché and Bible-y, but it’s true! In fact, speaking of Scripture, one of King David’s stories immediately came to my mind as the reality of the loss sank in.
I imagine most of us are familiar with what is probably King David’s most famous blunder (and for those who aren’t, just Google “David and Bathsheba”). The story of David’s punishment is the one that lodged itself in my head this morning. The story comes from 2 Samuel 12:13-23.
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”
After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.
On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”
David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.
“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”
Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.
His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”
He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
As I thought about my peaceful feelings regarding the loss of my grandmother, I felt like David’s attendants accusing myself. “Why do you feel this way? You’ve been spontaneously breaking out in tears like a broken water line for days, but now that she’s gone, you’re just fine?” And then the David voice in me replied, “I did all I could from afar. I prayed for a miracle. I asked God to allow her to be a part of the 1% Club of survivors again. I talked with her while she was lucid and let her know how much she means to me. And, in the end, I entrusted her to God’s care, believing that the will of God is best for all involved, even when it hurts. What more can I do now?”
As I look to the days, weeks, months, years ahead, it’s hard to imagine existing in a world without Grandma Spud. She’s been a solid staple in my life from the moment I first opened my eyes. A given. Death is also a given in life, but no matter how much you experience it, no matter how prepared you are for it in a given circumstance, it still feels like a punch to the gut. Aspects of it can still take you by surprise, for better or worse. Unfortunate as being far away is, I know logically there’s nothing “wrong” about it—I know I'm not a bad person for being where I am. Still, there will probably always be a small part of me that regrets not being there.
But what’s done is done. Working through and experiencing the grief is good, proper, and healthy, but dwelling there indefinitely is not. Grief is meant to be seasonal; it may come, and it may come frequently, but it’s also meant to go. It’s meant to ebb and flow. I know Grandma’s desire for all of us is to carry on and live our lives. So I will embrace the grief for a period and allow it to run its course, but will not carry the weight of guilt for not being there when it was time for her to go and for being ok when she did. Instead, I will practice gratitude for the nearly 30 years I was blessed to have her in my life. I will gather up and cherish the beautiful memories we made. I will remember. I will laugh. I will smile. I will live. And, as is my specialty, I will tell stories, the beautiful, wonderful stories I have of her to anyone who will listen. I can think of no better tribute to such an incredible, strong, loving woman.
And I will start now. Some of my favorite memories of Grandma Spud include:
· The pride she had when she told people she got to be one of the first people to hold me after I was born;
· Hearing her tell the story of the time my car seat tipped over and she heard me asking, “Up, please,” from the back seat;
· My very first overnight trip away from home—8 days with her and Grandpa;
· Being the only ones in the theater when we went to see The Iron Giant;
· Watching her sip tea and read a book in her rocking chair;
· Lovingly poking fun at her for her collection of unused yarn and hopeful crochet projects;
· “By the gods of war!”;
· Shouting “Love you!” up and down the ¼ mile driveway every time we left her house;
· Quiet conversations over breakfast sandwiches;
· Her booking it faster than I’d ever seen her move when a remote-controlled helicopter decided to literally separate rotor from body while hovering over her head;
· Her borderline obsessive fondness for sunflowers;
· Witnessing her wield an Airsoft pistol as she waged war on the thieving squirrels at her bird feeders;
· Seeing the passages she felt needed to be highlighted after borrowing my Harry Potter books;
· The utter shock of seeing her in Lesotho when she and my family came to visit;
· Her reaction when some elephants got a little too close on safari; and
· When she whispered in my ear how proud of me she was as she hugged me at my wedding
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it’s what comes to mind off the top of my head. I think a lot of people probably believe they have the best grandma in the world, and that’s totally fine. I don’t need to prove them wrong. I’m content in the quiet knowledge that I really did have the best.
I love you to infinity and beyond, Grandma. See you when all is made new.
Until next time, friends, keep telling stories.
Voiceover Artist | Storyteller