A letter to Grandma for Her Birthday

Dear Grandma,

I can’t even to begin to imagine how hard these last few months have been for you. From the first hospital visit to today, your whole life has changed. Grandpa was your rock, and I can’t imagine anything that would be harder for you than losing him.

I’ve watched you this last year. I’ve seen the strength you gave him when you had no strength left because you knew he needed those last moments, we needed those last moments before he went to the Father. I know the nights you didn’t sleep because he didn’t sleep. I know that even when he did sleep you laid awake to keep watch over him.

I know how you struggle today to fill your time because he was your time. I know how alone you feel because he was your other half. I know that you never imagined a life without him because he was your life.

And I sat at your table this week. And you watched the boys play their games and we talked about life and everything that had happened in the week since we had seen you. And we even talked about Grandpa a little. Not in any big or hard ways, but just in the natural way he came up in conversation, in how he would react to the world around us. Or how we all think of him every time Purdue plays basketball. (Oh my goodness, he would be madder than my husband in how they have been playing!)

I’m not sure why, but this has been a hard week for me. I miss Grandpa so much right now, maybe even more than the week he died. He was always there to talk to, and sometimes when we talk I imagine how he would react to it. And if I’m struggling this much this week, I can’t even imagine how hard things are for you.

I love Grandpa so much, but I know you love him even more than I can imagine. I can’t imagine losing my husband after 11 years of marriage, and I know that’s only a drop in the bucket after 60. I wish I could tell you how to move on, how to breath in and breath out every day. I wish I could tell you what to do to make each day easier. I wish there was a way I could make each day easier.

And I know (and I know you know) there is a reason God called Grandpa home and left you here with us. And not that I would pick him over you, I’m just selfish enough to want you both here with me now. It makes me want to scream out that it isn’t fair. And we all know that isn’t the way life works. We all have a story to tell and God doesn’t call us home until our story is done, no matter how long or short the story is.

Sunday is your 80th birthday. Maybe that is why Grandpa being gone hurts so much this week. I can just see him trying to convince you that you needed a party and 80 candles on a cake. I can see him rejoicing that God gave us all one more year with you.

And maybe that’s where we all need to be right now. Yes, it hurts so much. Yes, we will continue to cry and miss Grandpa, but his story was told. Your story isn’t finished and we need to continue to tell it. And I thank God for every additional day I have with you, that my boys have with you because your story isn’t finished. And while I didn’t believe, even after he was sick, that Grandpa’s story was coming to an end, I am so thankful for every day we had with him. And I know you are, too.

So know that while you are struggling through this time of change, we are struggling with you. And know that while you are learning how to live without Grandpa, we are too. I know it’s not the same. I know as much as I hurt, you must hurt 1,000 times more. But also know that your story isn’t finished. God still has work for you to do here on earth.

This may be the least happiest birthday letter ever written. And this is probably your least happiest birthday ever. And while we celebrate God giving us another year with you, it’s okay to have tears for the year He didn’t give us with Grandpa.

I’m sorry this letter isn’t more cheery, but I don’t think cheer is what any of us have to give right now. Maybe for your 81st birthday we can be cheery. I love you very, very much. Happy Birthday, Grandma.

 

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Yesterday Jesus Won

One of the greatest men I've ever had the pleasure of loving

One of the greatest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of loving

Yesterday my grandpa’s battle with brain cancer came to an end. Grandpa didn’t lose and cancer didn’t win. Yesterday Jesus won.

Yesterday morning, Jesus sent an army of angels and took Grandpa home to be with Him.

Grandpa was one of the two most influential men in my life. And the only thing he loved more than Grandma and the rest of his family was his God, the Lord and Savior of his life. Yesterday, Grandpa got to see Him. And it is good.

We are grieving. We do cry. But even Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. (John 11:35) Even knowing that one day Lazarus would be with Him eternally, and knowing that He would raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus wept. Jesus mourned. And in the same way we are mourning and hurting.

There is no doubt in anyone mind where my grandpa is spending eternity. And there will be no pain, no tears, no cancer. It is so good.

Right after I got the phone call yesterday morning, God put a verse on my heart. Psalms 118:24 “Today is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” It gave me such peace. Yes, I still hurt and yes I still cried. But it was the day the Lord had made and we did rejoice and be glad in it.

I think about the time God gave us. He gave us so much time that some people don’t get. We all got those last memories and times to say good-bye, to tell Grandpa that we loved him. And some of them weren’t the memories we were wanting to make this summer, but they were good in their own right.

Monday was the last time I saw him. And we got to make some great memories. Although Grandpa could only sit in his chair out on the patio, he watched as Cameron completed the last project on Grandpa’s list of things that needed to be done. And when we were ready to leave, he told us that he loved us and then asked the boys to tell their dad he said hello. Even at the end, he remembered us all and loved us.

There are going to be many tears and moments of great sadness. But even in those times, we know this is good. Because today, the cancer is defeated. Grandpa’s mind is sharp, and he is spending today with Jesus. And it is good.

Last Sunday at church, the message was about David, having a heart of a champion and about leaving behind a legacy of honoring God. Let me tell you, Grandpa had a heart of a champion and what a legacy he leaves behind. It’s a legacy of loving Jesus with all his heart, of loving his wife and his family, of hard work and compassion, of selflessness and generosity. And over the next few days as we get ready to put Grandpa’s body to rest and tell stories of his life, we will remember that legacy he leaves behind.

His favorite verse was Micah 6:8 “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” That was how Grandpa lived his life and how those of us left behind will honor his memory.

For those of you who know me personally, there will not be a viewing or funeral. Grandpa requested a private, family only graveside service. Thank you for understanding that we will be respecting his wish.

A Day With Grandpa

Yesterday was a really hard day. The boys and I went to see Grandpa for the first time since his diagnosis, and the first time the boys had seen him since he first got sick.

I have been talking to the boys about Grandpa John being sick. It’s hard to find the words to explain what is going on to them. I told them that he was sick. I told them he probably wouldn’t be getting better. I told them he wouldn’t be the same as he was the last time that they saw him. That he had a funny haircut and a bed in his living room. That he was in a wheel chair instead of his normal kitchen table chair. I told them that he wouldn’t be able to take them on a tractor ride or a walk to look for turtles. I told them they would have to give him soft hugs instead of the big, hard hugs that Connor loves to give that will knock a person down.

I asked if they had any questions. Connor told me that he had a question about animals. So I asked if they had any questions about Grandpa John. They had important questions like, “Why doesn’t Grandma fix Grandpa John’s funny haircut?” We covered what was going on the best that I could in one sitting. Connor told me that he need to just sit next to Grandpa John while he was sick.

We got to Grandpa’s just as the Hospice nurse was getting there. The boys became instantly shy, but we still got to see grandpa. And he behaved like he always did and asked Connor if he could run over Connor’s foot with his wheelchair to see if it would hurt.

We sent the boys out to play while the nurse was there, but eventually we did get to visit. I sat at the table with Grandpa. It was good. It was hard. It’s times like these that you just want to fix everything but there is no way to fix it. We laughed. These times are hard, but we aren’t just going to sit around and cry the whole time. Even though these aren’t the memories we wanted to be making, but we are going to make the best memories we can in the time we have.

Eventually Grandpa had to lie down and take a nap. And as he napped in the hospital bed in the living room, Connor sat quietly in the recliner next to him, reading his book and keeping watch. Grandpa woke to adjust and told us that he couldn’t find the light. We asked what light he was looking for and he replied, “The light of glory.” Oh, Grandpa, don’t worry. You’ll find it when it’s time.

Before we left, we all gathered around the bed, with Connor holding one of Grandpa’s hands and Cameron hold the other, and prayed together. We prayed for healing because our God is a God of miracles. Grandpa asked the boys if they know Jesus. (They do.) The most important thing to him right now is knowing that all of his family knows and loves Jesus. And then Grandpa gave both of the boys a dollar.

It was hard. It was good. It was emotional.

Once we were on the road, I asked the boys if they had any questions after seeing Grandpa John. They wanted to know why he gave them a dollar, and I told them it was because Grandpa John loves them. The only other question came from Cameron. He wanted to know why Grandpa John wanted to hold his hand to pray. “That’s not how you pray.” Then Cameron folded his hands and showed me that with folded hands is the right way to pray. I had to explain that there is no right way to pray and that sometimes people like to hold hands to pray.

Both boys put their dollars in safe places. Cameron slept with his by the bed with his hearing aids “because it’s a special dollar from Grandpa John.” They may not understand everything that is going on, but they do understand that something is different. That this time is different. And special. They are making memories, too.

It’s hard and we are all just taking it one day at a time. I’m trying so hard to find that fine line between absolutely believing that God could heal Grandpa and understanding that He probably won’t.

God Uses All Things For Good, Even When It Sucks.

Over the past couple of months we’ve been going through some hard stuff. My grandpa hadn’t been feeling quite right so he went to see the doctor. They put him on some medications and a couple of days later we were admitting him to the hospital. He was hallucinating and hearing voices inside his head.

After a few days in the hospital, it was decided that all of his problems were side effects from the medications that he had been on. They took him on the medicine, and he appeared to be doing better. Yes, he was still struggling with seeing things that weren’t there, but he was having good days, too. We all believed that once the medications had worked their way completely through his system that he would be well, again.

The next week he and my grandma (and parents and aunt and uncle and friends) all went on a cruise to Alaska together. Everyone was nervous but it was decided that they would go. And like at home, there were good times and bad. And in the end everyone was glad they had gone.

On the way home from Alaska, grandpa took a turn for the worse. And a couple of days after they were home, he struggled to control his left arm and leg and fell. We had to call the ambulance, and he was rushed to the hospital. Once there they began treating him as if he had a stroke. None of us believed it was a stroke. We argued with the doctors. We pushed for more tests and other diagnosis. Finally we pushed on the right doctor.

They did several more tests and determined that grandpa had not had a stroke. They found he had an abscess on his brain, so basically just a really bad infection. They started him on antibiotics for it and began to talk about surgery to drain it. They didn’t know if any permanent damage had been done, but we were all just so thankful to know what was wrong and that they had a plan to get him better.

I think that relief may have lasted 48 hours, maybe. Two days ago, the doctors took grandpa into surgery. We prayed, and asked others to pray, and waited. Grandpa came through the surgery great, but they did not drain the infection. Because, you see, it turns out it wasn’t an abscess after all. It is glioblastoma multiforme, a fast acting, incurable, cancerous tumor.

Best case scenario, God heals grandpa. I truly believe this is an option. With treatment, the doctors say he had about 14 months. Without treatment, the doctors are saying less than 6 months. Even with treatment, grandpa will continue to struggle with the use of his left side and continue to have problems with hallucinations.

grandma and grandpa

My heart is just broken. I cry until there seem to be no tears left and then I’ll think of something and find out that there were tears left after all.

I’m not ready for this. I haven’t heard all his stories. And then I look at my little boys who adore their Grandpa John and I know they haven’t heard enough of his stories. Or taken enough tractor rides or walks or gotten into nearly enough trouble with him.

And then to go with all the other crappy emotions I’m feeling these days, I feel guilty and selfish. If it’s this hard for me, then how hard is it for my mom? He’s her dad. How is my grandma coping? They’ve been married for over 50 years. And it’ll probably piss them both off when they read that.

There are things I know that help, or will help over the coming months. My grandpa and my God are tight. They are on really good terms, and there is no doubt where my grandpa will be spending eternity. And it’s so much better than anywhere on Earth.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” I know God is using this for His good. But boy does it suck. And we may never know what good God is using this for, but I know He is. I know He has a big plan that I can not understand.

walking by water

I know that God will use all that we are going through, no matter the outcome for His good. I know that everything will work out according to His plan. I know that, in the end, we will all be together again. And there will be no pain, no sickness, no hurt, and no tears.

But today, even knowing all that, doesn’t make my heart hurt any less.