I’ve been putting off writing this post because I wanted it to be worthy of her. My grandmother passed away one day short of a month ago, and my life has gone on at a frenetic pace ever since. Travel home. Travel back. Birthday. Anniversary. End of quarter. Grade submission. Classroom observation. Parent/Teacher conferences. Things are beginning to slow down a bit now, and while I am thankful for the time to breathe, I am also more acutely aware of the loss.
When my grandfather died back in 2006, my grandmother asked me to speak at his funeral. I represented the grandchildren and shared all our best memories. A couple of years ago, my grandmother made a comment in passing, something along the lines of, “When I die, and Sarah speaks at my funeral …” That was before Indonesia was even on our radar. Just before David and I boarded the plane back in July, my grandmother was my “last phone call.” She expressed nothing but excitement and unwavering support, albeit through a few tears.
I knew that she wouldn’t have expected me to come back. When my mom messaged me the news, however, I couldn’t imagine not being there. It was selfish on my part, probably. I wanted to grieve with my family, not halfway around the world. I wanted to remember and celebrate her life alongside the people who knew and loved her the best. And I wanted to share something worthy of her.
So here is my offering.
Momo Ev. Grandmommy. Ommy. Meme. How do I even begin to share the virtues of someone as diverse as the names by which she was called? As I began to prepare for today, I came across a verse that I had never noticed before. Paul opens his first letter to the church in Thessalonica by giving thanks for the lives of the believers there. He writes, “We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Faithful work. Loving deeds. Enduring hope. As the grandchildren have spent the last few days remembering our grandmother, every memory fits perfectly within these categories. Her life exemplified faithful work, loving deeds, and enduring hope.
Momo Ev (as Wiley, Zackry, and Baily called her) was one of the hardest working women I have ever met. As a child I remember sitting down to family dinners and noticing that everyone was there except her. She couldn’t sit down to enjoy a meal until she knew that everyone else was taken care of. Momo Ev was the consummate homemaker. Her house was immaculate, and her meals were delicious. She volunteered her time teaching Sunday School and playing her harmonica for the church and at nursing homes. She accomplished her tasks with diligence and excellence. She knew the “sickness” side of “in sickness or in health,” and she selflessly cared for our grandfather through debilitating illness. Momo Ev knew the faithfulness of God (which we just finished singing), and her own faithful work emulated his faithfulness to us.
Ommy (as Jayme, Ericka, Carlee, JD, and Grace called her) not only demonstrated faithfulness in her work, but also in a deep and personal love for all those whom she would serve. While we all have similar memories of Ommy playing games with us (Rook, Dominos, Chess, Scrabble, and who could forget Mafia??), cooking for us, traveling to watch us perform or compete in various activities, our memories are also very different. She loved us each individually and really knew each of her grandchildren intimately. When you came for a visit, you could be sure that Ommy had prepared your favorite dessert, in the case of the visits from the Thompson kids, that would be TWO desserts because some liked Oreo chocolate ice cream cake while others preferred Sherbet dessert. She made sure Grace got her favorite pink washcloth every time she came for a visit. She made JD Mickey Mouse pancakes complete with Mickey Mouse ears. She let Jayme and Carlee get away with cheating in Chicken Foot and let almost every grandchild play “beauty shop” with her as their model. Ommy was our greatest cheerleader and fan. We have memories of her visits to dance and piano recitals, basketball games, track meets, plays, and concerts. She gave generously of her time, her money, and her words. She had faith in us that we sometimes didn’t have in ourselves and was quick to offer just the right word of encouragement for whatever we were pursuing, be it mission trips or medical school.
Ericka shared with me that the biggest lesson she learned from Ommy was how to love a husband well. Ommy’s love and respect for Papa John provided an example I believe each of her children and grandchildren aspire to. The other day my mom told me an Ommy story I hadn’t ever heard …
It was about a month after my parents had gotten married, and the proverbial honeymoon season was over. My dad came home one evening a little out of sorts, and in her frustration with my dad’s attitude, my mom called up my grandmother hoping for a little sympathy. She told Ommy that she wasn’t sure this marriage thing was for her because it just shouldn’t be this hard, and isn’t marriage supposed to be all about her anyway? Ommy refused to coddle her, instructing her to hang up that phone immediately and get in there and do whatever it takes to make him happy! For that Daniel and I are eternally grateful. 😉 She wasn’t afraid to stand up for what was right or put you in your place if you deserved it. And if you did deserve it, you probably got the “hairy eyeball” as well.
Meme (as Daniel called her) loved people well. She worked hard in everything she did. But the impetus for her love and hard work was the hope she found in Jesus Christ. I remember as a teenager driving down to Buchanan Dam to see her get baptized by my uncle Jack. I was impressed that a grown adult, one of the people who was supposed to have it all figured out, was honest about her own doubts and struggles concerning her faith. She truly modeled what it meant to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” and I am the better for having witnessed it. She became quick to share what the Lord had done for her, expressing gratitude sometimes right alongside sorrow. Thanksgiving share times became both a cherished and dreaded event in our house because no one could hold his composure after Meme shared.
After Papa John passed away, things were unimaginably difficult for her. She took it upon herself to learn everything there was to learn about heaven, anticipating the day that she would be reunited with Papa John and finally face to face with Jesus. She experienced the tension we find in Philippians 1:21, which says, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” She believed that God had kept her here for a reason and did her best to accomplish the first part of that verse. She lived for Christ through the way she worked diligently and the way she loved extravagantly. She prayed for us constantly, reminding us often that despite distance she was “only a prayer away.” She experienced her share of pain, but she did not mourn as one who had no hope. Nor do we mourn in such a way today. Her enduring hope was in the person of Jesus Christ, who, when he returns, will raise the living and the dead. Then we will be with the Lord forever.
My favorite memory of Grandmommy (as I called her) happened nearly two years ago. It had been my dream for as long as I could remember for Grandmommy to play her harmonica at my wedding. When that day finally came, she led us all in worship as we proclaimed together, “Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.” In this one act I could see the diligence with which she prepared her performance, the love that she expressed to me through her music, and the hope that she proclaimed through the chosen song. I am beyond grateful to have had a grandmother such as she. As I remember Grandmommy today, I thank God for her faithful work, her loving deeds, and the enduring hope she had because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
My time at home was so precious. I didn’t think I’d be home for another year and a half, so the chance to spend time with family was a huge blessing. We had a lot of laughs and cried a lot of tears … in true Grandmommy fashion.
Grandkids Ericka & Wiley with Great Grandkids Aurora & Colt
Grace, Jayme & I
Wiley, Zackry, Sarah, Jayme, Ericka, JD, Daniel, Grace
Cousins & their spouses/fiancés/girlfriends/children; just missing David …