I’m going to apologize ahead of time that this post might be a bit of a tear jerker. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write it or not, but last Friday, we got word that Matt’s grandfather finally passed away. He had been sick and in a lot of pain for a long while. I never got a chance to meet him as he seemed to always been in a precarious state when I had time to go for a visit. But that happens and knowing how much he meant to Matt and his family, he will have a dear place in my heart as well.
I was one of the lucky ones to not have any grandparents pass while I was in grade school/high school, even in college. I had several friends who had to deal with losing a grandparent while we were in school, and although I love my grandparents dearly, I had no idea how to sympathize with them. My grandparents have always been, as the Japanese say, genki (“gen-kee”) – strong, and energetic, if not healthy. And we have enough personality in the family to make Joe Biden jealous after a debate. Going to see the grandparents, which was a short drive for one set and a long 6-hour drive to Pittsburgh for the other, was always a good time and filled with laughter, usually good treats (whether oatmeal cookies or pancakes for breakfast), and great hiding places for games with the cousins.
My grandparents have always been devoted followers of Christ. My mother’s parents got saved and plugged into a church after they were married. From two very strong Italian families, they threw themselves into the faith. My grandpa became an ordained minister, my grandmother taught Sunday School, they both sang in the choir, and they lived their lives with integrity. There are two things you could count on when visiting the family in Pennsylvania – good food and going to church. And we loved it! The church was small and sweet – I have fond memories of Easter egg hunts, getting to church early and helping to fold the bulletins, and using flannel-graph during Sunday School.
I think that, as children, you always think certain people will most definitely be at your wedding. It’s sad to know that some will not because of distance, cost, changed relationships, but death is the most abrupt form of separation. I have two grandparents who will not be attending because they have gone on to heaven. I also have an uncle and a cousin who I would have loved to be there, but I hold on to the hope that we are separated only for a time and will all see each other again.
We said goodbye to my Grandma Russell last November. She had got an infection in her heart and before it was discovered, it was too late for treatment. She was in the hospital a bit before Thanksgiving and then moved to hospice. A day or two before she went, there was a great moment of clarity (she had been sleeping off and on for a long time and not making much sense). We had quite a bit of time where she was talking with us and telling us how special we were to her. We spent the evening around her bed singing sweet hymns trying our best not to choke over the words. It is one of my favorite memories and I am so grateful to have it.
My mother’s dad, Pappy Cook, ended up in the hospital early this year, in February, I believe. He had been suffering through the effects of Alzheimers and deteriorating mentally for a few years now. Out of nowhere, he developed a blood condition – he wasn’t producing any platelets and no matter what the doctors did, he wasn’t getting better. We went for a visit and his memory was really fading. He would get caught up on one thing and ask the same question about 50 times during a visit. What I loved, though, was that my Pappy had always been a goofy, ornery kind of man. He was still that man, but he became even sweeter. He might not have remembered who we were all the time, but he was the gentlest, most gracious patient and above all, he never lost his faith. I am grateful for that as well, and for the testimony he gave to every person who walked into that hospital room. I miss so much of him, even though we didn’t get to see him that often – his laugh, his jokes, his smell, his singing, how he would bop us on the head when we walked by, his prayers, how he rode the factory ride with me over and over at Hershey Park just so I could get another free candy bar, and so much more!
Matt’s Grandma Martin passed away in 2009. She went in for a surgery and suddenly was gone. I have heard how much she meant to his family, to the whole family. I would love to hear more about her, but sometimes it’s hard to talk about loved ones who have gone on. Matt’s mom made recipe boxes for all of the cousins with recipes of grandma’s and covered in pictures of her and the family. Matt told me that when he was younger, sometimes it was hard for the family to get to and from church, so she and his grandpa would often convey the boys the 40 minutes to get to the church and then back. She was a spiritual leader for the family and her family was very important to her. (I’ll try to get a picture up here soon; we’re having some technical difficulties in getting one.) Here’s one story from Matt: “Once they (Grandma and Grandpa) were talking about going to Hueston’s restaurant. Their specialty was frog-legs. Grandma asked what they were like and Grandpa said, ‘A lot like chicken legs. She said, ‘I’ll just have the chicken legs then.'”
When I started this post, I said that Matt’s grandpa had just passed away. That was last Friday. He had been sick for quite some time. Matt’s mom’s family is from somewhere down in Kentucky (I have yet to locate it on a map!) and so his grandparents have been down there, along with an aunt and uncle. He had served in the military and I’m not sure if it was from the discipline he gained there or not, but Matt says he was a very orderly man – everything had its own place. A man after my own heart, I’m told he was a storyteller, but whether they were true or not is another story. I wish I had more to tell you about him, but I’m going to have to learn the stories myself before I can share them with you. I do know that he became a believer well into his adult years, but that he was a committed follower of Christ.
There are so many things I wish I could tell you, so many inside jokes that you wouldn’t understand unless you were in my own quirky family. I know Matt would say the same.
Thank you for reading and I hope I didn’t make you cry too much. If so, just holler at me next time you see me and I’ll tell you some of the silly stories too. Trust me, I’ve got plenty!
I’m getting married to my, you guessed it, best friend on June 1st, 2013! Matt and I are super-excited and since we have quite a bit of time to plan this thing, I decided it’d be fun to blog about it. Well, maybe not always fun, but at least informative and it might give me a welcome distraction. You can find all the posts by clicking the “Getting Married” tab on the right of this page, or by clicking here. Thanks for stopping by!
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