Words shared in Lone Oak in celebration of my grandmother’s life.
The route down I-65 South always seems to pass quickly but once you take the right turn on exit 91, time starts to crawl. The Western Kentucky Parkway is a time warp – miles passing by without any major milestones, other than the middle-of-the-highway Beaver Dam rest stop where we fuel up with caffeinated beverages and snacks.
But there was always a reward at the end. Winding through Lone Oak, we would pull into the driveway, whether off of Bleich Road or Pepper’s Mill, to find steps adorned with seasonal décor and a door opened by two smiling faces – my grandparents, Betty and Roger. Eager to hug us, grateful for our safe arrival, noticing the length of time it had been since we had last made the trip, they would receive us into their spotless, recently-rearranged home.
It is a gift that I wish for everyone – to have people who smile-wide every time they greet you and usher you into a place prepared for your arrival.
Now that my grandmother has completed this last leg of the race – a final journey that she did not like – one of physical weakness and absence from her beloved Roger, I have placed her back here at home with Roger.
Seasonal décor fills the house. Porcelain roosters. Blue-and-white vases. Expertly-made beds. Old family photos in frames. Readers Digest stacked in the bathrooms. A new blouse to return because it just didn’t fit right. Empty birdcages. The latest fabric sample for a new chair. Framed pictures of the loves of her life: son, Jim, and daughter, Kathy.
Devotionals stacked in the office with the latest one out in her bathroom, well folded and worn. The paper-thin pages of her leather Message Bible, showing the effects of too much underlining and worried reading, placed by the chair on the porch over-top the book on the answers of what Heaven is like. Pictures of family on the refrigerator. Her sister Maxine’s paintings in gold frames.
Pantry and refrigerator filled with food that only Betty could gather. Seeds of various kinds. Organic oils. Alternative milks. Aloe vera gel. Glass measuring cups with unrecognizable concoctions to be consumed through a straw. Evidence of her latest food strategy: Carrots. No water during a meal. Eating while standing.
Betty was always a put-together woman, leaving the house in a well-composed outfit that had been achieved through a long-pursuit of perfection. But when puttering around the house, she would be found with a headband holding back her hair, skin covered in some kind of lotion or eye cream, robe around her body, slippers on her feet. I found this look to be my favorite – for it signaled you were on the inner circle. It was the greatest privilege to know her behind-closed-doors – the woman at home, puttering around her kitchen. If I ever pulled out a digital camera or later my phone, you could hear her exclaim, “Oh, not like this, my hair is a mess!”
For all the hours of devotionals, her collection of scripture and biblical advice, and the practice of prayer to which she committed herself, there was not enough power in the world to let loose the anxiety that she carried around like a child’s blanket – gripping its well-worn edges, keeping it close to the touch, rotating it so that her hands could feel the shape of it. She knew the mental routines of worry by heart – for worry was her love language. If she loved you, she worried about you. She prayed mightily for you. She knew what could go wrong and she held that possibility close as if safeguarding you from the pain of it.
She prayed without ceasing, but I remember it most vividly in the mornings. Most of the time, I slept late and she would kick me out of bed so that she could make the bed, but occasionally, I would be up early and I would see her in the kitchen – puttering around. Awake before the dawn and accomplishing far more than any sane person does in the early hours.
These words I share are ones I wrote in the early morning hours as my family sleeps and the day has not yet begun. But I had been up for a while. I had eaten scrambled eggs with Vegesal seasoning(the one thing from her pantry that I came to love). I’d puttered. I’d read scripture. I am Betty’s granddaughter.
As I did, I gave thanks that the woman who never rested well on earth is now finally at home, content in a place of perfection that needs no redecorating, whole in a body that needs no home-health remedy, and reunited with Roger, Maxine, Dalton Elwood, Terry, and her parents.
Now when she communes with God, it is without the anxiety and worries for she no longer sees in the mirror dimly. Now she sees face-to-face. No longer in part, now in full, she knows a never-ending peace that stitches up wounds and wraps her in the comfort of a well-worn quilt. In the prepared place, Betty’s heart is not troubled for she has found her way and she is at home. She has been welcomed by her Lord who smiles wide and ushers her into a place prepared for her. Now when she sighs and speaks her regular prayer, “Lord, Lord, Roger” and “Good Lands Roger,” it is with a content smile – knowing what she could not know before, living eternally with a soul at rest, body in peace.
While we remain here and we learn life without her, may we lean on her faith and wait patiently for the same wholeness that she now enjoys. May we remind ourselves that the destination is a fulfillment of all our yearnings– full redemption and wholeness, a content heart and a peace that needs not understanding to be ours.
Rest well, Betty, and prepare our rooms with the same care that you always did. For whenever it is our time, I know you and Roger will greet us with a smile, a hug, and a roast ready in the kitchen for a divine feast with coconut pie and home-made ice cream waiting for dessert.
All will be well.
All is already well.
Thanks be to God.