Have you ever been to a funeral that was a truly positive experience? Recently, I witnessed such an event as the life of someone precious and dear to me ended.
The woman with me on the bicycle built for two was someone that will forever be grafted to my heart. Her unique flair and personality is captured extremely well by this timeless photo. She was an absolute trip! The reason her recent funeral was a truly positive experience is because we were able to celebrate her life. She was blessed with nearly 94 years of life, and I was blessed with so many extra years and special moments with her over her last 16 years. I lived with her when I was 18. My grandmother (Esther) and I shared a bond that many people rarely ever share with loved ones.
The Last Page of a Gracefully Written Story
I fondly remember her last night here. As I made a typical weekly visit to see her at the personal care home that she was living in, she asked me something new. She asked me to take her to the chapel. Honestly, I didn’t even know there was one in the building, since she never mentioned it in the six months she lived there. We found the room, and my mother, grandmother and I spent some great quality time talking, reflecting on scripture and praying. She kept speaking of “how miraculous God was,” and the night ended with a warm hug and kiss. She seemed to be well in her mind, soul, body and spirit that night. She certainly affirmed her relationship with God.
The next day I got a call that she passed away peacefully in her bed. I truly believe the Lord helped her to know that her time was coming to an end, and her choice in how to spend the last night with us was a reflection of that. God beautifully wrote the very last page of the book of her life. He so lovingly and gracefully ended her story. I am eternally thankful for that. I am thankful that He spared her from an elongated life that could have been full of agony and a more difficult dying process.
Grandma was all about relationships and family. She was always about peace, closeness, and unity within the family and others she knew. She put others first constantly. She lived like Jesus asked us to live through her relentless, unconditional love. Grandma was always remembering everyone and their loved ones. She had a steal trap memory. She would remember the 17th anniversary of my friend’s fourth cousin! She always had 100+ cards and little gift projects going on at the same time. There are still tons of them on her bed at home that were never completed. Even during that last night, I was helping her finish one.
She was a wife of noble character, as well as a godly mother, grandmother and great grandmother. More importantly, she was a committed follower of Jesus Christ. That decision will forever define her life legacy.
My father and grandmother explain so much of the man that I am today. I explain this in one of my books, Running Down Your Dreams.
The Lady Who Got Half of My Cross
I walk around each day with a special cross on my neck. There are two names interwoven on each part of the back of the cross (Esther and Robert). They are my grandmother and father respectively, and symbolize so much of the man that I am. They help the world that gets to know me better understand where many of my dreams were launched from. My grandmother is the only one who remains as I write this chapter, so I want to focus on this special lady who got half of my cross. So much of who she is has given me greater clarity about what a wife of noble character looks like, on the back-end of things. For those earlier in a marriage or those desiring one day to be married, her outlook on relationships and life continues to be a blessing to the world that knows her as God continues to give her extended life on Earth.
She has been an encouragement to so many, that my prayer is that her life would encourage yours and the pursuit of your dreams. She was one of twelve children to a couple who built a love that lasted for many decades (something almost non-existent today). As she looks back over her life in the midst of her tenth decade, she realized a few nuggets of wisdom that related to her dreams and life purpose. Perseverance is the key to so much in her eyes. She realized that you need to persevere in love so that when you have done the will of God you will receive what He has promised you in life (see Heb. 10:36). Looking back she is confident that God’s plan many times could be different and turn out better than what we expect (despite our best laid plans). She affirms you have to fight any temptations to grow depressed or weary as you walk through the seasons of life that seem not to make any sense logically. She firmly believes, when someone is down you should work to help them up. It is a passionate calling for her that became the fulfillment of a dream that I believe God’s heart has for all of us.
She encourages us to be open to His plans and to seek Him with our dreams because He has the most qualified answers. People call her a dreamer. She believes life is a dream and God works in mysterious ways. We should enjoy the ride, and value relationships deeply. Furthermore, she has a steel trap memory, and it is amazing how she is able to reflect gratitude to the world in abundance. It is even more remarkable today in a world that is so fast-paced and self-centered. She has been my teacher of outward focused living, and for that I am eternally grateful. She is like a record that never stops playing your favorite love song. Her essence is one of passion for caring for others first, and it is an endearing quality that has impacted my life forever. She has spread that gift in a contagious way to many more than me (what a life legacy to leave behind one day)!
She really has left this legacy behind as we celebrated her life, and I praise God for that. I know He took her home now to be with Him in a place that He prepared for her! My grandma understood this truth and had assurance of her eternal destiny because of the commitment she made to follow Jesus with her life through Him all of her days. She took to heart the Holy scriptures, and lived a life that proved that most important decision she ever made. Jesus shares this with us in the book of John:
John 14:1-10 (NIV)
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
The best way we can honor my grandmother’s life well lived, in my opinion, is to do a 2-fold gut check:
- First (since my grandmother was all about love and relationships), are there any relationships in your life that are crying out for mending, unconditional love, reconciliation or restoration? If so, be the first person to take the step forward to make amends. Do it now, don’t wait. Life is short and precious. God is love.
- Second, do you have a relationship with Jesus like my grandma clearly did? Since God has offered us all a place in heaven if we are willing to believe in God’s love that was shown to the world through the life, death, burial and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ, have you surrendered your need to be in control of your life? Have you asked Jesus to be in close relationship with you, like a best friend would be? He desires to be our best friend, if we are willing to make him the Lord of our lives and accept his gift of salvation. To honor my grandma who loved all people, it is my prayer that you would give Jesus access to your heart in prayer, so He can prepare a place for you one day. Maybe it will be close to grandma’s. Even if it isn’t, I bet you she will be glad to see you again.
*I help my coaching clients focus on important life lessons like these so they can achieve better balance both personally and professionally. If you’d like to find out more about my life coaching company, Live With Purpose Coaching, feel free to contact me at (717) 283-2377.