Thursday, February 10, 2005

Reflections on Grammy Hannah's Passing
It is not unnatural when a close family member dies to find oneself in a state of reflection, not only on remembering the life of the one who has just passed, but also to think about the inevitable passing of one’s own life.

Last night I was reading in the book of Ecclesiastes and I happened upon the following:

A good name is better than
Precious ointment,
And the day of death than the
Day of one’s birth;
Better to go to the house of
Than to go to the house of feasting,
For that is the end of all men;
And the living will take it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
For by a sad countenance the
Heart is made better.
The heart of the wise is in the
House of mourning,
But the heart of fools is in
The house of mirth.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-4

I don’t like pain, especially emotional pain. Losing a loved one forces me into a state of pain, and yet Solomon declares that this is good for my soul, just as the apostle James tells me to “count it all joy” when I fall into various trials because the end product is completion and maturity.

Death is a rude wake-up call that this life is not all that there is. It is a time when I am forced to remember that I too will make the “great change” one day. When I was young and all my life stretched out before me, it was easy to ignore this. Death only happened to other people and the very old. But as I grow older, I see my contemporaries falling by the wayside, cut down by Death’s sickle in their prime. I know of children born dead, and of those who died soon after birth, young people as well as the old, now dead, and I am forced time and again to face the fact that at some point my turn will come.

It is amazing to me how quickly the wounds close over and life goes on without the people who were once here. How quickly they are forgotten, maybe not by those who were immediately and intimately connected to them, but by everyone else. Over my parents’ fireplace mantle is a portrait of Grammy Hannah’s parents. If it were not for them, my grandmother, my father, I , my children, and my children’s children would not exist. Yet I never knew them and don’t know their life’s story. They have become merely a picture on the wall to me, rather than the living souls they are or once were. My own children only know of Grammy Hannah’s existence from a few memories and photos. One of my children will not even have a picture taken with her.

There is no remembrance of
Former things,
Nor will there be any
Remembrance of things that
Are to come
By those who come after.
Ecclesiastes 1:11

The ease with which we are forgotten would be discouraging to contemplate in relation to even my own life and impact I hope to leave on others but for one thing – God’s covenant mercies. Though the sins of the fathers are passed down to the third and fourth generation of those that hate him, His covenant love extends to thousands of those who love Him and keep His commandments.

How many of us are Christians because God used Christian parents to be a means of grace in our lives? How many of Grammy’s descendants will be one of the Heavenly throng because she was used by the Lord to be a means of grace to her children? And will our own children find us faithful or will we leave behind a legacy of profane and usesless living that no one really profited by in eternal terms, and which proved our own undoing?

I have many memories of Grammy to cherish. I can remember how excited I used to be when very small and it looked like we were headed to her home in Attleboro. I remember her nursing my grandfather through various illnesses and how she took care of him. I remember her helping out her older friend Annie, and hanging out clothes with her on the clothes line on Major Street. Going to Grammy’s to be babysat overnight was always a treat filled with cookies and cereal late at night. Her closet was a mysterious and aromatic cave of Avon cosmetics and I was always thrilled and felt so grown up when I got those tiny lipstick samplers from her. Some of my favorite bathtub toys were from Avon. I can’t think of Avon without thinking of Grammy.

I remember the terrifying trip down Route 9 with Grammy and my sister, where we alternated between hilarity and horror as Grammy took blind corners on the wrong side of the road. Mom was so upset because we were late getting into to town and no doubt wondered if we were dead in a ditch somewhere. Whenever possible, I tried to be the driver after that. Our last trip together came about eight years ago when she was still living with Uncle Irving. I had my old van and eight kids that I had driven across the country with and Grammy and the kids and I spent several days doing one of the things she liked best – bombing around the countryside.

After Grampy died when I was in grade 11, I moved into the basement apartment of my parents’ house with her to keep her company. Sometimes she drove me crazy. I couldn’t do anything remotely wrong without Grammy complaining that my Grampy would likely spring up from the grave to scold me if he knew what I was doing. Other times we laughed like hyenas over jokes she told or silly things we did together. Can I ever forget the night we sat on the kitchen floor, Grammy with her foot up behind her head to show me how she was double jointed?

I think my sense of humor and ability to quip is a direct inheritance from my Dad who got it from Grammy. One story she told me of Uncle Harry has stood me in good stead when dealing with my own teen boys. Uncle Harry was a teen at the time and one day he was feeling his oats and took it into his head to inform his mother that he was stronger than she and could whip her easily. Grammy replied, “Maybe so, but you better not be around when I come to. You have to sleep sometime, you know.”

There are many more things that I could name as remembrances of Grammy, but her main effect on my life has been subtle but all pervading. Can I ever forget sitting between Grammy and Grampy on the Lord’s Day, singing “Hallelujah, What a Savior?” during the Breaking of Bread service at the Good News Chapel in Attleboro? It is the effects of covenant mercy bequeathed me through her and my grandfather that has had lasting and eternal consequences. Because of Grammy and Grampy’s faithfulness my Dad was brought to church and now serves the Lord as a minister. Because of Grammy and Grampy, I was brought to church, and I serve Him too in my role as a wife and mother, though not as faithfully or as well as I ought. Because of Grammy and Grampy, my children are being brought up to know that there is no hope of salvation outside of Christ. I pray that these covenant mercies will be extended to my children’s children through many generations until the Lord returns.

Give ear, O my people, to my law;
Incline your ears to the words
Of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a
I will utter dark sayings of old,
Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
Telling to the generation to come
The praises of the LORD,
And his strength and His
Wonderful works that He has

For He established a testimony
In Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which he commanded our fathers,
That they should make them
Known to their children;
That the generation to come
Might know them,
The children who would be born,
That they may arise and
Declare them to their
That they may set their hope in
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments;
And may not be like their
A stubborn and rebellious
A generation that did not set
Its heart aright,
And whose spirit was not
Faithful to God.

Psalm 78:1-8

Yes, Grammy’s death has affected me powerfully. I shall miss her, though the parting is only temporary. As my pastor, Greg Price, pointed out, my tears of sorrow are her shouts of joy and triumph now that she has made her way to our True Home. She will be forgotten and even unknown by many who come after her. But though my children’s children may not know more of her than what they read in a geneology of their family, her effects will be felt through the coming years and generations because of the promises of God.

May I too be found faithful.

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