Two weeks ago today I stood at the bedside of my Grandmother Rakestraw as she took her last breaths. My mom had called a couple of days before to tell me my grandmother wasn’t doing well. Severe back pain related to a fractured vertebra had been complicated by fever and respiratory complications and they were waiting to hear from the doctors what the options were. Adam arranged to take off from work so we could all go to Indiana. The boys all went in for a brief minute to say hi and then stayed at the hotel with Adam while I went back and forth to the hospital. I am so glad to have been able to be there.
My grandmother was an amazing lady. She travelled the world over, usually in the form of a birding or classical music trip, or a combination of the two. I remember many visits to her house in the country where she lived with my granddad and how I’d come down the stairs in the morning to the sound of classical music playing and eat breakfast in front of the large picture window and watch the birds at the many feeders. I would walk to the barn with my granddad sometimes in the evenings. I don’t really remember why we walked there, but I remember walking the path cut in the field, my short legs and his long ones. I remember one of the first trips I took there by myself and how homesick I was and how she cut short the excursions she had planned to take me home sooner. I remember how she didn’t usually offer advice to me unasked, but how she once wrote a letter expressing her concern over a particular situation and exhorted me to be careful and wise. I remember visiting her halfway through my pregnancy with the twins and how I woke up in the morning bleeding and how I sat at the breakfast table crying and afraid and how she drove me all the way back to Cincinnati that morning to the doctor. I remember her joy at holding those twins, and all my babies for the first time. And I am grateful that I was very recently able to recount all these things to her and tell her how very much I loved her and how glad I am that my boys have had a chance to know her and love her too.
Hers was the first funeral the boys have attended and I wasn’t sure what they would think of things. We have talked before about sickness and dying. The day after my grandmother died Gabriel asked when he was going to get to see her again. I explained that he would see her body again at the funeral, but explained again that she had died and only her body was there and that she wouldn’t see him or talk to him. He assured me that he knew. On arriving at the funeral home he asked to be lifted up to see her. He was quite perplexed and quickly voiced his puzzlement in asking, “Why does she need her glasses on if she’s dead?” We assured him that she didn’t, but that was how we were used to seeing her, so they put them on anyway. Grandmother would approve of this practical boy. I do wish she could still be here to watch him and her other twelve great-grandchildren grow. But we grieve with hope. All is not lost. We will one day join her at the throne of God and give praise with her to the One who conquers death and gives new life, and then all our tears will be wiped away.