She’s not even here anymore. This woman whose flesh came to be my own, this angel whose wings under which I’ve found shelter and sunlight, she stares past me as if I am but a stranger in the crowd. As if we have not shared a hundred hugs and a thousand smiles. As if she doesn’t even remember her love for me, or have any inkling of mine for her.
My father’s mother no longer seems the delicate flower with petals of soft and simple chuckle that she once did. The waves from her many walks of life have finally begun their excursion within the vessel, and the ocean floor is as inevitable as the sturdiness of a stone or the waywardness of water.
She is no longer capable of providing a color-coordinated dessert to compliment the feast on our holiday tables, and she hasn’t ran a comb through grandfather’s hair while gracefully humming sweet nothings for many years now. Her body was never filled with an ambitious amount of energy or excitement, not in the few decades that I’ve cherished her company, but her heart and mind were constantly akin to a beam breaking through the clouds as the Master touched his land again. Now, there can be witnessed but a glimmer of the gold having always told of the wealth worth having.
I have smiled gently and spoken sweetly on each occasion we’ve shared the past few years, praying that her eyes might recognize a grandson’s smile, but she rarely does, and hasn’t in a while. My strength has been dried onto my perspective through acceptance of reality, but I miss her every time she looks at me, and each time that my heart breaks I quietly rejoice that the Lord will bring her home soon.
What is it that I sense when I am around her, though, except a heightened sense of the full spectrum of not only her lifetime, but my own? I am rounding the corner into my fourth decade on this planet, and as enjoyable as my 20s were, I am ready to let them pass into memory for the sake of another gripping and hopefully even more profound stage of life as it initializes. Where we find fault, though, is in mathematically measuring consistency, composure and character as if numerical values provide the pinnacle of their potential.
My grandparents were in their 60s when I was born, and well into senior citizenship by the time I was mentally capable of relishing their presence. They were no longer agile enough to chase me around the yard even when I was just a young boy, but my current appreciation of their effect on me has nothing to do with their athleticism, but is entirely established within their authenticity in walk and in word.
I remember Grandma would always ask me to recite Psalm 18:2 each time we visited, and to this day I think of her as I speak those correlations of faith and foundation to myself. Not once in my life did she raise her tongue or her hand in my direction, and I can only assume that our Maker hand-delivered a gift not just to my father and his family, but to the world in general, the day he momentarily gave away Eleanor Engel.
I began with the notion that my grandmother is not here anymore, but the truth is that her presence could not be more evident to my mind. She has served this earth like a gardener does her flower bed, with utmost tenderness and respect for each shoot upon the ground. Her faith in my recognition is what built my faith in yours. Her eyes still sparkle time and again when she sees me, and I know in my heart that the Teacher would not leave one of his brightest pupils behind when she is most vigorous for and in need of his lesson plan.
There has not been a day in my life for over a decade now that I don’t thank God for the conditions of existence that he has blessed her with for the better part of a century. My energy will be in teaching what she has taught; my focus not on losing her as she’s leaving, but in loving her as she’s living.
I love you Grandma. Thank you for your visit, I’ve always enjoyed it. Please have a wonderful trip home, and tell Grandpa I love him. I’ll see you when I get there, and shall kiss your face again.
Eric Engel, formerly of Tiskilwa but now of Peoria, can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.