Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Gift of Just One Day

"Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation.  For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life."  Albert Einstein

In Sunday School today, our lesson was "God can do anything."  I had the appropriate coloring sheets, Bible story, a guessing game involving three paper bags with various things inside, snack, songs, and other activities to keep the kids busy for an hour.  There were only four kids today - my son, the wonderful Isabelle, the little fashion plate girl with the long curly hair, and a little boy who has been there once before.  He's a quiet boy, but always looking for a way to cause trouble.  Today, this boy was sitting and frowning and playing with his shoe lace.  When I got done with the Bible story, I reiterated the theme, "God can do anything."  The quiet boy looked up at me and said, "But God can't do everything.  I said lots and lots of prayers and my Grandpa still died."  I stood frozen with four sets of little eyes staring at me.  What to do . . . what to do . . . my mind was racing.  

I got the other three involved with coloring and snack, and I sat and talked to the quiet boy for a few minutes.  I asked him when his Grandpa had died.  "Two days ago.  His heart wasn't right.  He was supposed to take me fishing.  He puts the worms on the hook for me."  I asked him if anyone had told him where his Grandpa was now.  "In Heaven.  But I know he would rather go fishing with me.  We were always wanting to go fishing.  Grandpa says he needed to go away, but I want him to be here."  I could literally feel my heart breaking.  He was visibly upset.  I asked him if he would like to play the guessing game, and he did.  I let the rest of the hour go by without mentioning the theme again.  

At the end of class, I talked to the boy's father.  It was his wife's father who had a heart attack on Wednesday and passed away on Thursday this last week.  I told the father about my conversation with his son.  It seems the boy was supposed to go fishing with his grandfather on Saturday.  They had not let the boy see his grandfather in the hospital, and when they told him his grandpa had died, the boy sat by the phone for an entire day waiting to hear from his grandpa.  The grandpa would call and talk to him on the phone quite a bit.  So, the mother and father typed out a letter to the boy from his grandpa telling him how he had to go to Heaven, but he would miss him and all the fishing they did.  The boy carries the letter around with him all the time, but he doesn't let anyone look at it.  The grandpa's funeral is tomorrow.  

I gave the boy a hug and told him I would see him in two weeks.  Then I asked another mother to watch my son for a few minutes, went into an empty classroom, put my forehead on the cold window and cried.  

I can't remember if I was three or four when my paternal grandmother passed away.  Not long before she died, my mother had taken me over to Grandma's house and left me with her for an afternoon.  I still remember wearing white tights and black patent shoes that day.  The memory is entirely in black and white with the exception of my Grandma's dress which had little lavender flowers on it.  I remember snippets of the conversations on that day.  I had headed right for my Grandma's sofa and proceeded to climb up on it while wearing the black patent shoes.  "Get down off of there!" my mother scolded.  "Oh, Ella, she's fine!" my Grandma said.  

There are very few other memories of that day.  I remember Grandma's soap dish.  The soap looked new and the soap dish was dry with a neatly folded towel nearby.  I think this sticks out in my memory because the soap dish in my house was used by many people and it was always wet with mushy soap in the bottom of it.  

I remember Grandma giving me a needle with thread on it and buttons to string on the thread.  When I poked myself with the needle, my Grandma took the needle and scolded it which pleased me to no end.  Then I remember eating warm cookies in her kitchen.  And I remember that she could feed squirrels - they would eat nuts right out of her hand.  They came to her front door.  I ran toward the squirrels because I wanted to feed them too, but Grandma explained that they only came to her.  

Then Mom came back to get me.  I went back into the living room to get my button string.  "Do you have to go so soon?" my Grandma asked.  "Yes, I'm afraid so" my Mom said.  "Please bring her back soon" my Grandma said, and she held my face in her hands and brushed some cookie off.  

On the ride home, I told my Mom about the soap dish.  She reminded me never, ever to climb on a sofa with shoes on, and I mentioned the squirrels.  It was the last time I ever saw my Grandma alive.  

I remember her visitation at the local funeral home.  She was wearing a dress with tiny lavender flowers on it.  I looked up at my Mom and asked if Grandma was sleeping, and she shook her head no.  And I was so very young, I never ever questioned what had happened.  And no one ever talked about it again.  

Over the years, I have thought about my Grandma.  I heard recently that she loved to knit, and there was a rumor that she had knit an entire woman's suit.  Supposedly, it was quite beautiful.  I wonder if she was the same kind of knitter as me - did she knit continental like I do?  I wonder what happened to her knitting needles.  Did she find it to be a type of meditation like I do?  

I have a beautiful white felt Christmas stocking that she made me with my name on it.  On it is a beautiful little angel sitting on a cloud and holding a pointsettia like an umbrella.  There are many sequins and flowers.  It is a beautiful thing that I keep in tissue paper and a box in the top of my closet.  I never show it to anyone because it is one of the very few things I have from my grandmother, and I like to keep it to myself.  I think of the quiet boy and the note from his grandpa.  And I realized today for the first time ever that this day I had with my Grandma when I was three or four was a gift.  I had talked to my Mom about it once, and my Mom said that Grandma had asked her to bring me over to see her.  She wanted to spend time with me.  And I have never, ever forgotten her.  

I said a prayer that the quiet boy would never, ever forget his Grandpa and the times that they went fishing.  I hope he keeps the note forever.  I hope he realizes one day that he was given a wonderful gift in the time he got to spend with his Grandpa.  I hope he remembers him always.  

"The tide recedes, but leaves behind bright seashells on the sand.  The sun goes down but gentle warmth still lingers on the land.  The music stops and yet it lingers on in sweet refrain.  For every joy that passes, something beautiful remains."  "The Tide Recedes" by M.D. Hughes

1 comment:

  1. This reminded me of when I went through this as a child. God does answer every prayer but in a way that we do not always recognize. And of course it is difficult to understand that and comes with age. Sounds like the little boy has wize parents. He will be ok. Death is a hard lesson to learn.

    To everything there is a season,
    a time for every purpose under the sun.
    A time to be born and a time to die;
    a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
    a time to kill and a time to heal ...
    a time to weep and a time to laugh;
    a time to mourn and a time to dance ...
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
    a time to lose and a time to seek;
    a time to rend and a time to sew;
    a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
    a time to love and a time to hate;
    a time for war and a time for peace.

    ecclesiastes 3:1-8