Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grandma Eva

I got a call this morning from my dad.  When I saw that he was calling from his cell phone, I was pretty sure it wasn't good news.  He told me that my Grandma Eva (his mother) had passed away.  He said that the nursing home had called him at work to let him know that she wasn't doing so well, so he was able to be with her during her final moments. 

Over the past year, her health had been rapidly declining.  I'm ashamed to admit it, but when we were in Fowler earlier this month, I couldn't get up the nerve to go visit her in the nursing home.  I couldn't bear to see her in such a fragile and frail state. I know it was selfish, but I didn't want my last memory of her to be a sad one, and I know that it would have been sad.

When we were home for Christmas, she was living with mom and dad.  I am certain that most of the time we were there, she didn't know who I was.  At that point she still had all of her long term memories.  She spent much of our time together telling stories (often times they were the same stories she'd told me just an hour earlier).  She told me about her childhood.  She told me about growing up in Fowler. 

It was bittersweet listening to her talk.  I would see her fade in and out, from past to present.  One moment she was smiling at me, telling me about her childhood.  The next moment I could see an emptiness in her eyes.  It was devastating seeing a once spry and energetic woman living in a shell of herself.  I don't know if they ever officially diagnosed her with Alzheimer's disease or if it was a different form of dementia, but whatever was destroying her once vigorous mind, it was ruthless. 

And I couldn't bring myself to see the results first hand.  So I chose to sit this one out.  I decided to let the stronger members of my family deal with the situation.  And they dealt with it head on.  I have no idea how my parents, my cousins, my great aunts and uncles, and my extended friends and family were able to do it.  But I am so happy that they did.  Even if Grandma wasn't cognisant of their presence, I know that she was surrounded by love.

A while back, Grandma's pastor posted an encounter he had with her onto his blog.  Reading it again is tougher this time then when he first posted it.  Yet I am so grateful for his kind words.  I hope he won't mind, but I'd like to post it in its entirety.

Eva's Song

Last Tuesday, I went into Pueblo to visit a member of our church. The member's name is Eva, and she was suffering with a bout of pneumonia. Eva has had a rough go of it lately. When I arrived here about two years ago, she was recovering from an injury that would not allow her to walk as much as she needed to. This frustrated her, but she rarely complained, and if she did complain it was to blame herself for not being able to heal fast enough or work hard enough.

Around October, Eva had another visit to the hospital. It was decided at that point that she would stay with her son Roger and his family. Eva would hold the babies during the day care her daughter-in-law ran. She eventually got sick, and her illness quickly turned from a cold into pneumonia. She was taken to the hospital.

When I visited Eva Tuesday, I spent a little time visiting with her, and a lot of time visiting with her son Roger. Roger and I talked vacation and golf, and about life in general. It was a good chat. When it came time for me to leave, I asked Eva if I could pray for her. Her poor hearing led her to believe that I was requesting that she pray for all of us. She told us to bow our heads, so we did. She told us to close our eyes, and we did that too. Then Eva began to pray.

Some people might be grieved by Eva's prayer. As she prays, it becomes clear that her mind is not as clear as it was months, or even weeks ago. She got stuck in a loop of prayers. For many this loop would be sad, for others a dark comedy. It has elements of both these things. But most of all, the prayer was beautiful.

It was beautiful because when Eva could not think of anything else, and she did not have the intellectual capacity to pray in the way you know she could in earlier years, she kept repeating the same word. That word was "thank you".

"Thank you Lord for this day....thank you....thank you Lord for our friends and family...thank you...thank you for providing us the food we ate....thank you....most of all Lord we thank you for Jesus, who loved us enough to make a way for us to spend eternity with you....thank you..."

She kept saying her thank you's over and over again. She would note God's work in creation. She would note God's love for us. She would thank God for Jesus. Not just once, or twice, but over and over again. I left the hospital after I finished by praying for her. On the drive home I found myself fighting back tears. And I was not fighting back tears because she is dying. I was fighting back tears because of her testimony. When her mind could not think through a paragraph, her heart kept saying "Thank you Lord, thank you, thank you!"

In one of my internships in seminary I visited a Alzheimer's clinic with a mentor/pastor named Charles. As we wandered through the clinic, we sat with a member of Charles' church in the cafeteria. Around us people screamed outoud, "Lord, why? Lord, why?" and "Please God just let me die." as the top of their lungs.

To be honest, I can't blame them. I hurt for the people in the Alzheimer's clinic that day. That is why I was so moved when Eva said, "Thank you!"

Through the week, I wondered if this was simply an anomaly. On Thursday, Eva's sons Richard and Roger moved Eva to the Fowler Nursing Home. I went to visit her. It took a while for her to understand who I was and why I was there. We chatted a little bit. Then she started singing

"Allleluia, Alleluia. God is so good. Alleluia," Eva sang.

Eva kept singing "alleluiah's" until she sang herself to sleep. I said good bye to the sons chatting at the door. I walked out to my car. Eva could hardly recognize me. We could hardly have a conversation. But as I walked to my car it was my turn to mumble to myself, "thank you, Lord, thank you for Eva."

It kills me that her health deteriorated so quickly.  It kills me that I could not have been stronger and gone and visited her.  But I am so thankful that I got to spend so much time with such a wonderful, strong, and Godly woman.  I was spoiled by her love.  My mind is packed full of memories of her. 

I love you Grandma and you will be greatly missed. 


  1. Wow!!! Thanks for sharing this Eric!!

    Thank-you Lord!! And.. Alleluia... especially for eternal life!!

    Will be praying!! Love, Aunt Kar xoxo

  2. Eric, What a great way to pay tribute to your grandma. Do not feel bad for not wanting to see her in the shape she was in. I like the thought that you want to remember the vibraant woman she was. She loved all of you so much. Mama Debs

  3. Wonderfully said, Eric. One more reason for your Grandmother to be proud of you. And she was. Love to you all. Jerry & Leslie

  4. Eric, you made your Grandma proud so many times. Today, your blog, would have made her proud again. Mom xoxo

  5. What a great tribute about your wonderful grandma. She was special lady and will be greatly missed by all. Presley told me this morning that grandma Eva is now with God and walking around the streets of heaven. Presley Benji & Jenni

  6. What a nice tribute to your Grandma Eva, Eric. And it's not hard to see what a SPECIAL relationship you had with her through the years...I'm sure she knew and felt your love even in your absence! She was a very special lady! Love to all of you, Dwight & Carolyn