I almost cried. The night before, I had gone forward during the hymn of invitation during our fall revival meetings; it was an act of surrender during an otherwise tumultuous period of struggle. And now, here was my great aunt, reaching out to do what my grandmother, who died when I was four weeks old, could not do.
It was a tremendous blessing. Her word's hit deep.
"Its what she would have wanted..."
Eighteen years after her death, I still feel the effect of the desires of her heart. The woman who I never knew, yet has a continuing impact on my life through the family she nurtured, and the relationships she built. Throughout my childhood I've heard many stories, seen many pictures, and witnessed many of her attributes pointed out in my family. Genetically, she is a part of us: me, my cousins, aunts, and uncles. Each of us reflect her in some way and people are rarely shy about pointing it out. Some walk like her. Others have her laugh, her determination, or her "spunk." A few even cook and eat like her.
More importantly, I've been told numerous times of her love for people. As a family, she always wanted to do things together -- even if it meant twenty people in one game of scum. To those outside of the family, she was a walking companion, a Bible study leader, a caregiver, and a dear friend. Relationships were important to her. Recently, I was reminded of her response to her sons as they grew old enough to marry. Even when they dated girls who may not have been her first pick, she said, "Whom my sons love, I will love."
In a way, it feels like I know her a little bit, and to my shock, the words of blessing and hug from my aunt opened up a longing in my heart that I never expected to feel, perhaps not unlike a small taste of the longing that an adopted child may feel.
I really want to know this grandma. I'm... missing something.
She has a place in our family. She has a place in my life. And for the time being, that place is empty.
Her rich legacy remains and will continue to impact people. Her dreams, desires, aspirations, and prayers will mix with those of my other grandparents, and my parents, and redeemed by the grace of God, will someday become my legacy.
She held me in the hospital after I was born, weeks before her death. I wonder, as she sat in that leathery green hospital chair, what her prayer was for me and my cousins. I will never know, but I would imagine it could have gone something like this:
"Father, give these children a heart for people. Make their waters run deep. Guide them to know Your heart. Catch their tears when they fall. Whatever comes, may there never be division, and may they always struggle together."
Grandma Ruthanne, your presence will always be missed. Your family has grown significantly, and in many ways moved on, but your impact on each of our lives is still present, and your place is still here. You would be delighted to know that you have a number of grandchildren in missions, and many who care deeply and compassionately for those around them. As a family, we have cried a lot of tears together, and some of us have grieved deep loss. But we are very much still struggling together, and being shaped into something beautiful. Thank you for the legacy you have left. We love you.
Grandma Rachel, you also pass on a legacy in our family. You have an unexpected but wonderful place among us, and you reflect something wonderful about the Father. Unselfishly, you married into a grieving family, and chose to take on their burden. To me, you reflect God's heart toward those who have been orphaned, and His tenderness toward those who have experienced loss. To many of us, you have been the only grandma we ever knew. Your care has not been in vain, neither will it be forgotten, nor will it lack impact. We love you.