Tuesday, 17 July 2012

My Grandma

My darling Grandma DeLores Seger went to be with Jesus on Saturday the 14th of July.

The last photo Grandma and I ever took
New Year's Day 2012
I have wanted to sit down and write everything out of me for the last few days but every time I have tried, the blank page has just stared up at me, gapingly empty, and the words haven’t come. But now that flights are booked and things are sorted for my departure tomorrow, it’s time.

My baby brother Jonah and Grandma being cute together
in 2009 :)
She was in so much pain. Due to a few fractures in her back which had kind of worn out over time from having osteoporosis. She was also going into kidney failure after years of medication for her congestive heart failure. In the end, she was back in the hospital for a blood pressure which had dropped dangerously low and kidney levels which had skyrocketed much too high. I spoke with her from her hospital bed on Skype Saturday morning—praise the Lord. I didn’t know it would be her last morning this side of heaven… I’d been praying these last few weeks when she was in and out of hospitals and nursing homes that God would miraculously touch her and relieve her of the horrendous pain. I guess He did. She’ll never know pain again… 

But the world seems a very mean place without her gentle, enthusiastic, abundantly loving presence in it. 

She was nearly 81 years old. She had lived a long, full, and happy life. She had known the faithful love of one good man—high school sweethearts—and over their 61 years together they had raised 4 fine children, and loved well their 12 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren. Her world really seemed to revolve around us, her family. She gave her heart generously to every one of us grandkids, each in our own way. 
Dancing the night away at grandchild Caleb's wedding in 2009
Grandpa and Grandma arm in arm in 2009

Staying over at Grandma's house in 2004
When I was little I was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes, and with my regimen in those early years of insulin injections and finger pricks and specific diet, attending summer camp like the rest of my siblings seemed out of the question. So instead, I left my family for a week of having Grandma and Grandpa all to myself at the old farmhouse. And after that week, I would repeat the experience as often as possible :) My cousin Jackee and I spent every chance we could being spoiled and coddled at the farm, and Grandma was our constant playmate, taking us for rides on the 4-wheeler around the idyllic, sunny MN farmland, and even teaching us to drive—just telling us when to let up on the throttle so she could do the shifting :) She always remembered to pack the cupboards with all my favourite Diabettic-friendly treats—canned pear halves, vanilla wafers, and diet root beer :) She patiently taught us every card game under the sun as soon as we wanted to play, and she frequently let us win :) 

Grandma and my "little" cousin Dylan
Grandma made all of our birthday cakes to order. Over the years she’s decorated mine with kittens, rainbows, and even an up-standing Barbie in a cake shaped like a dress. For my sister, she once decorated a birthday cake with a picture of our new baby brother :) Whatever we asked for, she would make happen. She made every birthday for us so special.

I can distinctly remember one visit to Grandma's when I was climbing up into the "weeping willow" tree next to "the big rock" (you cousins will know what I mean) and feeling so proud of myself because I was climbing so high, higher than all the other cousins. But then it became time to come down, and when I turned around, I could see no way down in sight! I started to panic and cry, stranded up there SO high. My cousin ran for Grandma and out she came in her kitchen smock and instructed me down, her presence a reassurance and her arms waiting for me at the low branches... Just having her there made everything alright.

Jackee and I always stayed in “The Green Room” upstairs at the farmhouse—so named because of the thick green shag carpeting laid in the 60’s, and the green and white floral print bedspread. One of my favourite things in the world was the way the sun would shine through the farm trees and wake us in the morning. Grandma would invariably already be up and working on one thing or another, having seen Grandpa off to work bright and early with a packed lunch and a kiss. She let us raid the green room closets and try on old dresses of our mothers’. And then she shamelessly took us to church dressed in these relics of the past, and proudly told all of her friends about her little granddaughters wearing their mothers’ dresses—as if it were the cutest thing she’d ever seen.

Grandma and I with my darling nieces, 2 of her
great-grandchildren, in 2007
Grandma was known for proudly telling all of her friends everything. It’s always made me laugh when I would hear her repeat the same amusing anecdote 5 times in a day simply because 5 different people ended up ringing her on the telephone after whatever it was had occurred :) Oh, Grandma could laugh!

I can hear her voice even now. It was very distinctive to me. I could always find her in a room of people if I just listened out for my Grandma’s voice.

I think my Grandma may have been the most perfectly-suited-for-cuddles-grandmother that God ever made. There was nothing quite like the security of snuggling into her. She had the softest hands I’ve ever known as well, which is somewhat surprising as I only ever remember her being busy using them for one thing or another—except for when she’d sit in Grandpa’s big green chair to “rest her eyes” while we kids played beauty salon on her hair :) I used to hold her hands and memorize the stones on her rings. She’d recite to me what they were each meant to remind her of, and she would snuggle me to my heart’s content. She was just everything a Grandma is meant to be.

Christmas 2008
When I was a bit older, Jackee and I started a yearly tradition of joining Grandma and Grandpa for their summer trips down to Nebraska. When Mom asked what I’d like to do to celebrate my 13th birthday, I said I’d like to spend it with Grandma and Grandpa, but they were headed to Nebraska for their high school and family reunions. So, we concocted a plan for Jackee and I to take the trip with them and spend the week at Aunt DoDo’s in a sleepy little Nebraskan prairie town. We never could have guessed how much we would love it—and so every year after until my late teens we continued to make the trek, playing Beatles music on repeat in the backseat of the car until even Grandpa was singing along (albeit, changing the words to suit his humour :), and “running into blizzards”-- as Grandpa would warn us before a stop at Dairy Queen. Grandma and Grandpa delighted in showing us their love by spoiling us rotten, and we delighted in being spoiled :)

Grandpa, Grandma, Jackee, and I taking another special trip together
to visit a Laura Ingalls homestead in 2009

Me, my sister-in-law, my brother, and my sister out playing
Bingo with the Bingo Queen :)
When I was small I wrote my Grandma a poem which began, “Grandma, you’re my greatest friend and I hope this friendship will never end…” (and she carried it around to show all of her friends for ages after, of course :)) but I think as I grew older, I really came to appreciate that friendship in new ways. Grandma was a great telephone-talker and as I grew up living about 2 ½ hours away from them, this was a good thing! When I got my license, I quickly racked up  miles on the old Dodge Dynasty going back and forth from Milaca to visit grandparents and cousins, to continue to play a lot of cards and even take some forays into Bingo with the Bingo Queen herself :)

When moving away to follow a call of God into ministry in Europe, Grandma was always such a support and encouragement to me. When I would come home to visit, she would show me the binder of all my letters and newsletters she’d been saving to show to her friends. She frequently told me that she couldn’t wait until I published a book one day. She just knew I would.

My grandparents and I at Jackee's wedding in 2009
My heart aches when I think she’ll never hold that book in her silky-soft hands. And I so wanted to share my wedding day with her—to watch she and Grandpa out there on the dance floor and marvel at what over 60 years of loving and supporting one another looks like. I dreamed of coming home to introduce her to my babies one day, and to see her cradle them and ooh and ahh over them like she has so many of us over the years. To listen as she picked up the phone and began to share with her friends her pride and joy at these precious moments. Grandma’s presence in my life has always been one of constant encouragement. And it’s been a blessing to see in the out-pouring of condolences how so many people I didn’t even know knew her have been touched by that same generosity of spirit, thoughtfulness, and love she gave out. I am reminded of all the things I love about my Grandma, and all the ways I’d like to be more like her myself.

My baby bro Jonah and Grandma 2009
It just hit me today that I have never had to try living in a world without her in it. In all of my 26 years, from the very first day I drew breath, she’s been there. Constantly encouraging me, supporting me, loving me. There is a gaping hole in my world today, now that she’s gone. 

It’s times like these when the beauty of God’s grace shines all the more radiantly. Because Grandma knew and accepted Christ as her Saviour just as I have, I know this separation is only a temporary one. And the comfort in that is unimaginable. I’m so thankful she is free of the pain. The last few years she has just been wearing down more and more. She was ready to go and meet her Saviour. And I can only imagine the wholeness and joy she’s experiencing now. I just wish she could call me and tell me all about it :) 

The first time I left for Europe, for 2 months when I was 14, Grandma came to the airport to see me off. When she wrapped me up in a hug, she whispered to me, “May 10,000 angels surround that airplane and protect my little Lee-Lee” (the name that was only between Grandma and me). I realized today that now Grandma is surrounded by those scores of angels, praising their King together, and the image brings tears to my eyes.

My adorable grandparents renewing their vows after 60 years of marriage
June 4th, 2011

I love you, Grandma. You have left a lasting legacy of love and encouragement and support in my life (and you’ve also made a lot of cakes, driven a lot of miles to be there for holidays and milestones, let me win a lot of hands of cards, patiently taught me to cross-stitch, and how to make your delicious potato soup, and so much more).

I think I will miss you as long as I live.
Thank you for being all that you've been to my life...

Grandma with one of her great-grandbabies, Emily, in 2008
Grandma, Jonah, and me in Nebraska in 2011
With another of her great-grandchildren,
my nephew Tucker, in 2009
Grandma and great-grandchild Emily, 2009
Grandma and great-grandchild Kenan 2009

Grandma and her oldest daughter, my mom
New Year's Day 2012

Grandma and great-grandchild Tucker 2009


Hannah said...

Leah.. that was just beautiful! I know what you mean about never living a life without grandma in it. That hit me the first night. We were soooooo blessed to have her!

Jess said...

This is such a touching and beautiful tribute. You talking about your Grandma's green room reminded me of my Grandma's purple room. What a blessing that she loved Jesus and that she is in his arms. God bless you and your family xx

Terry Bergstrom said...

Beautiful Leah! She was such a special person, who could make each and every child feel so important. She never quit showing her love in so many ways...she'll always be missed!

Gabi Dickinson said...

I love the image of her calling you to tell you all about falling back into His arms and meeting with complete joy and a body without pain. This post had me crying all of the way through and I never had the honour of knowing your Grandma. I am so glad that many did though- she sure sounds like an incredible lady. It is clear how much richer your life has been for having such a beautiful woman inside it. May the warmth of her love through the years bring comfort to you and your family at this time!

Joyce Killmer said...

Thank you, Leah, for sharing your wonderful memories of such a special lady. Blessings on you as you travel home. Looking forward to seeing you!

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