i have 30 days until i celebrate my 30th year of life. i thought i would share with you 30 people, events and situations that have shaped my life and who i want to be. it has been very challenging to come up with 30…i hope it inspires you as it has me. this part of the list is in no particular order.
day 25: grandma helen
as i was growing up, my mom’s parents lived a 10-hour drive away, so we only saw them a couple times a year. my g’andy passed away when i was five and my grandmother when i was 14. because of the distance, i didn’t get to know either of them well and have only vague memories of g’andy.
though we lived near to where my dad grew up, both of his parents died before i was born, both of un-natural causes. my grandfather was killed by a drunk driver when my parents had been married only a couple years. his girlfriend at the time, helen, was also in the accident and hospitalized for nine months. because my mom was new to the family, she felt out of place helping to coordinate the details of my grandfather’s funeral and grieving with the family; instead, mom spent hours upon hours at the hospital with helen. over the months, my parents adopted helen. after i was born, she became my “grandma.”
grandma helen wasn’t a christian when my grandfather died. my parents invited her to church and were with her the evening she decided to trust Christ as savior. in fact, my mom was able to tell that God was working in her heart and asked if she wanted to talk with the pastor. before she died, grandma helen told me the story of her choosing to trust Christ and how much my mom had meant to her.
grandma helen was never married and didn’t have children of her own. because of my parents’ relationship with her, i can’t remember a birthday or christmas celebration without grandma helen (as i got older, i realized that she only did this for my sisters and me, not for my cousins). every year for christmas, she gave me a can of olives because she knew i loved them (and she gave my dad tube socks every year, even though he didn’t love those). even if she couldn’t be with me on my birthday, she’d call just to sing to me.
as a little kid, grandma helen babysat me often. she allowed me to jump on her bed and play with her cat. no jumping on the bed, she’d say with a mischievous smile.
when i was in second grade, our family again began attending church with grandma helen. at this church, she was known as the worm lady because she gave gummy worms to all the kids after church. i loved knowing that my grandma was the lady all the kids loved.
easter of my senior year of college, my dad’s family celebrated at my cousin sharon’s house. while the men were out in the living room, the women sat in the kitchen, telling stories and laughing more than i ever remember laughing with my cousins. grandma helen was the life of the party! as i drove back to school that afternoon, i had the vivid thought, it will never be like this again.
shortly after that, grandma helen was diagnosed with cancer. by the summer, she was living in a nursing home. i spent a lot of time sitting on the edge of her bed, playing my guitar and singing. she told me about the grandfather i never knew. and we shared often shared strawberry shakes from steak ‘n shake.
and always, as i was leaving, i’d turn and say, remember, no jumping on the bed.
grandma helen passed away while i was living in the philippines. for a child who grew up without real grandparents, grandma helen filled a void in my life i didn’t realize was there until i came home. she was a wonderful grandma and offered love intentionally and without limit.
i wonder if she’s in heaven tonight, jumping on the bed.