Remembering My Grandmother

No book review today, as I am heading to a funeral. Louise Dueree “Dee” Turner, my grandmother, died on Monday morning. She would have turned 90 this August, but even more amazingly, in less than two weeks, she and my granddad would have been celebrating their 73 anniversary.

I lived next to my grandparents from about eight years old until I left for college, and when school was out of the summer, my brother and I spent our days with them. They lived on a little more than 30 acres and she had numerous gardens in which she grew Day Lilies. For decades she sold the flowers, but mostly the bulbs for others to plan in their gardens. Later in life, I’d come across people from surrounding cities and all they knew about my area was an old lady that sold bulbs to their garden clubs. One lady actually remember there being two little boys running around the gardens.

Along with selling flowers she was in charge of the church kitchen that made the Wednesday night meals every week. She was an incredible cook and well known for her abilities. One of my favorite memories about her is the pancake breakfasts she would cook every Christmas morning. They also hosted massive Easter and Labor Day celebrations at their house that would have dozens and dozens of people attending, including her sisters and my dad’s cousins and all their children. She loved the beach and for years they and all her sisters and their husbands spent October in New Smyrna Beach. All this despite have had three hip replacements, she was so active she wore out her first one and needed a replacement.

Mrs. MMT actually lived with them for a little over two months while I was away at grad school and right before we were married. They watched old movies with Clarke Gable together and my grandmother enjoyed having her there so much, she would often try to convince me to have us live there for a while after we were married.

She first started showing signs of Alzheimer’s about eight years ago, and unfortunately it only become worse. She hasn’t recognized me or Mrs. MMT in a few years and while she always loved seeing Sprout, she was never entirely sure who she was. Maybe a year or so ago, she starting not knowing my parents and this past January we moved them to an assisted living facility with memory care from the house they built more than 40 years ago.

My granddad woke up around 5:30 on Monday and my grandmother told him she was cold, he got her a blanket and told her he loved her and went out to watch TV. When he checked back in on her a little bit later, she was dead. In some ways, it is comforting to know that she went quickly, and that if she suffered, it didn’t last long. However, for him, it happened too quick. He told me yesterday that he wished that he had been able to hold her just one more time.

As we talked about her yesterday, he said that she was a great wife and mother, that they had a long happy life, and that he could not have asked for anything more. Best of all, and the most comforting, is that I know we will all see her again. She’ll have no more hip pain, and she will remember everyone when we all meet again.

Dee Turner
August 31, 1928 – May 28, 2018

Daniel

Well, I just started this blog and have already taking a longer break than I anticipated. It started by taking a few days away from work as my wife’s sister and her husband came into town and continued on through Veterans Day yesterday. Thank you to all who served in war, especially those who had no choice.

Them being here lead to an idea for a post that I had for a while, but wasn’t sure I really wanted to write about. Back in August, my sister in law was due with their first child in a few weeks when suddenly the child died. Apparently he had an issue with the umbilical cord.  When my wife called me to tell me there was a problem, I thought worst case scenario, he’d be born premature (my wife’s sister, my brother and I were all born earlier in pregnancy), so I really didn’t give it a second thought. I had no idea that there was such a thing as cord issues or that baby could still die this late in pregnancy.

I suppose I was also a bit naive. A week prior, my brother’s wife had to have emergency surgery due to an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in a miscarriage and her having one of her fallopian tubes removed. For some reason, I felt as if since one bad thing had already happened, another would couldn’t. Obviously, that is not the way the world works and so while one of my sister in laws is recovering from surgery the other is being told she has lost her son and tragically will still have to go through labor. She delivered Daniel earlier the next morning.

Later they decided it would be good for them to get away from everyone one and come visit us (we are about a 12 hour drive away) and that is why they were here over the weekend. Now obviously, I can’t imagine they pain and anger they felt. Outside of my grandmother dying about a year and a half ago, I have never experienced death. They, on the other hand, had experienced what many people consider the worst loss, the death of a child.

Talking with my brother in law (well, technically my sister in law’s husband, but that is harder to saw) this weekend, I began to realize more of the frustration that comes with tragedy. He is understandably angry with God; but he also realizes that God didn’t kill Daniel. Recognizing God’s sovereignty, he is angry that God didn’t intervene and save Daniel. So he struggles with the question of why, why did this happen?

The answer, in my mind, leads to more frustration because it is so utterly unsatisfying: we live in a broken world. I think my brother in law knows this. I think he knows that this wasn’t some punishment for his sins or divine retribution, but instead that death is a just a part of life. Outside of the Garden, tragedy happens. Away from paradise, there are murderers and rapist, 30 year olds get cancer, people bomb buildings, storm surges kill thousands and umbilical cords get tangled.  And really, that just sucks. It is not comforting during times of loss. It does not encourage us emotionally, but instead reminds us that we could be, at any moment, seconds away from death and tragedy.

My pastor likes to say that life was great in the first two pages of the Bible and will be again during the last two, but in between is terrible as we experience loss and separation from God. I suppose in times of tragedy we should be reminded that one day we will experience no death; that we will walk with God and worship him for eternity. It should give us hope for the future and of Christ’s return. We should be reminded that our time is short and that we are commanded to go to every nation preaching the Gospel. Instead of renewed hope I think most people experience hopelessness; instead of looking to the future the dwell in the past and what could have been; instead of vigor for those without Christ, they feel apathy and the sinking feeling that life is pointless.

Our models for this include Job who continued to praise God and even Christ who asked forgiveness of those who crucified Him. Most people fail to meet these standards; I know I would in the face of tragedy, I usually do just in the face of minor inconvenience.