Grandma B and Me
Today, 26 years ago, November 14, 1996, my Grandma Bernice, entered Heaven. This story has been in the forefront of my my heart in light of our current culture. Today on this anniversary seems to be the time to share it.
My grandma was a second mother to me. Caring for me for Sunday night through Friday evening for the first six months of my life, we developed a very tight bond – true unconditional love. I miss her everyday…
Grandma was known to all as a sweet, loyal, loving, generous, kind woman. She loved cooking and hosting our many family dinners and seeing all her loved ones at our annual very large family picnic – the fruit of her being the 12th child of 13!
She adored us grandkids and all her many nieces and nephews. She loved children and to me, her family, and friends always expressed unreserved love in ways that humble me. She also lived a modest life never over-indulging in anything. One shot of whiskey on New Year’s Eve was her annual limit. On Reno senior bus trips, she only took $200 for gambling and put it in her right pocket. She kept all her winnings in her left pocket and brought it home to take us all out for Chinese food. She built a legacy of selfless love and compassion.
Grandma said she believed in God, but even as a child, I could tell she didn’t know Him well or trust in Him. The evidence of this was that she lived in fear of almost everything. As an adult I can look back and see that she wanted everything planned perfectly to protect disarray, harm, and catastrophe. She was extremely fearful of water, having lost a sister to drowning, something I can also understand well.
When Grandpa Matt died, I was just six years old with a deep newfound faith. Grandpa had given his heart completely to Jesus the week before he died. I was sad, but so happy he was in Heaven and didn’t understand Grandma’s deep grief and her obvious magnified fear from his death.
Her habit of fear also led to prejudice and disgust that was sometimes embarrassing to me. As a child I didn’t understand the contrast of her normally kind spirit with her unfair bias. She rarely spoke badly about anyone, except about people of color. A crime happened in her neighborhood when I was young. It involved a black man, so my normally dear sweet grandma was extremely fearful of and hateful to African Americans. When I lived with and near her, I would walk to school, most days the only white girl with my four friends, one Japanese, one Chinese and two African American girls. Grandma would freely let my white and Asian friends come and play, but sadly not my other two friends.
Most of my life was spent praying she would begin to know Jesus in a deeper way to eliminate her fear, prejudice, and pride, and replace them with hope and love.
Grandma Bernice was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994. She fought hard and made it to 1996 when things turned worse. After a week sleeping near her in Swedish Hospital during radiation treatments in September 1996, I could see she would not live much longer. She was 91 years old with breast cancer that metastasized to her bones. We had some precious conversations that week about memories I will always cherish, but her increasing fear of death was the worst I had seen. Nothing I could say or do would give her peace during her moments of fright magnified by pain and medication side effects.
After 7 days, because we were in the middle of a big move back to Idaho, I had to leave to return to Gary and our four young children. I was devastated knowing I wouldn’t likely see her again. Leaving was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. The only thing I could do was call her daily and trust her in God’s hands.
Dad and Mama Mary Lou called me in October and told me she was home in the apartment below them and was being put on Hospice. They then took a deep breath with prolonged silence then added that an African American woman, Millie, was assigned to her care. Afraid of how Grandma might treat her, we all began to pray.
Around November 3rd, I got a call, and it was sweet Millie on the phone.
“Carla, your grandma wants to tell you something.”
In a very weak voice with tears and an obvious new gentleness and sweet spirit, Grandma said, “Carla, I found Jesus and gave my heart to Him. Millie helped me. I love you, honey.”
“Oh, Grandma, that’s so wonderful!”
We had a few more tears and precious words, talking about the hope of Heaven without any fear knowing she would be seeing Grandpa and her son, Rod soon. I then talked with Millie thanking her for being Jesus to Grandma. I asked her if she knew what a miracle this was and she sweetly laughed and said, yes!
I knew God had truly changed Grandma’s heart that day. In a million years, I never dreamed she would respond to Jesus because of a black woman’s love and kindness. Later, Millie told me Grandma never needed morphine from that day until the day she died, another special gift from God.
My sister was able to make it to her side just before she passed into Jesus’ arms. God showed our family the miracle of Grandma’s redeemed faith. It is a reminder of many things to me but especially the beauty that perfect love banishes fear and is a door to miracles – a legacy I pray I can be faithful to continue.
1 John 4:17-18 ~ The Message
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.