Thursday, 9 January 2014

:: end of an era ::

I spent much of the past week down in the South of NZ (Central Otago to be exact) following the death of my Grandma. She had passed away very peacefully on the 27th of December. Thankfully mum was able to be with her and shared that, as she passed from this world into the next, her eyes became clear, looking up towards a scene not of this natural earth, and her face was filled with awe and wonder at what she could see. What a homecoming she would have received as she left the body that failed her and was given a new one that will always be filled with glorious life! We like to imagine the reunion she received with Jesus, then also Granddad.

Dad, Théo and I travelled down a few days later to go to her funeral. Her body was resting in my aunt's home and, as it was with my Granddad, it was so hard to realise that she no longer dwelt in the gaunt and feather-light frame in which she had breathed her last. It was her, but it wasn't. And it didn't look at all like the full-of-life Grandma that I have known and loved throughout my life. Because I knew she wasn't here on earth anymore, I tried to imagine where she is now, remembering her joyful expression from the days when she enjoyed full health. If only we could see what she now sees!

I'm so thankful I was able to be at her funeral, which was a celebration of the life she had lived so well. She was a hard worker - raising four children on a farm, making most of their clothing, spinning the wool from their sheep and knitting countless jerseys and bedsocks, making meals and copious amounts of baking for her own family, the farm workers and many of their friends, among a long list of other daily household chores, service to her church and so on. In fact, her baking and hospitality became a common theme mentioned in almost every tribute spoken about her life during the service. Speaking on behalf of my brother, sister and myself, I mentioned the many cosy, fun, baking-filled memories that we held of the times we stayed with our Grandparents or visited with them. We will always treasure those memories of the love, interest and support they gave us in such generous quantity.

Grandma was, as my sister mentioned in her tribute, the type of Grandma you'd read about in storybooks. Generous in hugs, love, size, smiles and almost always with a twinkle in her eye. Her home smelled like freshly baked bread, her baking tins were always well stocked, and her meals filling and delicious. She liked to beat us in Ludo and Snakes & Ladders, send us off to bed on cold nights to hot-water-bottle-warmed beds cosy with flannelette sheets, and greet us in the mornings with hot porridge and warm milos. She laughed loudly, scolded Granddad unconvincingly when he told us his *tall tales* and sang in church slightly off key but with full enthusiasm and gusto, simply because she loved her Lord. She left us a legacy of loving well. First and foremost of God, and then towards others through her generous hospitality and service. 

She and Granddad were a team. As they say in French, they were formidable - a great couple - who were held in high regard by many, of whose lives were influenced. Granddad died almost 8 years ago. He is remembered fondly for his faith, humour, tall stories and quotes (many of which probably shouldn't be repeated in many social situations!). After his death Grandma never quite recovered from the heartbreak of losing her life partner. Her health declined steadily throughout the following years. But, although her physical body failed her in many ways, her spirit was alive and well and she had her beautiful smile right to the end, directing it heavenward as she breathed her last. One of our treasured memories will be when we visited her with the girls for her birthday in late 2012. She spoke rarely at that point, and drifted in and out of recognising people. But, as we began to sing 'Our God is so Big' with our girls, who had learnt all the actions, she joined in mouthing the words with perfect recollection. Our girls will never know her as the Grandma that I did, but they will remember her for this precious moment in their lives.

While I was there for her funeral, I wandered around my Aunt's gardens, capturing the beautiful nature displayed around her property (a tribute to her own hard work!). A land alive with the hum of hundreds of bees at work, and rich with the warm glow of ripening peaches, apples and plums. Grandma was a keen gardener herself, and grew up in this very area, being born here and returning many years later. In many ways these photos are a symbolic picture of her life - colourful, fruitful, and a beautiful, fragrant gift from our Creator. Her legacy will live on...and even though the memories will fade with time, we look forward with hope to the day we will see each other again. Perhaps in a different way to what we imagine, but without a doubt more alive than ever before.

And so it is - the end of an era - the passing of two people who lived well and will be remembered fondly. A generation has left our family as we know it on this side of life. But, if I look at my mum, I know, with thankfulness, that they have successfully passed on their legacy of love, commitment, humour, hospitality and generosity of heart, service and loyalty very well. Because these qualities are clear in her life too.