I heard the news that you finally went Home the other day. It was Good Friday. I was in a car with my Mom and my two boys…. down in Florida, on our way somewhere. Dad called and gave the report, and I passed the news to Mom.
Surprisingly, I was able to keep my composure. Maybe because the boys were there. Maybe because it was not an unexpected turn of events. Maybe because it was so good to know you weren’t suffering anymore. Certainly, there was no doubt about where you were going… where you are now… pain-free and in the company of Jesus!
[How many tissues will it take to get through this post? We’ll see.]
You celebrated 72 years of marriage just two months ago… and you would have turned 90 years old on Easter Sunday. Ninety years! I have yet to live half as long.
Even though we weren’t blood relations, you always made me feel as though we were. I have known you since I was born… ever since my parents first brought me up to Conneaut Lake on one of their yearly visits. Did you ever hold me and rock me to sleep in my favorite porch swing? I don’t know for sure, but I like to think so.
That old cottage was great, wasn’t it? I remember the spring house, and the little galley kitchen, and the living room with the piano. I remember the table that folded up onto the wall, out on the porch. You had a game of “Don’t Break the Ice” that I loved to play with. I remember a narrow staircase that went up to the bedrooms. I remember spending a night or two on a very squeaky cot on the other side of your room, while you and Graydon laughed and whispered to each other “our guest is a little restless.”
You were a wonderful cook! And yet, as a picky little girl, I was a bit fearful of eating at your house. Especially that time when I learned that a favorite motto of yours was EAT IT OR WEAR IT! Ha ha. I always smile when I think of you uttering those words. Your delivery was unique. I never wanted to find out whether you’d make good on that subtle threat.
When I was younger, we typically came to visit and stay with you about one week a year. Later, our family acquired the little cottage right behind yours, and so my lake visits were longer and more frequent. And even as your own house — rebuilt now, so that you could live there year ’round — got more and more crowded with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you still made a point of telling me that summer didn’t truly begin until I showed up at the lake. I’m sure you were just being nice, but I always treasured those words. I pretended that you never said them to anyone else.
So many lake mornings began with me knocking on your door in the early hours, stealing a bite of whatever you had handy to eat, and relieving you of any stale bread so that I could feed the fish off your dock. Then I’d usually come back up to the house (but not through the front door! …always around back where you had a washtub ready for dirty feet!) and spend a little more time chatting. You would try to feed me more breakfast. You were always very concerned with whether I was the slightest bit hungry.
It tickles me to recall listening to you and Graydon gently correct each other as you both would give me a report of the latest news from the lake area… who was in town and who wasn’t, stories about docks being put in for the summer, tales of how high the creek had gotten with the last storm, and perhaps a wistful recounting of a delicious meal you’d had at some local restaurant. Important news, all! And I loved to hear it.
The last several years were more difficult. You couldn’t do all the things you wanted to do. Eventually you couldn’t live full-time at your beloved lake anymore. You made a point to visit as frequently as possible, especially when all the family and neighbors were around for the 4th. You made valiant efforts to hide it, but you began to be more and more limited by pain.
I am so thankful that I had the privilege of sitting with you one Sunday morning last July, to keep you company while Graydon attended church. I enjoyed a few hours with you in your bright little house while we waited for a man to bring communion. You asked me to help pull out a few photo albums from a closet. We talked about random things. Then Graydon came home and we had a little lunch. I marveled at how deftly he divided one meal between the two of you without speaking a word…knowing exactly which things you would eat and which of your portion of things he could take for himself. The lemon meringue pie was slightly frozen in the middle, but we all agreed it was very tasty.
And then I left, with a final hug and a kiss on the cheek from my Buddo. I think we both knew in the back of our heads that we might not see each other again. I would never have begun to broach the subject, though. The sun was so very bright that day.
Lord willing, we will all gather again in a few months… the whole clan of extended family and close-knit neighbors… for another July 4th at our favorite lake. Bonfires on the beach, fireworks at the park, plenty of good food. There will be lots of noise and lots of kids running around.
And I will steal a moment to sit on your porch swing, and look out over the water and remember you.