It’s been over a month since my grandma went home to be with Jesus. Over a month. It’s weird how quickly time goes by and weirder still that it can feel like a lifetime ago. I miss her a lot. When I knew my grandma didn’t have much time left I asked permission to share at her funeral and my family agreed to let me do so that day.
I wanted to share what I wrote and read as we said good-bye to one of my favorite people. I hope you take comfort in knowing that Jesus is good even in our sufferings. We can be hopeful in our grief because He is always and forever making all things new.
“I have thought a lot about what I could say today to adequately express how much my grandma meant. She meant a lot to all of us and she will be missed for sure. I know I could talk all day about how much our family will miss her, but instead I thought I’d talk a little bit about what made us love her.
First, I will say she was incredibly tough. I don’t think I ever realized how tough she was until I got older. Life threw some major curve-balls to Viola and she withstood a lot. Some of the hardest things you can imagine happening to a person happened to her: losing her parents, all her siblings, and worse a grandson. She saw a lot of pain and heartache in her life, but she remained strong. Then, there is just the wear and tear her body went through and how she kept fighting her cancer, her diabetes, and her numerous injuries over the years. I really think anyone who knew her would say she was tough. She had moments where maybe we would have preferred she put aside her toughness. And she definitely had moments where she came across as gruff or too hard, but I think with Viola what you saw is what you got. I think that’s how our whole family functions too. That same independence and stubborn strength she possessed is very apparent in all her children, her grandchildren, and great grandchildren; I don’t think you can be that strong and not pass it on to people around you.
Second, I believe Viola was one of the most adventurous people I have ever met. We talked a little bit about her trucker days and how she has seen and done so many things. I really believe she lived. She loved life and enjoyed what life had to offer. One major example of that adventurous spirit was a couple of Christmases ago when Justin and I decided we’d drive from Texas to Illinois to visit Mom, Tiff, and Kynlee. We planned on picking Grandma up on Friday evening and taking her with us, but after she got hospitalized early in the week with pneumonia we figured she wouldn’t be able to make the trip. When we called throughout the week she told us that she was planning on getting out of the hospital and going.
She was released from the hospital at 7pm. When Justin and I were a few hours away we called Grandma and asked if she was up for driving through the night instead of leaving in the morning. Grandma responded by telling us she was packing her bags! Sure enough, we show up in Stillwater and she loaded up and we were on our way at midnight. I’ll never forget her getting in the front seat and telling us how she called Uncle Randy and said she was leaving at midnight for her trip. She loved adventure. She was always ready for a trip or an outing.
Third, my grandma’s sense of humor was one of the bests. She always had some smart aleck response or witty comeback. She often joked about me finding a husband and said once she would write the producers of the bachelor to sign me up for the show. Then, a few years ago, I got a Christmas card in the mail that had a picture of Santa on the outside and on the inside she had written something along the lines of, “I found you a boyfriend”. That was how she was; she liked messing with all of us and showing her ornery side. She loved laughing, but rarely smiled for the camera. We began to realize if we got her to laugh we’d get a good picture. You knew she was especially tickled by something if you saw her shoulders start to shake. And, though we don’t necessarily like to admit it, she passed that trait on to us as well.
Finally, I think the most important component to her life was her faith In Jesus Christ. I don’t know a whole bunch about her early years, but from the stories I’ve heard Viola was wild. She made bad decisions like the rest of us have done and she was probably a little too adventurous at times. I know she didn’t always live for God. But, from what I saw in my life she loved Him and wanted to please Him. She spoke to me often about her thoughts on her faith and how glad she was to know that we serve a loving God who forgives us regardless of what we have done. I know without a doubt she believed in Jesus as her savior. Grandma made these angels that you could hang; in a small way they have become our family’s sign of her faith over the years—we all have one hanging somewhere. Last year Tiff was at a car dealership and said she spotted an angel hanging in the rear view mirror of a complete stranger. Curious to know where the lady got the angel Tiff asked and found out that the lady had bought the angel at church from Elaine! Strangers who never met Grandma were touched by her.
She knew to whom she belonged and she had peace about her final destination.
She believed the Gospel of Jesus. So, I want to answer the question: what is the Gospel that Viola believed? What makes me so sure she is reunited with God in heaven?
The Gospel is this: God is the holy and perfect Creator of everything and everyone. He created everything as a way to honor and enjoy Him by trusting and obeying Him. Instead, all men and women have trusted themselves and fallen short of honoring God. We have all sinned as Romans 3:23 states. And sin requires punishment–death. Jesus was 100% human and 100% God. He lived a perfect life and came to bear the wrath we deserved by dying for our sins. Since He was the only human to never sin, He was the only acceptable sacrifice to free us from the wrath God feels towards our sins. He was killed, buried, and raised on the third day according to the scriptures—defeating death once for all. This is the gospel and it is good news that demands a response. We respond by turning from our sin and trusting Jesus alone, or we will continue to trust ourselves. The result of salvation is God no longer considers us guilty of sin, but acquits us of all sin and guilt because of the finished work of Jesus. Now, like my grandma, we can live boldly for the glory of God by the power of His Spirit because we are new creations. Though her earthly body is being laid to rest today, she will forever be made alive because of her faith in Christ. She chose the words of Jesus in John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” to go on her tombstone.
So, this is the hope I cling to while my heart hurts today. It’s the same hope my grandma clung to and wanted to leave with you all.”
I think i’m still grieving and will be for a longtime and even still… it is well with my soul.