The Things I Learned from Grandma.

Jeremiah Liend 01-12-10

I would first like to thank you all for your continued well wishes and prayers. Our family has a broken heart and with your grateful condolences we heal. I would like to share with you the things I learned from my Grandma Beulah, and I hope you can walk away improved by my testament of the woman who was loved so very much by so very many. I am also fairly convinced she was a saint, and I will provide what evidence I have gathered over the years I have been blessed with her. I will begin near the end.

In April Grandma was diagnosed with terminal organ failure. I would hope to encounter such news with a fraction of her grace and strength. I broke down the first night I came to stay with her and she calmly held me and explained she was not afraid. She said I could cry if it made me feel better. It only helped for a while. I was looking up Grace in the online dictionary, looking for pictures of grandma, when I stumbled upon this definition; Favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity. We are all familiar with a grace period. The time between the service and the bill where you are not expected to pay. Grandma was given between two weeks and six months to live, and that is a terrifying ball park to be in. When she was given this news she did not cry or fall apart. She always believed that a person was given only a certain amount of time and when your name was called you went to the front of the line.
Later she would tell us that what worried her was not her death, but whether or not she had made a difference with her life. Hell, I worry about that too. Probably we all do, or will, when the days on the calendar are running out. She worried about her deeds and her actions and her trials and battles. She was struck by the worry that time would not remember her. How to allay such worry? She had, since her stroke, been writing down her memories of her past, worried that she would lose them. She was working on her memoirs, and they are vast. I will do my best to piece together the story as a whole. I told her I could help her tell her story, and I will tell it for all of my days. Because her story is worth sharing.
But a story is not just facts and figures. Not just where you lived and who you knew. Where you worked and how you got by. A story is not a biography nor a history. It is an account. It is left to me then, to account for my Grandma. To tell you how she lived and what was important. To compel you never to forget not only who she was, but what she meant. What she lived for. Who she lived for. Why she did it. And how we are made better for it. But more than that, much more than all of that, is what she taught me. More important than the who and the what, is that my life will forever be defined and improved by the lessons my Grandma taught me. Her virtues that are my treasured inheritance.

If I had to list the three most important virtues of Beulah, I would have to say this; Loyalty. Courage. Humor.

Loyalty. Faithfulness to commitments or obligations. Faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, leader, or cause. It is no easy task to be the wife of a service man. An Air Force family must be a strong one. Able to love a place before leaving it forever. There is an understanding that personal sacrifice must be made for the sake of the family. Nothing was, is, or will be more important to my Grandma than her girls. They have been her treasure. Her allies. Her supporters. They were the reason she lived. Her loyalty to her family was and always will be unbreakable. Her loyalty to her government is unquestionable. Over 20 years of faithful employment to the Federal Government, through thick and thin. Her coworkers have respected her as an intelligent, respectful woman. I learned loyalty from my Grandma, and that means never quitting because you’re angry. It means that family comes first in all things. It means that no one gets left behind and no one gets forgotten. Because when everything you build falls around your ears, and all the crops you’ve sown go up in flames, the only real thing a person can count on is their family.
Courage. The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, and death without fear. Being executed has to be easier than what my poor Granny had to go through. The internal physical beatings her poor body endured over the last decade I can only imagine in my most terrifying nightmares. I can’t remember seeing Grandma scared. For her there was no point to it. While others experienced fear there was only her determination. Her faith. Her conviction. There was only a problem that could be fixed or something beyond our control. If it was to be fixed, then we must set to the task. If it is beyond our ability? There is no reason to worry. I learned courage from my Grandma, and that means never cowering in the face of adversity. It means being willing to stand against all odds. It means that facing the things that frighten us makes us better and stronger. Because life is too short to spend it scared, and worrying won’t get you anywhere.

Humor. A comic, absurd, or incongruous quality causing amusement. If you can laugh at a thing, you have beaten it. Perhaps that is why so much humor is morbid. Cease would know best. After her first transfusion I started calling her “My Vampire Granny”, trying to get a rise out of her. It was hard work getting a laugh out of her this last year. It’s tough to laugh when you’re sick. Either that or I am no longer funny. I would give anything to hear her laugh though. 9 out of 10 people who knew my Grandma agree her laugh was the best. The other person is a square. You could hear that woman laugh for blocks. It was how I found her in a crowd. When her and the girls got going in the car it was like being in the center of an asylum. Hardened drug users have more self control. After the chaos of laughing there would follow a period of watching everyone trying not to look at anyone else for fear of bursting into uncontrollable laughter. Even as I type this I am watching old video footage with her in it, praying someone said something funny to her on tape. I am going to loop a track of her laugh and set it as my ringtone. I learned humor from my Grandma, and it means that God as a sense of humor. It means that a stranger is only a stranger until you laugh together. It means that you can be dirt poor but jokes are still free. Because a life lived with joy is a life well lived.

These are only the three most important things I learned from Grandma. There is much more, of course. And now the case for sainthood.
Every saint gets three miracles, and Grandma got her three. She should have died in 2003. Her heart exploded on the table and there is no reason she should have survived. She went back to work. She worked in the Clearwater County Recorders office with some of the finest people I’ve been told about after her heart exploded. I returned home from New York that year, knowing that the time I could spend with my Grandparents in their golden years was the most precious treasure I could find anywhere.

She should have died in 2006. Mom, Matt, and I picked her up while she was actively stroking. Mom could sense something was wrong on the phone, and that something was an exploding blood vessel in her brain. She had a pool of blood pushing on her brain when she got her second helicopter ride to Fargo. Seeing her in that condition was hard. Hearing the diagnosis was harder. They said she would never talk, walk, or reason again. Or if she did it would only be a fraction of any of it. Prepare for your Grandmother to be a vegetable. She went into physical rehabilitation weeks later and informed the staff she would be home for Easter. I think she may have even cooked the ham herself that year. There was a misunderstanding that I don’t think will be clear to either the courthouse or the family, but for whatever reason Grandma stopped working at that point. Officially retired.

I should have been writing this on May 5th. When the family took Grandma home from the hospital in April I thought she would perish in a few days. Any of you who saw her during this period of time would more than likely agree. I found this entry in the dictionary while looking at grace; In Theology. the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them. It was by the Grace of God that our family was allowed to spend this last year with Grandma. My greatest fear was that what they had initially said would be true. That her condition would never improve. That she would be this miserable until the end. During those eight months every smile was a victory against medical science. Every ounce of fluid lost another proof that we were winning against the odds. We had a last Thanksgiving together and we gave as much thanks as we could. There were birthdays, including hers, and Christmas and life. But every saint gets only three miracles, and then it is in God’s hands.

She is at peace now. Through the pains of hell my Grandma has been delivered. We offer her up to you, oh Lord, and thank you for everything she was. Our gift. Our friend. Our mother. My Grandma Beulah. Thank you.


Sam said…
You said it best. Your grandma was a tank.

Popular Posts