Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grandma H

Today we held the funeral service for my Mom's Mom, out beloved Vesta Mae. It seems so strange to think if her not being there in her home of 62 years anymore, but at the age of 90 she has had a wonderful life. I am thankful for the relatives I got to share this day with as they are some of the greatest people you could know, and I get to call them family. I am so very proud of all of them and I know how Grandma felt to look out over her clan and know that she had such a wonderful part in all of our lives.  Today my Brother-in-law got to sing for us, what an amazing voice. My Cousin read the obituary, nice job Jeremy! And as for me I got to do what I normally do, talk.  Below is what I read today to try and convey my thoughts on Grandma and how much she meant to me and all of us.

Good morning, My name is Jason and I am Vesta’s 2nd oldest grandson, number 5 overall.  The so called oldest grandkid of the “second batch”. I am here today to try to put into words what Grandma meant to me and to others.  This day has been something that I have been thinking about a lot lately.  It started back in August 2009 when we had a surprise birthday party/family reunion for Grandma in Aberdeen.  It was a surprise to Grandma, especially since her birthday wasn’t for another month. I wasn’t really involved in the planning of the event, I simply brought my family to spend time with Grandma, my parents, siblings, cousins and their families.  It was a great day that afternoon at the campground.  The kids played, the cousins caught up, and there was even a play. The next day we all gathered together and held our own private church service.  Some of the highlights were the Harms family playing guitar, singing by the mother/daughter duo of Marlys and Vonni, a solo by my brother-in-law DJ, a poem by my Cousin Kari, and the message delivered by Uncle Bob.  It was a beautiful service, and I know it was very special to Grandma.  It moved me in a way as well. I saw how talented my family Is but I wondered what was my talent, what could I bring to a family get together? I can’t really play an instrument, you don’t want to hear me sing, you can ask Sandy about that! So from that time forward I have been wondering what is my talent to share, what is my gift? This summer Sandy and I joined a church in Fargo, prior to joining we met with the church board, they asked me questions including: what spiritual gifts do I have to be shared with the congregation.  I thought for a moment and then stated, well....I can talk. And it dawned on me, I can talk. I talk to my parents, my family, my friends, my co-workers, my friends at church, guys at the gym, my neighbor, I mean anybody!!. I am sure most of you are shocked to hear me say this, but well I come from a long line of talkers. My dad has this gift, my grandpa Denman is famous for it. I remember camping one time as a kid, Grandpa Denman spent at least 30 minutes near our campsite visiting with our neighbor for the Night.  When he came back over we asked him, Grandpa who was that??? He simply shrugged and said, I don’t know.
So knowing that I have this gift and knowing Grandma’s time was drawing near, I placed a phone call to her so I could have some time to just talk with her.  We spoke for almost an hour, mainly just asking her how she was doing and reminiscing about the past. 
·       You see myself, along with my brother and sister, were extremely blessed to have lived here in Willow Lake until we each moved away to college.  We got to spend some time with Grandma and Grandpa almost every day after school when we were kids, always getting some candy, usually smarties, on our walk home.  Grandma would ask me if I learned anything that day at school and I would reply, “Nope gotta go back tomorrow.” I asked Grandma about that saying, I have used for years. Did Grandpa teach it to me? but she couldn’t remember, she just laughed. 
·       I told her I remembered watching Dad and Grandpa play pool downstairs while listening to the Twins play baseball on the radio. We both laughed about the pool cue Uncle Gary made for Grandpa to get around that post in the basement.
·       I had to tell her that to this day I still have no idea what Grandpa was talking about when he taught Jory the saying “Long-time-dooda-whacker-18-20-inches-long”. Grandma has no idea either. 
·       I remembered learning to climb up the ladder to clean out her gutters after Grandpa got sick. I remember Grandpa coming out and looking at Grandma and I in disgust saying “Well you got the ladder upside down!” Sure enough it was. Gutter cleaning was not a particularly fun job, it was a little risky come to think of it, especially with that power line on the North side of the house, but a job now I’ll never forget. The job was handed down to Jory when he got older, and when he moved away my Dad continued cleaning the gutters by a Denman for the next 15+ years.
·       I was honored to have her fly for the first time on a commercial airline to see me and my future wife Sandy for Thanksgiving back in 2002. That was the first time but definitely not the last that Grandma was our guest for Thanksgiving.  We loved having her there to spend time with our family and of course make us her famous Turkey and noodles. Mom I hope you took good notes of how to continue that tradition.
Of course during this phone call with Grandma, I also wanted to make sure I thanked her.  I first had to thank her for saving my life, literally. There was a livesaver incident, same thing happened to Jory. I am surprised she kept giving us livesavers really. Uncle Bob asked if you could really choke on a lifesaver, and the answer is a definite yes! I know Kari had mentioned this story in one of her poems, but it’s something I’ll never forget. Maybe it is the reason I don’t eat many lifesavers these days. Second I thanked her for being such a role model to three generations.  She is one of the most loving, kind and beautiful women you would ever meet. I also asked her if I could speak at her funeral.  Grandma to some extent never really gave me an answer, but simply stated she didn’t want anybody to have to do anything they didn’t want to do.  I guess that meant she was fine with it, she obviously thought I could do it.  I joked with her on thanksgiving that I hoped I would think of something to say and she told me she wished she could hear me speak.  I know she is listening now.
When I was trying to think of a word or phrase that summarized Grandma the one phrase that kept coming up was “Unconditional Love.” 
In the bible 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 states:
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, belives all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
She loved each and every one of you and you all meant so much to her.  She loved seeing her kids, grand kids, and great-grandkids any chance she got.  It meant the world to her to see as many of you as she could, it truly made her the happiest when she got the chance to see or visit with any of us.  The one thing she told me that was hard for her during her final days was saying good bye to her family.  It wasn’t that she wanted to stay, she knew it was her time, she knew she was ready to go.  Maybe it was the finality of it but saying goodbye is never easy when you don’t know when you will say hello again.  It seemed as though on Thanksgiving she had moved past the point of having difficulty saying goodbye.  Maybe it was the pain medication, maybe it was seeing everybody or maybe it was simply being able to be in her home for her last week here, to accomplish one last goal, and that was Thanksgiving at home and to meet Great-Grandchild #27, little Nora.
On Thanksgiving I came up with an analogy as she was preparing to leave us: It was kinda like the times I lived out of the state.  When either I had to return or my Family left to return to South Dakota after a visit, the people leaving to go to their home are sad to leave but they are excited to go to home and have planes to catch and things to do when they get home, they have in essence less time to be sad.  When you are the one watching your family leave and you are there standing at the terminal you feel a bit alone, you feel sad that they are no longer with you, you miss them. That’s kinda how I feel now, I’m left here at the terminal watching Grandma leave on her journey. However, I take great comfort knowing that Grandma is in a better place. 
In Romans 8:31-39 it reads:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Grandma was a woman of Faith, she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.  She spent a lot of time in this very building.  It was because of her faith that she found Grandpa as members of the same church some 72 years ago. As we spoke during our phone call and at her bedside here in Willow Lake, we both know that we will see each other again.  The tears I have cried during these past few weeks are both full of joy and sadness.  Sadness for the temporary loss I feel now, but Joy for the enternal life I will one day share with Grandma, Grandpa and others that have gone before me.
As Jeremy read in the obituary, Grandma leaves a legacy of 5 Children, 13 Grandchildren, 27 Great-Grandchildren, another on the way and 2 step-great-granchildren. I know Grandma had a special place in her hearts for her “other kids and grandkids”, because she also had 3 son-in-laws, 2 daughter-in-laws and 11 Grand-Children-in-laws.  I know dad got to spend many coffee breaks, almost 13 years, at Grandma’s house.  Dad and Uncle Mel did a number of projects for her over the years.  Grandma also meant a lot to the Grandkid-in-laws, I know many of them are very grateful to have been able to call her Grandma and to know she treated them as if they had always been her grandchild.
I personally will never forget the hugs and the kisses she gave me or the loving embraces she gave from her bed this Thanksgiving. I will never forget how the littlest things meant the world to her, she understood how sometimes the small things that we take for granted are really the big things you need to treasure.  It has been written that “life is more accurately measured by the lives you touch rather than the things you acquire.”  Grandma lived her life that way.
I am not really sure how to end this, I could go on and on about Grandma.  But I guess I’ll end this the same way Grandma always ended her phones calls with me, “Yeah, you betcha, mm hmm bye.” We love and Miss you Grandma.