Seventy years ago, my grandparents’ eyes met under a red lampshade for the first time. The following day, my grandfather asked my grandmother to wait for him as he was on his way to work far away for a long time. And that she did, she waited loyally and with hope in her heart like the light that shone in the red lampshade. And so began their journey. Today, they are four children, twelve grandchildren and twenty-one great-grandchildren strong. And counting.
Today, two years ago, my grandma died and went to heaven. She was just shy of ninety-two years old. How I long to ask her to linger just a little while longer, to put her hand on mine so to feel her warmth once more. Warmth that speaks of a heart that beat for those that she loved. For, heaven knows, she loved. Uncomplicated, uncompromising, her heart an open vessel for our Father’s love. Her love was care and shelter. There was no place I would rather go to escape and face the storms of life, all at the same time. Her love was innocence. In the words of Coenie de Villiers, “But here with me, my love, is shelter from the wind. Here you become a child once more and wisdom becomes innocent.”
Her love was the heartiest of food and the loveliest of aromas, flowing abundantly from her heart that was hers to share. Some people choose to keep their hearts for themselves, she never held anything back. Her love was dedication and sacrifice, ever since the day her and Grandpa’s eyes met under the red lampshade. Her love was prayers, without prejudice and condition, over us and for us that will last into all of eternity. Even when she was tired and sick, she knelt next to her bed every night to pray.
Her love was probably a thousand colorful blocks that she knitted that we can use today for scarves and jerseys and blankets. Her warmth never leaves us. Her love was creativity and elegance and tastefulness. Her love was bright lipstick on a gloomy day. Her love was rollers in her hair next to the washing line. Her love was a space in her bed for all her grandchildren. Her love was her whole family on holiday in a two-bedroom house. Her love was cookies and tea on the beach in yellow-hearted cups. Her love was family gatherings in her backyard. Her love was questions such as, “So are you going to start to work again?” Her love was then answering on my behalf, “Being a wife, mother and grandmother were always enough for me. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it is not good enough.”
Her love was dignity, even in the last moments of her life. Her love was humility, not once did I hear her boast of anything. Her love was a thankful heart. Even in her last days, her body tired and sore and her mind confused, she spoke freely of God’s grace for her. In every moment, she chose to thank and bless every person next to her bed. Her love was impossible to comprehend, for it was established and nurtured by her love for God.
And she loved me with this love. I count myself as the most blessed amongst blessed. But every time I walk into the tiny earthly space in my parents’ house that was her last earthly home, my heart breaks anew. What sound does a breaking heart make? No words, no sounds, just silent like a thief in the night that comes to take away what is most precious to us. The dead silence and made-up bed in this room makes me gasp for air. Yet, it calms me. Her unique smell still lingers there. I pray that it never leaves. But my heart confuses me. My love for her runs so deep that I wish her all the joy that only heaven can bring, but still I want her here with me, always. Oh, how my world needs her love!
I am thankful that I can look into my heart and find her there. Her place cemented, ever unmovable by God’s grace. Her heart in mine is a lighthouse in the stormy waters that is life. In my heart she lives, always, and also in those of my children and their children’s children. She is, not was, and will forever be the heartbeat of our family.
I miss her, more than words can ever say.