She has slowed considerably in the past ten years. A number of years ago she moved into an assisted living apartment from the old farmhouse where she and Grandpa had raised six boys and housed their sons' bursting families from time to time. After some severe health issues a couple years ago she transferred from the apartment to a connected facility that provides much more care. She has taken each transfer with the graciousness and patience and peace that have marked her life.
I think I can honestly say that if it were not for who Grandma is, our family would not be in Guadalajara. My other grandparents also marked my life significantly through the years I was able to enjoy them, and my parents and Kraig's family and grandparents have certainly had their impact, too. There's no end to the people who have touched our life and molded us. But Grandma is an integral component.
I always loved Grandma, no question. Who couldn't love the grandmother who opened her home to roiling masses of grandchildren and provided great Pennsylvania Dutch feasts? How could one not love the grandmother who always had the right kinds of ice cream on hand for ice cream cones, and had the tree in the back yard perfect for climbing and dreaming? This is the grandmother who, years ago when we were in the Philippines, sent amazing care packages with huge swaths of nylon-type fabric in blue, green and pink that my sister and I draped around us as fabulous gowns or tied up through our room to make tents that rivaled those in Arabian Nights. And when she visited, she could take any clothes that needed help and mend them in a flash. This was a grandmother easy to love.
But the older I've gotten, the more I have realized her depth. I've always known her love for Christ is part of what makes her who she is. As I've gotten older, though, I've see her shine more. She's the classic Christian, reading her Daily Bread and her Bible, her home full of Bible pictures and verses and sermon notes, watching Day of Discovery and listening to classic radio programs. If you saw only this, she would seem to be a stereotype of Christianity. Get to know her, though, and the reality shines through. She doesn't just take all this stuff in. She internalizes it and lets it transform her. And the older she gets, the more she glows.
It's not like she hasn't had anything hard in her life. She was in her early sixties when my grandfather was diagnosed with ALS, and she nursed him till he passed away in a brief span of years. Barely any time had passed after Grandpa died that Grandma took her mother in and nursed her for a number of years as well. After her mother's death, there were a few years of looking after her brother. Her sons have been there for her through all of this--I've always loved to watch them shower love back on her. They've had their ups and downs, too, and Grandma has always been there, not imposing, but a steady presence.
She is full of prayer. Sometimes we laugh and say that the reason Grandma has lived so long is because God still wants her praying for all of us. The other summer when I last saw her she told us about a friend who had called her a prayer warrior. "I'm not a prayer warrior," she exclaimed in complete innocence. "Why would she call me that?" "Grandma!" one of the family said, "of course you are! When you wake up in the middle of the night what's the first thing you do until you get back to sleep? You start praying through your list of your family!" She didn't buy it, and we love her all the more because of that.
So yes, there is no question in my mind that our family is here in part because of the woman my grandmother is. Her character and faith have had an eternal impact on how we approach life, and her prayer has carried us through more than I can see. I am always encouraged when I think of that. And when I look at her, I hope that I will age with the grace she has, with her patience and with her peace. I am thankful that I know her Source, because I wouldn't have a hope if she got it all on her own strength. And she'll make sure anyone who asks knows that.