Easter season is upon us again, and for me it will never be the same. A few years ago, on Easter Sunday, my paternal Grandmother, Jytte Dawson, passed away, and I wrote about it at the time. Last Wednesday, April 16th, my maternal Grandmother, Virginia Geib, joined her in eternity. You can read her obituary here.
Both of my Grandmothers were fortunate to have been surrounded by friends and family in their final moments. Both had friends and family caring for them around the clock in the months and weeks leading up to their deaths. I realize that not everyone is so fortunate, and I am grateful to have such a family.
But this post is about my Grandmother. I’m finding it difficult to write this post, not the least because I know I can never do justice to what an amazing woman my Grandmother was. My brother, who is a substantially better writer than I, said so many things so much better than I. Nevertheless, here is my attempt.
During the bulk of my childhood, I divided my time between jaunts in Saudi Arabia and Ohio, following my father’s work as an aircraft mechanic. During our times in Ohio, we lived very close to my grandparents, and on occasion even in the same house. Thus, my weekends and evenings were often filled with my Grandmother’s presence. The best way I can describe it was an overwhelming feeling of love and devotion that infused the air whenever she was present. There was no question in anyone’s mind that our extended family had her at the center. She was the glue that held us together. Some of my fondest memories were of my uncles, aunts, and cousins all coming together at Grandma’s house for Christmas. We had a ritual, called cookie day, where all the cousins (and I have a lot of them!) would compete to decorate the most or best Christmas cookies. How I miss those times! My grandmother silently organized and bustled around the room through all of this, making sure everyone was fed and happy. She never asked an iota in return. All this makes her loss so much more painful to me and my family. But, if anyone has earned her rest from a lifetime of giving of herself to her family and friends, it’s my Grandma.
Some of my earliest memories were of Grandma reading a story to me at bedtime, or singing a song. I can still hear the soft words of “Down in the Valley”. I remember her prayers over dinner, which almost always included an invocation to God to keep our nation out of war. As I grew older, and while we still lived close by, Grandma and I would have regular evening chats about any number of topics. She always wanted to hear how school was going and she spoke to me as an equal. Every year on my birthday, without fail, my Grandmother and Grandfather would call me and sing to me their own special birthday song. When I married my wife, they began doing so for her as well. Over the years, my grandma was someone I knew I could always confide in without fear of judgment, and my only regret is that I didn’t avail myself of her wisdom more often.
My Grandmother was more than just the matriarch of our family. She loved her husband Doug “Skip” Geib, to whom she was married nearly 60 years. Their devotion to each other was evident every time I saw or heard them together. I never even remember a time when they so much as raised their voices to each other. She was a huge Elvis fan, and owned many of his albums. She worked for many years as an accountant for a local general store, and she had one of those calculators that prints at home. Let’s just say I’ve never seen someone wield one so skillfully. When she got into a rhythm, the combination of key clicks and printer noises actually had a musical and soothing quality to my young ears, and I can still hear it echoing in my mind to this day. There are so many other tidbits about her life than I can relate, but I hope I have at least conveyed a taste of the kind of person my Grandma was.
Easter is a season rife with symbolism about renewal and creation, and what better example than a beautiful garden, tended with care? My grandmother was an avid gardener, and I couldn’t wait to see what new things she was growing and eagerly looked forward to her tours. Sometimes she would even let me help! Gardening, to me, and I suspect to my Grandmother as well, strikes me as a particularly primal and earthy way of expressing the creativity that is part and parcel of our nature as Image-bearers of God. It’s taking pieces of nature and working with them to create something that is unmistakably a partnership of the wildness of Nature and the organization, intelligence, and creativity of human beings. I’m really not doing the concept justice, but I do hope you grasp the gist of what I am saying. It is making things new.
God promises that he will one day make all things new:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” – Revelation 21:3-5 (NIV).
When that far-distant day comes, when Heaven and Earth are one, one of the first things I’ll do is stroll into my Grandmother’s garden and ask, “Grandma, please show me what you are growing, and can I help?”. This is my hope.
Grandma, I love you. It has been a privilege to be your first grandchild. I only hope that I have made you proud. Rest in peace now, until we meet again.
I conclude with the beautiful song by Chris Tomlin that we sung in Church Easter morning: