Words for Grandma’s Funeral

In the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to finally get to know my Grandma Lu.  After the passing of my Grandpa Bud, Grandma seemed to become more receptive to family and visitors.  I totally took advantage of that by visiting her as often as I could and coaxing her into telling me stories.

The memories I’ll cherish are these that I’ve made in the past couple of years and today I will share my last three with you.  But first, Grandma Joyce insisted on being called Grandma Lu by all the grandkids so I hold to that in my little speech.

On Tuesday, February 12, I had suddenly had enough of fretting about Grandma Lu’s situation.  About a week prior she had decided to quit dialysis and a few short days following that she was moved to hospice care.  I had spent those several days wallowing in my empty house and, after melting into a sobbing puddle on my kitchen floor randomly one afternoon, I figured it was time to set my sails for Minnesota to see her.  I hit snow as I drove in the night but since I’m as much of a stubborn Norwegian as my grandma I kept at it and slowly, but surely, made it safely home.

The next morning I awoke to coffee time with Mom and then we headed to visit Grandma.  I was hopeful in going to see her because only a couple of days before my mom told me how Grandma said something like this, “all who believeth and are baptized will be saved.”

My time with Grandma was lovely and gave me peace.  Honestly, my Grandma is a hoot to hang with.  We talked a lot about Josh, I think she had a little crush on him , and I tried to get her to tell me stories from her childhood.

On the last day I was home I went to visit her by myself.  I brought the dogs and Josh’s music so she could meet my furry kiddos and hear some rough cuts of Citizen Way’s new album coming out in the next couple of months.  She was amused by my pups until Sam tried to snuggle one too many times and drew blood on her fragile skin with his persistently knife-like claws.  So, I put them away and put the music on.  She reclined and listened intently to every tune I played for her.  I’m pretty sure she couldn’t have possibly understood the lyrics but I was praying all the while that the words would sink into her heart anyway.  After she tired of music we chatted. At one point she dozed off and she was so still that I thought she died right in front of me!  But, just before I asked Gene, her 24 hour caregiver, for help, Grandma spoke again behind me.  Thank the Lord!  I was so freaked!

Before I left I asked if I could pray for Grandma.  ”Oh yeah!” she said.  A much more enthusiastic response than I expected so my heart fluttered even more hopefully for her.  After the prayer and a gentle, awkward stooping hug I said “I love you Grandma” and she said “drive safe” (she doesn’t say “I love you”) and that was the last time I saw her.

On Friday, February 22, Grandma Lu took a turn for the worse.  My mom called asking me to pray hard because she had gotten the call that Grandma was at her end and, if she wanted to be there to say goodbye, she had to get there right away.  With a 45 minute drive ahead of her, my mom was desperate for some divine intervention so she could make it in time.

After calling Josh and praying with him and sending a quick text to my small group pleading for prayer, I got on my knees and prayed as hard as I’ve ever prayed.  I prayed for my mom to get to Grandma on time but I mostly prayed that God would claim my Grandma as one of His own before she breathed her last.  This was a common prayer for me in the last couple of years but never so desperately and fervently

As I prayed God kept talking over me.  When I finally was quiet for a moment all I heard Him say was “Kaia, stop praying for this, I already have her in the palm of my hand.  She is one of my own.”  My heart soared and I was filled with such peace and hope.

My mom did make it in time that day and my Grandma decided she wasn’t done yet.

On Monday, February 25 at around 6:30AM my strong-willed and spunky grandma breathed her last.  I awoke at 7:30AM to a voicemail from my dad with the news and my heart was so glad that she was finally safely home and no longer in pain.  As I listened through the voicemail I was given this beautiful vision of my white-haired, though obviously healthy, smiling Grandma.  It was a smile free of pain and struggle and a face so full of life and peace and love and joy.  She truly was so beautiful!

In her last days my grandma taught me a lot about “being joyful in the face of suffering.”  I truly hope I can live out her example of perseverance when I grow old.  I respected her so much for the way she carried herself amidst the pains of so many health issues, especially at the end with the excruciating pain that comes with kidney failure.  I really loved my Grandma Lu and I hope she realized how fully I loved her and how greatly I will miss her.  My heart grieves that I can’t share and laugh with her anymore but I am so excited to see her again when I get to travel to paradise.

My Grandma’s Obituary

In Memory of…

Joyce Maxine Hammond (Tollefson)

April 10, 1930 – February 25, 2013
Joyce Maxine Hammond (Tollefson)
age 82, of Minnetonka, (formerly of Golden Valley, Brooklyn Center, and Edmore, ND). Beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and sister, she passed through the gates of heaven on February 25, 2013. Joyce was born on a farm outside Edmore, North Dakota. After graduating high school, she moved to Minneapolis where she met and married Walter “Bud” Hammond. They were blessed with three children. Joyce is preceded in death by her husband of 59 years and her parents Art and Alvilde Tollefson. She is survived by children Julie (Ed) Pasicznyk, Steven Hammond, and Amy (Craig) Hagberg; grandchildren Dena Rasmussen, Amanda Pasicznyk, Kaia Calhoun, Connor Hagberg, and Kaylin Hammond; great-grandchildren Jensen and Boden Rasmussen; and siblings Lorrayne, Duane, and Don Tollefson. The family thanks the caregivers at Meridian Manor and Methodist Hospital Hospice for their compassionate care. Memorial service on Tuesday, March 5 at 12 noon, with visitation one hour prior. Sunset Memorial Park Chapel, 2250 St. Anthony Blvd. NE, Minneapolis 612-789-3596. Lunch to follow service. Memorials preferred to the National Kidney Foundation , or in honor of her late husband, the Alzheimer’s Association . Joyce courageously fought many health challenges with tremendous grace. Her spunk and tenacity will be greatly missed.

How to Help a Grieving Friend

I am 24 and in the past 6 years I’ve had 7 loved ones pass away, been to  5 funerals, and cried more tears than I have in my whole lifetime.  This Tuesday I am going to my grandma’s funeral, my 6th funeral in 6 years.

Today I was talking to my mom about Grandma and realized the difference between offering to be there for a grieving friend and actually being there.

I see my mom’s friends not just offering to be a listening ear but they actually make a phone call.  I see them delivering food rather than just offering to help.  Instead of simply offering condolences via Facebook they are bringing her flowers.

I know is most people younger than 25-years-old haven’t experienced the death of a loved one so how could they possibly know how to comfort someone who is grieving?  This post is for anyone who wants to know how to be an AMAZING friend to someone in mourning.

  1. Make a phone call.  Facebook condolences are fantastic but there is very little effort in doing that.  It means the world to be cared for enough to have a friend reach out personally.
  2. Send a handwritten letter.  I have always been a big advocate for handwritten letters.  I know there is something so special about them in this age of emails, texts, and junk mail.  I especially learned the value of this when I stared sending my late grandma postcards and writing her letters.  She looked forward to my letters and loved them so much that she would bring every one of them with her every time she was going to see my mom to show off the latest card she received.
  3. Ask to meet up.  A friend that reaches out with a note or a phone call is a wonderful friend.  But there is nothing like having someone come over to your house and hug you, cry with you, and let you talk about the memory of the one you lost.  With an empty house, all I wanted the day I found out about my grandma dying was for someone to come over to my house and hold me.
  4. Be a good listener.  Sometimes your friend will want to talk about what they are feeling, what their loved one was like, and what they are experiencing.  All you have to do is listen.  If they start crying hold them and get them tissue.  Don’t be afraid to allow for space and silence so they can keep dwelling on what their feeling unless they change the subject.
  5. Send some flowers to your friends house.  My mom has received flowers from friends, in-laws, and even a business colleague she hasn’t met face-to-face yet.
  6. Send some flowers to the funeral.  It was so meaningful seeing so many floral and plant gifts at my grandpa’s funeral.
  7. Send a gift.  You could drop off some brownies, send a teddy bear, bring them a latte or a bottle of wine, have a locket made with their loved one’s picture in it… anything thoughtful really.  Your gift doesn’t have to be big or expensive, in this case it really is the thought that counts.  With my grandpa’s passing I got to be here to witness Pam bring our family communion, Karen gave my mom a handmade necklace with my grandpa’s picture superimposed, several bouquets of flowers arrived at their doorstep, Amy gave my mom a penny with a heart cut out of the middle, Steve and Jenny gave us an eternal lantern, Leanne and Bev gave wind chimes with a beautiful inscription (“Walter ‘Bud’ Hammond 1931-2011 His charming ways and smiling face are a pleasure to recall.  He had a kindly word for each and died beloved by all.”)
  8. Give them a gift card to a restaurant or something fun.  It’s a crazy time and sometimes it’s simply the best to get away from it all for a little while and enjoy a free meal out or to take in a movie.
  9. Bring them a meal.  Often times with grieving the structure of a human mind is a complete fog and all apetite goes away.  Without the desire to eat no food is made and with a mind so foggy the mind is mostly incompetent to cooking anything anyway.
  10. Attend the funeral.  If someone close to you lost a loved one perhaps one of the biggest gifts you can give is honoring your friend and their loved one’s memory by attending the funeral   Last year at my grandpa’s funeral most of my dad’s side of the family, all of my mom’s best college girlfriends, and my cousin’s best friend came to the funeral.  I remember feeling so taken care of and surrounded by love because of this simple act of solidarity.
  11. Give money to the cause presented in the obituary.  Usually this cause has something to do with the way the loved one died.
  12. Offer to clean their house.  In this season there are a lot of visitors coming in and out of the house and/or lots of arrangements being made so household cleaning falls by the wayside.
  13. Deliver groceries.  Similarly to household cleaning, common tasks like taking the trash out and going grocery shopping don’t happen.  Taking care of menial tasks allows the family some more time and space to either take care of funeral arrangements, grieve, and readjust to a new sort of life.
  14. Say “I’m so sorry.”  So many people don’t know what to say.  I know it’s uncomfortable but all you really need to say is “I’m so sorry” and give them a big, wrap-your-arms-around-and-squeeze hug.  If they cry, hold them firmly until they stop.  If you have more time with them or want to say more simply ask questions about the lost loved one.  What were they like?  What are some of your favorite memories with your grandma?  Please don’t ask “Oh, were you close?”  I’ve found that whenever I’m asked that I feel like
  15. “I’d like to help lighten your load, what can I do?”  “What can I do to help?” is also worlds different than “let me know how I can help.”  The former ilicits a response and the latter is more generic and unreachable.  The latter is the kind of thing everyone says, sometimes hoping the person they say it to never actually asks for help.  I’ve had so many kind offers from friends that sound something like, “let me know how I can help.” It’s a very sweet offer but I find I don’t feel I can actually take friends up on a statement like that.  I still feel like I would be a burden or a nuisance or an annoyance to actually ask for help.
  16. Help bear the burden of the bad news.  My mom has been the chief of all news and, thus, her phone doesn’t stop ringing.  A great way to help your friend through their difficult time would be to personally help make phone calls to pass along the news and give the funeral/memorial service information.  You can even start a calling tree and rally some more friends to help make the calls to lessen the burden of the bereaved.
  17. Give money.  Sometimes families are left with outrageous funeral expenses or medical bills and will go into debt without help.  By giving the gift of money directly to the family you are enabling them to stay afloat and are helping relieve another stressor.

On a final note, the best words spoken to me in my time of grieving my grandpa were right before his funeral.  All the family was gathered in the foyer when my father-in-law, George Calhoun, told us all something like “let yourself feel whatever you are feeling.”  The idea behind that statement is that everyone grieves differently and it’s too easy to feel like you have to be crying all day every day and, heaven forbid, you laugh at all.