All the Things Left Behind

With the passing of my grandma we have come on the time when it is necessary to sort through all the things she left behind.  On Friday my mom and I drove to my grandma’s condo.  We spent the morning sorting things into three piles:  trash, donate, and pretty.  The trash pile consisted of normal every day trash and items that were unusable.  The donate pile was for the items we knew no one in the family would want or need. And the pretty pile held all the precious items from paintings to tea cups that need to be claimed by family members   Then we spent the afternoon going through the pretty pile with my aunt Julie, deciding where said items should belong.

Before the end of the day we ended up at my grandma’s assisted living apartment.  This is the place where my last memories, and some of my most treasured memories, were made with my grandma.  My heart sunk to my toes when I saw her empty bed.  I wandered the apartment in numbness.

The whole day was grueling and depressing.

At the end of the day I was mostly left with questions.  Is there a better way to go about this?  Why does it feel so yucky claiming my grandma’s things?  Why is it so hard wrapping up an estate?  Why do we have so much stuff and why does it all have to be left behind for our loved ones to deal with?  I know we don’t take anything with us to heaven, and I don’t wish we did, but I just wish there was an easier way to deal with those things we do leave behind.

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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
Obituary
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.

My Grandma Went Home to Jesus

 

Wednesday WordsIMG_0813-1024x6820002

A couple of weeks ago I made a last-minute trip up to Minnesota to see my Grandma.  After I was informed she was stopping her dialysis treatment and moving into hospice I was desperate to connect with her one last time.  With a little extra push from my hubby I made the 7 hour trip, or 8 hours in this case since I drove through snow on the way up, and got to visit with her a couple of times before I had to head back home to shoot a wedding.  (CLICK HERE for the full story about that trip.)

On Friday Grandma 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 quite 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 with life yet.

On Monday, February 25 at around 6:30 am my strong-willed and spunky grandma breathed her last.  I awoke at 7:30 am to a voicemail from my dad with that 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!  I really loved my grandma and 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.

Today I am home in Minnesota again to spend time with my now orphaned mom and help her in any way I can.  We have planned the funeral for Tuesday, March 5, 2013 and, by the grace of God, my hubby is able to make it (he is currently on tour with Big Daddy Weave and Chris August so the fact that he can break away is amazing) AND do the music AND my father-in-law so graciously agreed to make the long trek up to the service.  God is so good!

Thank you all so much for your prayers, support, and encouragement.  We can feel the strength and peace that we are being given from your prayers!  You are a blessing!