She would have turned 96 on Monday, but she has been with the Lord for almost eight years. Although we never lived close, our annual visits engraved their way on my childhood. She always told me that she wished she was a boy, and that when I grew up she hoped I only had boys. I told her that was crazy and asked to paint her nails, and she always let me. She would never allow the bright colors, usually it was clear polish, and always something muted and sensible. She would let me “style” her fuzzy gray hair, and I loved standing in front of her vanity in her maroon tiled bathroom. It was like stepping back in time. She never threw anything away. People always told me I looked like her, and I hated it. She had a big German nose and very long arms and kind of a crooked smile. They were right though- I look just like her.
I can’t shake the memory of her old hands and exactly the way it felt to hold them as I sat on her bed while she gave me things. She was always trying to give me her jewelry from around the world (what was left of it) and old funny things, because she said she was going to die soon. I never remember a visit where she didn’t say she was about to die, and I remember 18 years of visits. The Lord kept giving her more years and she kept playing organ at her church and making spaghetti when we visited and serving breakfast on the screen porch and refusing to buy new clothes and giving away anything fancy and clapping for our silly plays and faithfully walking through life when she knew she was ready to be finished. She always told me to stay close to the Lord, and that you can’t serve God and money, and that being a wife and mother is a full time job and I should treat it like one when the time comes.
On my last visit before she died she sang for me, as she always did before we left, “God be with you ’til we meet again, ’til we meet at Jesus’ feet“. But that time I knew it was really true, it was really the last time we would see each other until we are both with Jesus. When I visited again a few months later, I cried when I saw her hands. Those were not the hands that I loved and the hands that I remembered- those hands had no life and were not serving. But my grief was short and the sadness overshadowed by the hope in her words to me. When she passed on I felt more pride than sadness, pride that she had lived a faithful life, relief for her that she was finished with her race, proud of what she left behind and proud to hold the memories, proud of the boy she raised into my father, and most of all I felt privileged to live a life in the shadow of her faith.