The Answer is Yes

Many things in life aren’t convenient. Often times they’re more than just not convenient, though, they’re costly. Sometimes financially, sometimes emotionally, sometimes relationally. When we double over from the pangs of all three, the easiest answer is always to retreat from whatever it is that’s making us squirm. So we choose comfort, routine and a marginally padded pocket over that which may be too awkward, too expensive or, let’s face it, too unbelievably inconvenient.

And in doing so, I’m increasingly convinced, we miss some of the best moments life has to offer.

Six months ago, my grandmother’s cancer reappeared. At 93, she left her home, moved into a one-bedroom assisted living apartment and made the courageous decision to live out the rest of her days chemo free. With the prognosis fuzzy, none of us were sure how much time she had left.

Given the facts, it seems like a plane ticket should have been a no-brainer, but not all relationships are the get-on-the-plane-and-go type, a fact that left my sister and I agonizing for most of those six months over the “right” thing to do. In the end, we chose the pangs over our trepidations and booked the tickets; tickets that meant we were saying goodbye.

Two weeks after clicking CONFIRM — my grandmother’s health deteriorating by the hour — I found myself stuck on the tarmac of Denver International unsure if I’d make it after all, a thought that was more unsettling than I ever imagined possible.  

As it turned out, I made it just in time. Four hours after I stood next to my grandmother’s bed, stroking her paper-thin arm and whispering things I’d never before had the courage to say, I was awakened by the buzzing of a cell phone. My sister sat on the edge of my bed and, in the dark quiet of the room, we cried for a woman we’d only ever known from a distance. 

It was the first moment I knew I was glad I came.

Over the course of the weekend, I savored many more that I suppose are typical when a family gathers to mourn — stories I’d never heard, photos of ancestors I never knew I had, uninterrupted conversation with relatives I hadn’t seen in years, snippets of lives I didn’t know existed.

But it was the unexpected moments, the kind you can’t anticipate or plan for, that gave way to the fullness of my epiphany —  that when we hastily wonder if the cost will be worth tossing aside our (selfish) inhibitions the answer, almost without fail, is yes.

It’s full weight bared down as my sister and I sat  in the back seat of a car, my parents sharing their first years of life together: their first apartment, the house where my sister spent her first sleepless night, the river next to my mom’s high school where she won (repeatedly, she assured us) the annual regatta; the school where my dad held his first job, the park where they used to walk, the big yellow boarding house (when my dad played for the Minnesota Twins) and, my favorite, the story of the house’s Italian landlady whose heart my mom stole so completely that she gave up her secret family recipe — a recipe that, to this day, I don’t live through a Thanksgiving without.

Oh, there were more. Reconnecting with friends who were like cousins growing up, walking into a house that felt like home after years of playing host to sweet summer vacations, reading letters my mom had written from summer camp when she was ten — not just reading them, but seeing her childhood penmanship  — and watching my parents, after 48 years of marriage, be there (I mean really be there) for one another as my mom said goodbye to her mother, the last living parent either of them would know.

When I left on Sunday morning, I had no regrets. I hugged my family at the airport, my heart brimming with the things I would have missed had I decided to choose the easier path. The easier path would have cost me less, sure, but would have left me wondering, regretting and void of the fullness that only comes when we abandon our indecision and choose to say yes.

The morning my grandmother passed away, a nurse grabbed me as I was leaving her room. “Your grandmother,” she said, “was a sharp-witted lady with a very soft heart.” After my weekend in Wichita, I have no doubt that was true. This post is dedicated to Ellen Mae Solter (May 1918 – January 2011). Rest in Peace.

 

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11 thoughts on “The Answer is Yes

  1. Great post, Suanne. So glad you said yes and got to experience so many memories with your family. My grandmother’s death brought my sisters and I back together. Happy comes from sad if you’re willing to walk through the hard parts.

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  2. Wonderful post Suanne. I think Grandma would have been happy to know that she helped bring you and your sister closer to the family. Ellen was the type of lady that always thought about her family first rather than herself. She gave a lot and asked for very little. I’m glad you and your sister were able to finally see her.

    I know in my heart Grandma was happy to have you guys there. Why? Because everyday I saw her, Grandma would wear that pendant with the circle of birthstones representing all the grandkids that we bought her for her 90th birthday. Actions always speak louder than words. That in itself, tells me how much she loved each and every one of us.

    Love you cousin,

    Doug

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    • Thanks Doug, that means a lot. I’m grateful that you were close by to spend so much time with her. I’m sure she was grateful too.

      The part I had to edit out of this post (for length) was how much I enjoyed getting to talk writing and manuscripts with you. So great to spend some time with you (thanks for staying for lunch at the airport!) and catch up. I’m holding you to your promise to visit. Just come when it’s a touch warmer : )

      Love you too.

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  3. Another wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your story in such an intimate manner. It made me think of my own mom and dad – my mom we just lost this past April. In my case, I thought I knew my mom better than anyone, but after hearing so many stories and going through her “things” like you did – I discovered that “only half of the story had been told” – maybe less. It was so rewarding to “fill in the gaps” and hearing how she had impacted so many lives.

    Those decisions seem so hard to make when facing them – I’m just glad you responded as you did to what I’m sure you know now to be the Spirit’s prompting. Don’t you just wish He would be a little more clear from the outset??? 🙂

    Have a blessed day.
    Pete

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    • Oh my yes, clarity would be nice : )

      I remember watching you with your mom and thinking what a special relationship it was. I’m glad you have so much to carry with you and pass on to your kids and grandkids. She will no doubt be remembered and missed. Thanks, as always, for sharing Pete.

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    • Thanks Vick. I know, I always hate to hear myself say “been meaning to call” (but it’s true) and I knew you would want to know. Actually I took comfort in just knowing you’d want to know…was thinking about you lots. Thanks for being part of our family through the years. You know the Ashcrofts love you and I have no doubt you’ll be in touch with my mom, because that’s just what you do. And to answer your previous FB post, yes we survived the snow but I can’t stop complaining about being so darn cold!

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  4. Suanne… thank you for this post! I lost my grandfather in November of 2001 and then my dad just 6 weeks later. This brought back precious memories of those moments. It was the saddest year of my life to date, yet a very peaceful one where I was leaning so heavily into God that it’s hard to describe. (I can’t write like you!) I, too, am glad you said yes. Take care.

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