“You Be Thankful”

I was at the funeral home tonight.

It’s not often I leave a wake and feel completely at peace. A friend’s grandpa died at age 93, for the most part, just from being 93. At dinner, when I reminded my kids that we’d be going, Clay asked me if “Grandpa” had been sick.

I didn’t anticipate the relief I’d feel by simply saying “no.”  No carefully chosen words about why cancer takes people too young or clunky explanation about how bad things sometimes “just happen” to people we love.

“No, Clay, Grandpa wasn’t sick,” I said. “Just old. He kind of went to sleep.”

When we got to the funeral home, the kids ran off to play with their friends while I visited with the family. “Grandpa” was the grandfather (and grandfather-in-law) of some of my closest friends. Every Sunday after church, almost without fail, they’d pack up all four kids and head to Grandma and Grandpa’s for lunch. I met their grandparents just one time, but when friends become like family, their family has a way of feeling like an extension of your own.

When Grandma was finally alone, my friend Nancy reintroduced me.

“We met once before,” I said. “Years ago around a dinner table. I don’t expect you to remember, but I had the most delightful conversation with your husband.”

“I don’t remember,” she said, pointing to the open casket, “but he would. He never forgot a thing.”

After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, I expressed my condolences. But what happened next caught me off guard. Grandma took a firm grip on my arm and — I’m not kidding — scolded me.

“You don’t be sorry for me,” she said sternly. “You be thankful.”

She went on to explain that Grandpa’s death was an answer to prayer, just one more proof in a long legacy of faithful proofs that God was always right beside them — guiding them, leading them, holding their hands.

I know they don’t all go this way, but nonetheless, it was wisdom at its finest; a golden nugget passed down from one life to another, from one generation to the next.

A beautiful picture I won’t soon forget.

And, if ever given the chance, one I’d be honored to pass on to another unsuspecting soul.

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4 thoughts on ““You Be Thankful”

  1. Susie, When my mom decided not to replace the batteries in her pace maker, she knew she had probably made the decision she was going to die. After three months, she did go to be with God. When I looked at her during the viewing, I felt peace. I still feel peace when I think of her. I don’t remember her having trouble walking, getting dressed, remembering. I think of her with God. I see her whole and smiling down on me. Death doesn’t always bring on sadness. Sometimes it is the answer to a life that is worn and tired and ready to be with God. Aunt Kathy

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  2. Suanne – I recently read your FullFill article “Slam.Click.Lock.” Your experiences of being the youngest in a family struck me as EXACTLY what my 7 year old daughter says about being the youngest in our family. As the oldest child growing up I struggle with understanding how to help her through what we call at our house, “drama!” Do you have any words of wisdom for me as a mom on the best ways to help her feel loved and accepted by all of us? I don’t want her to carry those feelings you described into her adult life, too. Thanks!

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    • Colleen, thanks so much for this comment. I suppose what I can offer is this: make sure your daughter knows she is valued for who she is apart from others in your family. Let her know her talents are unique and worthwhile regardless of her age. The youngest is always going to get teased, etc. (which really is just part of growing up and my siblings and I have some GREAT, funny stories to tell because of it!) but try to curb some of the “stupid” and “little” comments when you can, explaining to the older ones why it might be hurtful and then reinforce to your daughter that just because she’s younger doesn’t mean she’s somehow less valuable. All in all, I think if your daughter knows she is loved by you, her dad and her older siblings, she’ll be just fine. While I do carry some baggage, for the record, I have a wonderful family who really does love and value me for which I’m extremely grateful. Hope that helps!

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