A few weeks ago, my Grandma Lorene passed into Heaven. She had accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior when she was a young mother, and she exemplified true Christianity throughout her life. She was the matriarch of the family, and the foundation upon which we all grew upon. She was kind, wise, loving, caring…
I know it sounds like I’m romanticizing my grandmother’s memory, but she was truly all these things and much more.
She was the oldest of 11 children, grew up during the depression and had a fairly rough childhood. She married at an early age, so she and her mother were having children at the same time, and they became close friends.
Grandma Lorene and Grandpa Dee lived in a small town in south Missouri, and they did their part to populate it. They had 6 children, 17 grandchildren, 60 great-grandchildren, 60 great-great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great-great-grandchildren. (That would have been 11% of the population, if all of us were living there.)
She and my grandfather were solid people. They not only raised their six children, during the 30’s and 40’s, but many, many people have shared fond memories of being in their 2-story craftsman home. Their doors were always open to everyone: friends, playmates, less fortunate neighbors, family members, and even hobos that rode the train into town—Grandma never turned anyone away. They had so little, but shared so much.
They had a large front yard, right in the middle of town, and it was always full of children running and playing and jumping off of the big front porch. Recently, I overheard my aunts and my uncle recalling the games they used to play in that front yard; it was the same games my cousins and I had played, too. My favorite game was “steal the flag” (although the 4th generation calls it “capture the flag”).
I think my favorite memories recalled by my mother and her sisters and brother are the times when Grandma Lorene would sing. She sang often to us grandchildren; mostly songs about Jesus and His promises. But they remember times when they would all gather around in the small living room with their friends and cousins, when the weather was too bad to go out and play
“Mother and Daddy,” my mother recalls fondly, “gathered us all into the living room and they would sing songs to us. Daddy only had a couple of songs that he would sing, but Mother sang song after song.”
Recently, I was blessed to spend some precious time with my mother, her sisters, and their brother, and the girls sang me a few of the ballads my grandmother used to sing to them. One sister would start a song, and then the others would begin to sing along—it was a sweet, sweet testament to my grandmother.
Grandpa Dee passed a few years ago, and some time later, my Grandma Lorene had gone to live with her oldest daughter. However, due to failing health, Grandma Lorene had gone into a nursing home. Her children were faithful in tending to her. Those who lived close would go every day, and those who lived hours away would come every week.
Several times I have witnessed the staff in the nursing home commending them for the attention and time they were giving to their Mother, and each time one of them would say, “Mother has always been there for us, how could we not be here now for her.” And then story after story would be told about her being there with each of them at some important, life-changing event.
She spent eight months in the nursing home before she was taken to the hospital, due to congestive heart failure. And in true fashion of a woman who loved and was loved, the family began to gather around her—speaking words of love and encouragement.
She spent her last days in the hospital—surrounded by those who loved her most. One of my aunts brought in a CD player, and the room was filled with beautiful, Southern Gospel songs about God and His glory.
As visitors came in and out of the room, the sadness of seeing Grandma at this stage of life was quickly replaced with the joy of a memory each one had shared with this precious woman.
My mother had been driving down and spending the day at the hospital for almost three weeks. Every day when she would leave, she didn’t know if that would be the last time or not…it got very hard for her, and the others. Day after day, they watched their precious mother struggle with being in this world, and looking towards the next. They knew when she passed from this earth that God had a place prepared for her in Glory, but it’s hard to watch life ebb from someone you love so much. However, the assurance that there is a place where loved ones will be united and pain and sorrow will not follow is such a blessing to us who are left behind.
As we gathered in Grandma Lorene’s room that last day, we could tell she was getting weaker. Heavenly music was softly playing in the background as each of us whispered our last goodbye, or one more I love you, into her ear.
The day stretched on into early evening, and we lingered hoping that her spirit would be released, so she could be at rest. We began playing specific songs that encouraged us, and that we hoped would encourage Grandma: “Sheltered in the Arms of God”, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”, “Supper Time”… We sang softly with each song, as we sat with her, praying for her, kissing her, loving her; we knew she was only a prayer away from leaving us.
And then a song by Vince Gill was playing next to her pillow—“Go Rest High On That Mountain”<<click to listen
“Go rest high on that mountain,
[Mother] your work on earth is done
Go to Heaven a shoutin’
Look for the Father and the Son
…Go to Heaven a shoutin’
Look for the Father and the Son…
As the music softly faded into the last hushed tone, a quiet calm fell upon the room; and all who were there saw Grandma Lorene take her last breath in this life, as her spirit was released into eternal life.
Grandma Lorene lived a full life; she was just a few days short of turning 97 years-old. She was devoted to her family; was a friend to all whom she met; served in the church through many aspects—especially teaching Sunday school; but most of all she lived her life under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that people are known by the fruits they bear, and she produced a lot of spiritual fruit.
She was loved deeply by us all, and she will be greatly missed. But we have this hope, that when she left her temporary dwelling (her body), she was in her eternal dwelling place with God. (2 Corinthians 5)
She fought a good fight,
She finished her course,
She kept the faith:
And there is laid up for her a crown of righteousness,
Which the Lord the righteous Judge, has given her…