On Friday, December 21, the Stewart family moved into our new residence. We were pretty sure that we wouldn't be in before Christmas, but through tireless efforts from our realtor and our lender, and through the providence of a caring Father, we did. The home is beautiful and far beyond what we hoped for. A ranch style spread sitting on 1.5 acres--with trees! Hardwood flooring throughout. An attached garage with an almost finished out attic. A plot for a garden. Lots of stuff, and we love it.
On Saturday, December 22, we spent the entire day unloading boxes and putting stuff up and together. A long day, but not unpleasant. Many thanks to all those who were able to help.
On Sunday, December 23, we heard a sermon on the birth of Jesus. How His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection--the Gospel, His gift of grace--is the ultimate present to unwrap on Christmas. How so much God loves the world that He extends to us grace and redemption when we don't deserve it. And that night, as every year on December 23, the entire extended family gathered together in Bremen to enjoy one each other's company. This has always been so as long as I can remember. Coming together as a family. It's a unique experience, as I come from a family where love is apparent and obvious, where people honestly care about one another, where the backbiting and gossiping is relatively minuscule and non-existent. My family may not have much in the realm of materialism, but we're over-abundant when it comes to love. That's how we are.
After the get-together was over we stopped by Mamaw's house to pick up Stella and to check on her. She left the gathering early. She hadn't been feeling to good. So we stopped and spent a good hour-and-a-half there, just talking and chiding Mamaw's stubbornness. She didn't want to spend Christmas in the hospital, she said. She'd go after Christmas. So I took her trash outside for her and Keisha offered to take some of the food home with us and prepare it so she wouldn't have to. Mostly we just sat around and talked and watched Avonlea play with Mamaw's water bottle and eyeglasses. Hilarious stuff, really.
Mom spent the night with Mamaw and we left to go to our new home.
At 3:54am on December 24, Mom called and told me that Mamaw didn't have a pulse. She passed away not long after.
On Monday, December 24, we went to the funeral home and went through all the routine stuff. Questions, answers, coffin room. We were all stunned. Christmas at Keisha's grandmothers that night to try normalcy, but my heart and mind were elsewhere. All I can think about is how fulfilled my relationship was with Mamaw, how much I loved her and how much she loved me. I spent the formative years of my life living with Mamaw, and my relationship was incredibly deep. Many nights I spent down her house and she'd wake up early to take me and Jake home before going to work. How I always opened her fridge and freezer just to see what she had available or if the ice box needed seeing to. How I called her each week just to talk on the phone and see what was up. How funny Avonlea looked playing with Mamaw's glasses, how Mamaw laughed.
I think of the few unfinished things in my life that Mamaw missed: she won't get to see my new house, she won't get to meet the new baby when he comes around, and a few others. But mostly I think about how full her life was, how much love was there between us. All four of us grandkids loved her intensely, and her love was reciprocated. She was without a doubt the best grandmother I could have hoped for, and I miss her very much.
On Tuesday, Christmas Day, December 25, we all gathered at Mamaw's house that night as planned. We didn't get to eat her delicious cheese dip or sausage balls or barbecue, nor did anyone feel too much like eating, but we managed. We sat around the tree and looked through photo albums, each of us quietly reflecting in our own way. We passed out the gifts we had for one another. My heart lurched at opening the ones from Mamaw. Her absence was so noticed, and yet her presence was felt. Love never ends, even if this life is temporary.
So I grieve and miss my Mamaw, but I think only happy thoughts on her memory. I have the assurance that I will see her again, and until that day I'll go on living my life knowing that she has helped shape me into the person that I am today.
I love you, Mamaw.