My brother Benjamin couldn’t say “Granny” when he was younger, but he could say “Aggie”, so that’s how our grandma got the nickname that stuck for about three decades.
Last Sunday, just after church would have ended for the morning, Aggie passed away.
She had sang her final hymns in this life, and was moving on to sing with her beautiful voice in a place that I Can Only Imagine.
A place that I long for some days more than others.
A place that is starting to hold more pieces of my heart with every loved one that goes on before me.
I’m so glad my sister, Karen, called a few days before she passed.
“I think I want to go see her,” she says to me on the phone. We knew the end was coming, and we didn’t know how to deal with it.
We had seen her in August when she was still able to sit in a wheelchair for a while and speak on occasion.
The dementia and Parkinson’s had taken their toll.
But we all gathered at the nursing home that summer day – there was 10 of us there to see her.
She may not have recognized all of us anymore, but she knew we were with her, that we belonged to her.
So when Karen called and said we should go, I booked a rental car and made the 4-hour drive first thing the next morning.
My sister brought her kids, and that was perfect. They bring such joy and laughter with them wherever they go, don’t they?
Children always make life brighter, better, more real and alive.
Aggie was resting peacefully in the room in the nursing home.
No longer able to eat or drink, she was caught between worlds, almost ready to move on.
She opened her eyes as best she could a few times while we were there.
I stroked her beautiful salt-and-pepper hair (something she never would have let me do normally!) and told her it was okay, that I would see her soon. I hope she heard me.
I stayed with my grandfather long after Karen had to take restless children home.
We ate together in the dining room and we watch Mrs. Brown’s Boys and we laughed. It was good to laugh.
He told me more than once that it was supposed to be him who was to leave this world first.
He who has had decades of heart trouble and illness.
He doesn’t understand why he’s still here and Lily is gone.
I tell him he’s not alone, and I know it to be true.
On the day of the funeral, we arrive at the nursing home for the service.
I am frozen at the door of the chapel.
Before me stands a woman from the funeral home – she’s here to help with the service. She’s been helping my grandfather to set things right for this day.
She looks familiar… “Josh, I think I know her. Isn’t she the woman who helped us with Caleb’s funeral?”
I’d know that face anywhere.
The one who cradled my baby down the hospital hallway after I gently placed him in her arms.
Yes, it is her. I’m so glad to see her. I tell her who I am, what she meant to me 10 years ago, how I tell about the memory of her in the book that I hope to publish very soon. She tells me she wants to read it. And so I see my Caleb speaking to hearts beyond those that hurt from baby-loss.
This woman has helped me say goodbye to two of my most dear ones.
The service is wonderful. The minister has been getting to know my grandfather and Aggie for a few years now. A retired Scottish minister and a retired Yorkshire Becker’s owner. They joke with each other about their heritage, and their laughter makes me glad.
The minister talks about Jesus and how we can know him and be with those we love in heaven.
I know my Aggie is there already, playing with my Caleb, and I pray we will all be there together one day.
I read a Thank You list to my grandma.
We drive to the cemetery and lay her to rest in the almost-frozen ground.
We lay flowers on her casket.
My mum wanted us to play 10,000 Reasons and we do this as we stand in the chill and say goodbye. For now.
We gather back at the nursing home and we talk about Aggie and we laugh and eat sandwiches and drink tea.
She loved her tea.
We talk about seeing one another soon – Christmas is almost here and we will be back to visit.
And then this morning… I stand in church, not quite myself yet… still thinking, processing, missing her, missing my family…
The worship leader tells us about the next song coming…
And I sing for her, for us, for You.
See you soon Lily, Aggie, Grandma.
I love you…