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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Funeral, Part I

"Grandma's gone to heaven," Al said, as he returned our kitchen phone to its cradle. My breath caught. The news of Carrie Bell's passing wasn't shocking, really, just my husband's delivery. Matter-of-fact, tearless, a slight hint of relief.

A tiny little woman of eighty-four when I first met her five years ago, my mother-in-law had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease a few years earlier. And physically, Al has explained, she'd been deteriorating over the past decade. She'd been an energetic woman, never slowing down, a fireball, I think he called her, for eighty years, and now she was tired. Al was the eighth and final live birth of Carrie Bell's ten pregnancies. His arrival made the fourth boy, with three older brothers and four sisters waiting for him at home. He'd been two months premature, born weighing only two pounds, in rural South Georgia in the early 1960s.

Carrie Bell told him often it was a miracle he'd survived. That God had a mighty purpose for his life. She fed him oatmeal every morning for five years. To make him strong!

Over our thirteen years of friendship and marriage, Al has slowly shared favorite memories of his Mom. Like all the times she sent him out to choose a switch for his own backside when he'd been naughty as a child. She still kept him in line as an adult, too, and I could picture her, just as he described, storming up and grabbing a beer can out of his grown-man hand and scolding him in front of God and everybody at a cocktail party. Most of all, though, Al recalls so fondly the evenings he spent at home with Carrie Bell after his siblings grew up and left for college, her drinking coffee and him hot cocoa, there at the kitchen table, just talking.

She listened well, he wistfully remembers.

And she was wise, he tells me, over and over. She knew what was really important. Never asked for anything from anyone, but made her life about taking care of others. To anyone, her life would look like suffering, but for her, joy abounded. She loved Jesus and quoted scripture and listened to the gospel hour on the radio every day, her feet patting to the rhythm, her hands busy baking cakes and pies commissioned by the neighbors and three hot meals a day for her husband and children. They were poor, and Carrie worked hard and tirelessly cleaning houses and cooking and watching school teachers' young kids to help provide. Her husband didn't believe in accepting any sort of assistance. No charity. No hand-outs.

I've listened as Al described the times his father would get drunk and rage against him and his mother, and how she'd sit quietly with just one foot swaying purposefully, refusing to ever say a word to her husband in anger. And Al wasn't allowed to speak up to or against his father, either. When the man became violent, Grandma Carrie would barricade herself and her small, innocent son in the dark, back bedroom and cradle that child's head in her lap, telling him everything would be alright, not to worry.

Carrie valued education, and insisted that all of her children finish college. Most of them rewarded her tenacity by following college with post-graduate degrees. She'd married at fourteen and never completed high school, and wanted so much more for her kids. And she saw them get it, too.

Just before we walked down the front stoop to the circular driveway and climbed into our car for the journey home after each visit with Grandma, she'd hold our hands in hers and pray very, very quietly - so softly that I couldn't even hear what she was asking on our behalf - and I felt lifted and loved and safe. I know this: My mother-in-law's prayers have blessed my husband, my children, and me.

God listened to this woman. A moment in her presence and you knew, without a doubt, she belonged to Him.

And now she was with Him. I held Al tightly and cried. He stood strong and warm against me for a while, then pulled me away from him to look into my eyes, "It's okay. It's good. She's in heaven, Megan."




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27 comments:

  1. Megan you have a way of making everything so beautiful and serene. God bless you, I think your Angel Carrie Bell will see to that.

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  2. Such a beautiful post! So sweet how you ended it. Sometimes it feels like it's not 'ok' to say it's ok or good because they are in heaven and no longer struggling in a body and mind that wasn't made to go on forever. And knowing that it IS good and ok because they are in heaven makes all the difference!

    Hugs to you, friend, as you walk through these days.

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  3. What a beautiful woman!! I know she is so proud of Al!! He is so smart, funny, and kind. He has taken those lessons and applied them to his life. He could have used his father's actions as an excuse, but instead he chose to learn from his mother and become the father and husband he is today. Can't help but love Al...and be thankful that his mother was the rock that he needed, and set an example with her Christian faith.

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  4. She sounds an awful, awful lot like my grandma. And just like my Grandma C, I think Al's mom was the kind of woman I really want to be. I forget that, all too often, though, and appreciate these reminders of what a godly woman is, and what I need to strive to become. Thank you.
    Looking forward to Part 2. :o)

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  5. What a beautiful post. I'm literally over here crying. Reminds me so much of my grandmother who is currently struggling with Alzheimers also.

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  6. What a beautiful post about an amazing woman. You painted a perfect picture for all of us and I am very sorry for your loss of such a wonderful mother.

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  7. I'm crying after reading this. What a special woman! I'm looking forward to meeting her in heaven!

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  8. She sounds like a beautiful,smart, strong, hard-working, confindant woman. I'm sure Al sees a lot of her in you!

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  9. Whew! That was so heart wrenching, but at the same time beautiful. No wonder Al turned out to be the kind of man he is. How blessed he was and is to have had such amazing women in his life. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree does it?

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  10. Heart wrenching post Megan but a happy ending. My condolences to you and Al.

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  11. YOu made me cry Megan. So well written.

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  12. so sad, but so beautiful. thank you so much for sharing.

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  13. She sounds so wonderful. You are lucky to have had her in your life.
    I'm so sorry for your loss.

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  14. Beautifully written and so honoring to a woman I'm sure will be missed tremendously.

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  15. I'm very sorry to hear of your loss. What a wonderful woman she was! Maybe I'll get to meet her in heaven one day!

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  16. Wow. What a lovely tribute, Megan. ((hug))

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  17. This world needs more women like Carrie Bell. I know you miss her deeply.

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  18. What an astounding woman! I often wondered why God takes such wonderful worries from earth so soon and the only thing i could ever come up with was that he needs them more than we do. They were always his, always angels here on earth. Only ours for a brief time and his for eternity.

    This is a beautiful post Megan and i am just in tears.

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  19. Megan, this was beautiful. Your way with words brings me to tears.

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  20. What a loving tribute to your mother-in-law. :) Moved me to tears, too. So beautiful!

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  21. I hope my Grandma B gets to meet Al's mom in heaven . . . In her last two years, she was pretty sick, but would say, "There's a reason God has me alive yet. I guess it must be so I can pray for each of my children and grandchildren every day." Mind you, she had 11 children and almost 50 grands, plus great-grands . . . I hope that someday we will get to know what those prayers protected us from.

    Say hello to Jesus for us all, Carrie Bell!
    -- Nancy

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  22. What a loving tribute to your mother-in-law. I hope I am as loved by my daughter-in-law as this. Carrie Bell sounds like a wonderful, generous, kinds, strong woman.

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  23. Megan, that was just beautiful! What an honor for you to write about such a beloved-by-Jesus woman! Truly a Proverbs 31 woman! And how blessed was Al!

    Thanks for sharing this with us!

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  24. Gorgeous words and a loving tribute. Thank you for sharing!

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Thoughts?