Today’s guest post is from my dear friend, Dave Barnett. His life has affected mine and thousands of others. I never met his grandmother but it is clear that she impacted his life. Enjoy a love story of life well lived.
My grandmother, who lived in the rough and tumble state of Wyoming for most of her life, died yesterday – somewhat suddenly, even for someone who was 99 years old.
Her name was Jean, but I always called her Monie. Like many Grandma’s, Monie knew what she wanted. For example, about a year ago she told me exactly what she expected for her ‘celebration of life’ ceremony. Among other things, she wanted me, as the “religious one in the family”, to share a short message.
Of course, being branded the religious one can mean a lot of different things. To me it simply meant that I came to the point where I actually believed that someone like God loved someone like me. Mind you, I knew that long before I believed that. The more I figured out about God (which is still very limited) and the more I figured out about myself, the more that seemed somewhat ludicrous to actually believe.
But when I did, everything changed.
It meant that I was freed up from some things like fear and my own expectations of how I thought others should love me. I didn’t realize how oppressive those were until they weren’t.
I would have to say that Monie was not always the biggest fan of my life’s decisions. She really wanted me to make choices that she thought of as safer. Of course that translated to boring for me. While there was little conflict there, I knew that wasn’t what defined our relationship and I wasn’t sure what did, until I had to imagine not seeing her again. Then it hit me…
I loved seeing Monie because she LOVED seeing me. I cannot think of a time when her face didn’t completely light up when she saw me. She may not have always been happy with my decisions, but she was never unhappy to see me.
My family had its fair share of issues like any family does. My parents were divorced by the time I was four. Monie and Boppa (her husband who passed away long ago) would often come and whisk me away from the intensity that goes along with that, and take me on some wonderful adventure.
On one particularly grand adventure, driving to Disneyland California, I still remember how thrilling it was to see actual fruit on trees, the impossible vastness of the Pacific Ocean, and of course the splendor that is Disneyland. I remember both my grandparents wanted to ride the Matterhorn, but I was a cautious kid and stayed on the safer rides. You know, looking back on the many stories I’ve since heard about my grandmother’s life, I’m not convinced she really wanted me to live a safe life. She clearly did not.
The one constant, in all of my memories of Monie, up to and including the last time I saw her just over a month ago, was this: her face ALWAYS lit up when she saw me.
I’m sure I can’t begin to calculate the importance of this when I was four years old, trying to understand what divorce meant and why it had the impact it did on me and my parents. I do know that it was just as important to me when I was 50 years old. The world around us has a clever way of telling us that we somehow don’t measure up to an invisible standard that always seemed just out of reach. When Monie’s face lit up, I simply knew, and believed, that I did measure up.
I wish I could have been there when she passed, to repay the debt I owe her with a simple act of kindness like holding her hand. That didn’t turn out to be possible.
Whether she could’ve heard me or not, I know what I would’ve told her. I was so very grateful for every time her face lit up. Even when her eyes were not near as bright as they once were, she couldn’t have been more clear just how happy she was to see me and that I always measured up in her eyes.
May our faces always light up when we see those that we love.
May fear not keep us from loving others as we can.
May our own expectations not keep us from being loved by others as best they can.
May we always believe that someone like God actually loves someone like us.