Will I Still Call You ‘Grandma’?

As we drove slowly by her house, or what once was, I looked soulfully out the passenger window and witnessed a tragedy. The house, once bright and brilliant, well-kept and welcoming, fairly sagged in mourning. Its very soul seemed to crumple in despair, having lost its grand hostess, a simple country gal, who once regally walked its solid floorboards and wore it as one would wear a familiar cardigan or shawl.

New tenants had already moved in, their presence tipped off by an older, beat-up vehicle parked in the backyard, obscuring what was once a handsome view of a well-kept garden. The wallboards now drooped and no longer parlayed a luster they once sported. The front porch was barren. No Grandma or Grandpa (who passed to eternal life a few years ago) waving to us as we approached, rising in the weariness of years, yet still strong and eager for family to drop in.

Not long aforehand, Grandma, barely on the south side of ninety-five, had moved out and into a wonderful nursing care facility. All her precious wares of a well-groomed life were divvied out to family, and the papers for transfer of ownership well under way. On Friday, July 28th, the papers for closing on the house were signed under the watchcare of her only son. That evening, she called him and asked, “Is it done?” “Yes, ma’am,” he replied. “Good. Then all is finished,” she offered as it were nothing more than finishing a quilt or meal.

Six hours later, she died peacefully in her sleep. Grandma never lived for this life, though she knew the abundant life more than any other soul I have ever known. It was discovered in her personal Bible this inscription on its flyleaf: “God + Rosa = Enough.” This was the sum and substance of her life.

In the moment of her passing, as her corruptible put on incorruption, she was graciously escorted to the rim of Heaven where, no doubt whatsoever, she was welcomed by her waiting husband and daughter, parents and loved ones gone before along with a great cloud of saints who had watched her finish her race. I imagine they all parted dsc00543.jpgunderstandably as her eyes scanned the throng for the One to whom her whole life testified and when He stepped forward, those eyes, once blighted with blindness, were clear as a newborn’s and her once-weary legs beat a path to His feet. I know Grandma fell there and wept and I also imagine that a song of redemption escaped unhaltingly from her lips.

When I received the news of Grandma’s passing, I found myself wanting to call Mom so I could get her perspective on her mother’s–my grandmother’s–life and legacy. Alas, Mom was tied up—she was busy welcoming Grandma into glory!

Personally, I believe I am a Christian largely because Grandma was a Christian. I don’t mean that we come to Christ that way: we are not ‘grandmothered’ in. Each of us must make our own decision to come into relationship with the Savior. What I mean is, I watched her faith all my life and saw that it was real, vibrant and fresh and knew that she had the one and only thing that I truly needed: a relationship with Jesus Christ and eternal life in Him.

So, like many who intersected with her life, I turned to Christ and said, in so many words (they may not have been my actual words, but they were “in” my words), “Lord, I want to know You like Grandma does. I want a relationship with you, too, because I see how joyful she is and how satisfied she is in You.”

“Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, so that where I am, you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.'”
(John 14:1-6)

Rosa Medley indeed:

  • Knew the WAY
  • Walked in TRUTH
  • Exhibited the LIFE

As a youngster, I thought everyone’s grandmother was like mine. I just supposed all grandmothers came from the same mold. Then, as I grew older, I realized mine was special. Grandma had the uncanny knack of making ALL of her grandchildren feel as though they were her favorite! Her home was adorned with pictures of all her “favorites” from stem to stern!

You haven’t lived until you sank your teeth into her fried chicken, homemade biscuits and fresh honey, coconut cake, garden vegetables (I loved her fresh-snapped beans and steaming corn on the cob!) and preserves. Her signature sweet tea was like the ‘nectar of Heaven’ to me (especially in years gone by before the dispensation of ‘sweet and low’!).

Her home was always like a retreat. There was a bed for everybody and everyone was welcome. No matter where you came from to visit, you would pass through her doors and know instantly that you were somehow “home.” And sitting in that living room with the family or in the glider on the front porch and talking for hours on end was life at its best. No hurry, no worry, no rush or hassle. All was peace and simplicity.

You haven’t lived until you heard her strong, trusting voice say her night time prayers out loud. The walls in her bedroom were thin and every syllable could be heard in the next room or down the hall. She would run through her prayer list and name all her loved ones, bringing their needs to the mercy seat. To hear her call out your name to the Lord was like a warm blanket for a world-chilled soul.

I never, ever heard a bad word come out of her mouth. Although her eyesight faltered in later years, and this caused Grandma some deal of sadness and distress, she never complained; like Job, she “never charged God foolishly” with her lips. Always trusting, always hopeful and believing; always giving herself over to the Lord’s will.

Her gardens, like her spirit, were beautiful and well-kept; colorful and rich. She could get so much out of a little patch of dirt. Her farm and homestead were true Americana as though they may have inspired a Rockwell painting. Thank you, Grandma, for teaching this city boy how to milk a cow. I never got it right, but you gave me your time to teach and bless.

Thank you for protecting me from that long snake in the shed that one time. My eyes bugged out when you lifted that shotgun in one simple arc, took no time to sight in on it, then expertly shot it, not somewhere on its body, but between its eyeballs! No wonder Grandpa chuckled and dubbed you “Dead Eye.”

Thank you for laughing and not getting mad at me when I rammed Grandpa’s tractor into that shed. I was sick over it, but you laughed it off in your easy way, hugged me and made it all better.

Thank you for treating me like I was the greatest preacher in the world, right up there with J. Vernon McGee or Adrian Rodgers and a host of other men of the word you listened to from your radio (even though you had to know better—I sure did!).

There was nothing more important to Grandma than the Book. She knew the Bible and it mattered to her that it was handled right by others, particularly preachers. Her greatest sadness about being blind was not being able to read it; oh, but she knew it and could quote it as if it were ALL committed to memory. It may just have been. It certainly was inside of her!

She loved the church and longed for the days when the church in America would again have its altars filled with penitent sinners and be zealous for the Lord and turn our nation back to God. For the era to return when preachers would no longer pussyfoot around with Scripture but speak for God.

There was a season of my life when I needed to call Grandma every Sunday morning before taking my own pulpit to preach. We would chat for a while, then there was invariably a song we would sing together. After the song, I would look at my watch and say, “Grandma, I’ve got to head into the church now. Would you pray for me?” I cannot tell you the heaven I heard in her voice when she would stop, pause, and say in the most meaningful tone: “Father…”

I’ll miss my prayer warrior…

Rosa Medley is my ‘Grandma’ and always will be. When I received the news of her passing, I took a question of mine to the Lord. It is an innocent, childlike question. I asked Him, “Lord, when I get to Heaven, will I still call her ‘Grandma’?”

As I ponder the mysteries of heaven, questions we now have about our future home, and where Rosa Medley now is, I think of the game we sometimes play when we want to surprise someone. We tell them to “close your eyes…close your eyes…keep them closed…okay, okay…now…open them!”

The desired response is immediately seen as their eyes open wide, their mouth drops open and a look of awe, wonder and amazement crosses their face. Then a smile plays slowly at the corners of their mouth. And perhaps laughter, and clapping of hands and if the surprise is really big, they may even drop to their knees. Then the inevitable “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! It’s more glorious than I could have hoped for!”

I believe that, in some sense, we are like that as we anticipate glory. Now “we look through a glass darkly”, the Bible says, but one day, God will say to us who have received Jesus as Savior: “Now, open your eyes!” And we will behold such glory as never seen before and we will clap and fall to our knees and praise the One who made it possible for us.

We’ll look around that grand reception hall and see that among the heavenly beings, all our loved ones and friends who had arrived before us, will be in the room with us. They’ve been waiting for our arrival…

I’ll miss watching Grandma walk: so straight and regal for someone who had lived so many years. But her body, wearied by the effects of age, is now incorruptible and glorified, more beautiful than ever before. Eyes, once dimmed and able to only see shadows and shapes, are this moment as clear as a newly born baby’s, and they behold the brightness of the glory of her Lord.

One of my most deeply embedded childhood memories was when the family visited Grandma and Grandpa’s farm up on the mountain. It was a long journey that seemed to get longer the closer we got to our destination.

Then we would turn off the highway onto that little climbing gravel road, a long strip of grass between two tire ruts, up past the little church house and the hog farm. Then the back of Grandpa’s truck would come into view. And we would honk…and out she would come, Grandma, with a welcome-home smile and gigantic hug, the smell of vittles in the oven from way back in the kitchen.

One day, we who know Christ will see our long journey end and we will turn off this long highway and begin our ascent to our glorious welcome-home. And out she will come, Grandma, beautiful beyond memory…and Grandpa, and Mom…and all who are incorruptible and waiting for our arrival. And we will see Jesus who made all of it possible.

In my last phone conversation with Grandma, I told her that she has had so much influence on my life spiritually and she cried and said, “I’m nobody. I just hope people see Jesus in me.”

Grandma, you succeeded. We ALL saw Jesus in you from start to finish. Well done, faithful servant of the Lord. Enter into your eternal rest.


4 thoughts on “Will I Still Call You ‘Grandma’?

  1. Karen says:

    Wait, let me wipe away my tears. I know how special your Grandma is to you, thank you for sharing her with all of us. How long do you think that Heavenly party will last?


  2. Bev says:

    First of all what a wonderful testimony of encouragement and faithfulness in the midst of a world of foregetfulness. I like all these wonderful words of passion you have expressed.

    Although I have to disagree on this theology of life after death. The Bible says that the dead Know not anything, and we return to the dust we were made in. death is a sleep, and when Jesus returns He will catch the dead that will be awakened and bring them up to heaven. I will come again and bring you unto myself and that where i am you may be also. Your Grandma is sleeping and waiting peacefully until Jesus comes. Many verses in the bible suppord these verses. Do you know them???
    Never give up on your ministry it is wonderful.


  3. tony says:

    im just so touched everything you said kind of reminded me of grandma.i wont be there for the funeral but believe me she was so much like yours.it just amazes me how much comfort you get when you know how strong their faith was and how serene or peacefull they are going to be because of it.thank you reading this makes me feel so much better.keep on telling the good news


  4. pasturescott says:

    I’m delighted you dropped in, Tony, and am blessed you found encouragement here. I know what you must be feeling and it is a comfort to have a stockpile of memories to sift through that will bring comfort to your heart. Blessings to you, and thanks for your encouragement!


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