When The One Who Waits For You Isn’t There Anymore

You always knew that grandma was waiting for you. She’d be sitting in her chair, crocheting an afghan for a new baby or a high school graduate. Or maybe she’d be scanning the newspaper, reading a book, or preparing a meal. She’d have a jar of cookies on the counter and milk in the fridge. Fresh bread would be sitting in the breadbox. You knew that when she saw you drive up and come in the door, that she’d grace you with the biggest smile and welcome. She’d pull up a chair and ask you to tell her about your day, your week. The details weren’t lost on her and she could make connections with dates and people that showed how much she listened.

My Grandma Charlotte had ten children. She spent her days doing laundry, preparing meals that would be devoured by kids and the farm hands, and helping maintain life on the farm outside of Harris, Iowa. In the middle of the daily chores, she’d find time to teach piano lessons to her kids, help them with their homework, and even played the organ at her church.

As her kids grew and had their own babies, she became grandma to dozens and dozens of grandchildren and later great-grandchildren. She loved each and every one with a care and attention that made each of us feel special. If you lived close by, she would come to each piano recital, band and choir concert. She’d send birthday cards to every single one of us, with a little money to tuck away and a special, thoughtful note. Amazingly, she could remember everyone’s age and birthdate—around one hundred in her family! I remember her once saying that when she couldn’t fall asleep or got up too early, she would lie in bed, praying for each child and recite their birthdays so that she could stay on top of it. She was thrilled to have someone over for dinner and took joy in her family. There was always extra food for anyone who dropped in.

She was present.

She was others-minded. Taking very little thought of herself so that she could serve others and be present for them. You never got the sense that you were asking too much or that she felt burdened. She lived simply but gave in grand displays of tangible, responsive love. Never saying anything negative about anyone, she was quick to forgive and move on.

She cared for the work being done across the world. Although she served faithfully and contentedly in her little corner of Iowa, her heart expanded for the nations. Every year she would read through Operation World and loved to read her Bible. She saw her own daughter move with her family to Germany, in a time when communication was done by letters, which my grandma made sure to write every week. She saw grandchildren answer the call to France, Germany, Morocco and then later Asia. And she prayed. She read our newsletters with care. She continued to communicate love across the ocean.

On furlough, I knew grandma would be waiting for me to stop in. When I was away in Asia, I would picture her sitting in her house, praying over her family.

Then one year while I was living in northeast China, I got the email that my grandma had passed on to heaven. When I went to the United States next, she wouldn’t be pulling up a chair to hear how things were going. The woman with the large faith and endless love had gone home. And I cried–for my loss, for my family’s loss. That my kids would never know the feel of her arm around them or see the twinkle in her eye or hear that chuckle. That I was so far away and couldn’t be home for the funeral and the gathering of family.

I dug through photo albums and found a favorite picture of my grandma and me from my wedding. I stuck it on the fridge and as I looked at it, I reached out to touch her. Losing such a part of my past while surrounded by people who didn’t know her was heart breaking. It was an ache and a loss that only those in our line of work overseas can fully understand. We give up a lot to live far away from those who know us. My grandma had been an anchor, steady and present through my whole life.

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The past has a way of curling and wrapping its way around our present. It doesn’t really matter if you stayed in a ten-mile radius of where you were born, or you moved across the world to unknown lands. Your past is a part of you. My grandma showed that faith was worked out in her family first, then in the community and then around the world. She embraced the life she had been given and she slowed down enough to notice the details.

As I reflect on my grandma’s life, I’m so thankful for the woman that she was. She lived fully and was always open to what God brought to her. It makes me wonder how I can live and serve in my own corner of the world.

Who comes to mind for you? And I’d love to see a picture of you with them, if you have one!

20 Comments

  1. Annalisa October 20, 2015

    I have people who wait for me, but none who waited for me like my grandfather.  One year, I planned my trip to the States with him in mind.  I flew in on December 21st.  My flight out was January 11th (or 12th?).  My grandfather was nearing the end, and we all knew it.  For weeks before my arrival, he would ask my mother what day I would arrive.  She told him, “She gets in on the 21st, dad.”  My grandfather would reply, “Okay, I can die on the 21st then” to which my mother would reply “She gets in late, dad.”  He would change his date to the 22nd.  I actually didn’t make it to his house until the 23rd.  He would say that he could then die.  I would reply, “Or you could see Christmas.  Christmas is nice.”  When Christmas came around and he made the same comment, I said, “You could make it to [whatever the new year was…2012?]”  He thought that might be nice.  Upon making it that far, we suggested he make it to his 90th birthday party (Jan 7).  “We’ve already invited everyone.”  And then to his 90th birthday (Jan 9). “I mean, how many people make it to 90, Gramps?”  That night, I sat on the edge of his bed with my other female cousin and told him we’d take him to lunch the next day at his favorite place, and he said that he’d have to turn us down on that.  He asked me when I’d be around next and I told him in May.  He said that was too far away…and died that night.  I was on the plane back to Guatemala the day of the funeral.  He was my biggest supporter and he wouldn’t have wanted his death to keep me from being here.

    Thanks, Grandpa.  I love you.

    1. Danielle Krouch October 20, 2015

      Thank you so much for sharing your grandfather’s story with us. I love what you wrote on your blog about his lasting influence upon you. I think it’s wonderful that you were able to live with him and share life with him. What a unique and very special experience that many don’t get.

  2. Rhonda October 20, 2015

    Thank yo for sharing Danielle! Your grandmother reminds me very much of my grandmother MacKinnon. She too was very involved in my life and always asked about my friends and how they were doing.  At her place it was tea, biscuits and conversation while playing cribbage. She passed away in 2005 and I know if she was around today she definitely be asking me about all my student both past and present. Yes, I miss her very much.

    1. Danielle Krouch October 20, 2015

      I’m glad this reminded you of your own grandma. It sounds like she was very special, too! I know we can be thankful that we had people like this in our lives.

      1. Rhonda October 20, 2015

        Thank you and yes she was. Yes, I am very thankful and appreciative of people like her and others like her in her life.

  3. Michele Zintz October 21, 2015

    This story touches deep places of loss.  One of the hardest things about living overseas is losing people on the other side of the ocean, grieving away from everyone else who is grieving, and knowing they won’t be waiting for you next time you go back.  When I went to Indonesia in 1997 I knew I was saying goodbye to my grandma for the last time.  She left us halfway into that four-year term.  I did think her younger sister- a great-aunt I felt connected to because of her prayers, would be there.  But she went home suddenly in the middle of that term as well.  And since then I’ve lost many more- relatives and sweet church friends who’d been such an influence in my life.  I moved from SE Asia to South Asia in 2007 and have lost three younger Indonesian friends in that time as well.  It never gets easier.  Thanks for this post- I think it helps just to be reminded that so many others go through the same thing.

    1. Danielle Krouch October 21, 2015

      I appreciate what you said about losing people on the other side of the ocean. You’re right! It doesn’t need to be a family member for us to feel that loss.  It makes me so thankful for those that I am confident are with our Father and that it’s not truly a good bye.

  4. Linda October 21, 2015

    Thank you so much for this timely article. It really touched me for two reasons.

    1.I had one of those kind of grandmas and I want to grow old being one of those kind of grandmas.

    2.My step-father, our daughters only Grandfather just died this week.  He knew he would not see them again, although at the time he wasn’t ill.  We are working through the girls realizing he won’t be there waiting for them.  But he will be waiting for them in heaven.   Very grateful for technology so they could say goodbye.

     

    we are also from Iowa…small town Midwest is best!!

    1. Danielle Krouch October 21, 2015

      I will be thinking of you and your daughters as you process the loss of your step-father.  What part of Iowa are you from?

  5. brooke October 21, 2015

    Thanks.  My Grandma is 101 and in a nursing home now. She doesn’t remember me anymore, thus as you say, “She’s not waiting anymore”.  Each time I’ve headed overseas, I hug her good-bye thinking I’ll probably not see her anymore. I return and she’s still here!  While her mind was still clear (which was up till 98), she was a prayer warrior and so proud of me.  I know that there is a part of her that would be still proud if she could remember long enough to put it into words!

    I think this can also go the other way too. While on furlough, I have lost some friends here on the field.  Nationals whom I have said good-bye to for a few months and then I get word that they are gone.  What a joy to say that we will meet one day “in the air” without language or culture barriers.

    1. Danielle Krouch October 21, 2015

      “In the air.” Yes!  I’m so so thankful that this world is not it and that our earthly good byes are not the end for those who are in our Father.  My grandmother as well was in nursing home her last couple of years and it was hard to see her body and mind slow down. Our loss can definitely go on both sides of the ocean, for sure!

  6. Anna October 21, 2015

    Thanks for your article.  It really touched me.  I know this pain for me, and knowing that my kids won’t have the time or the memories with some of those who are aging.

    1. Danielle Krouch October 21, 2015

      So true. When we leave and move far away we give up the time with those who are aging and may not be there when we return. It’s definitely a hard thing.

  7. Jen October 22, 2015

    I read these blog posts every day and have never felt compelled to comment…until today. This picture is from a week before I found out my Grandpa had cancer, which also happened to be a week before I was saying goodbye to him to go to Africa. He was my guy, the only man who I ever trusted to stay, to be waiting for me always. I left for Africa with a bold faith that he would be healed here on earth. God went ahead and took him Home while I was gone. My time overseas was somewhat traumatic, with an arrest and trial and other things that kept me from returning to the States for his funeral. But none of those “sufferings” hit the way losing my Grampy did. And now, home in the US for 10 months, there’s nothing that hurts the way being in his house without him there does. There were stories I wanted to share with him, pictures to show him, locals I wanted to introduce him to via Skype. I wanted him to know I learned another language and that I survived a host of hard things. I wanted him to know the miraculous ways God carried me through those extremely difficult days. And I wanted him to know that after it all, I’m going back, that his spirit of perseverance and hard work was instilled in me and I get to use it for God’s glory and it’s a part of his legacy on this earth. I don’t tend to believe that he is looking down on me in these days, or that Jesus keeps him up on the latest earthly news. I would go so far as to say I hope that he doesn’t! I pray that my Grampy is praising and dancing in complete abandon in front of his Savior now and that his thoughts are nowhere near this earth. But goodness I sure do long for the day I’m there with him again. I’m so glad he is waiting THERE for me.

     

    Thanks for your precious words sister and sharing your Grandma’s incredible legacy with us…her life stirred my heart to worship and I pray that my days are spent as hers were!

    1. Jen October 22, 2015

      WHOA sorry that photo is huge! Tried to delete it to find a smaller file but can’t figure out how to delete that comment. Sorry!

      1. Danielle Krouch October 22, 2015

        Perfect and sweet picture! I’m so sorry for your deep loss. Coming home to things changed is one of the hardest things. I loved what you wrote and thank you for sharing a bit of your love for your Grandpa with us.

      2. T October 22, 2015

        Pics are always huge on here–don’t know why!  But I love this one!  Thanks for sharing about your grandpa!  I’m glad you commented.

  8. T October 22, 2015

    My mom died and I wasn’t there yet.  My kids were having their final exams, and our tickets were for 2 weeks too late.  She was my biggest fan–esp if that means knowing every detail about the star’s life!  She was proud of me for being here, and how I can cook with yeast, and have 40 over for lunch, not knowing if it will be 10 or 40…She did her best to learn words in our language over here, and speak them to everyone she met…She would spend at least a year buying things at the thrift store and garage sales, prepping for our visit home.  Our kids would always find a new stuffed animal and a new set of pajamas on their bed when they got to her house.  She was just so easy for me to live with when we were there–and we were usually in her house for at least a month!  We just knew each other well and could easily talk about things.  My youngest daughter is 8–my mom died when she had just turned 6, and had had cancer on and off for 3 years, but it is that daughter who comes to me in the night crying because she misses her.  We read Heaven by Alcorn (the kids story version) together, and really appreciated it.  Oh, and I agree, small town Midwest is the best, but I’m a Jayhawk like Amy (though my familial placeholders have moved to Indiana)!

    1. Danielle Krouch October 22, 2015

      Your mom sounds so much like mine–always ready for us and teaching me hospitality at the same time. I’m sure you feel her absence often.

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