Life, Love, and Grandma Mary


Life is a strange journey at times.  Day in-day out, we are thrust into the pieces that make up our lives.  Happiness, sorrow, fear, courage, patience and busyness all make up the days and nights of this thing called life.  And yet….it all somehow weaves together and make the very essence of life….yours and mine.

 As much as I love moments in life, I do not treasure the moments of a certain piece of life…..death. 

It must be, we know that.  It must come and go, as the ebb and flow of the ocean waves, but tonight, sorrow and sadness wash over me, and I feel very small. 

I am sitting looking at sweet Grandma Mary, as my children have so fondly named her.  The name stuck when she became the ministry’s Director of Prayer and Care Support, something that not only was she perfectly suited for, but certainly seemed to be made for, she just kept the name….it suited her….Grandma Mary. 

Mary is now swaddled in a tan sheet, tucked into her hospital bed.  I am thankful that we are in her home and her family is surrounding her.  We are together now. 

I look at Mary’s gray hair.  It’s pushed back against her forehead, skin now pasty and gray, welcoming the death that will soon encompass her.  And suddenly I remember a beautiful fall day, where our team was at the park taking pictures, and Mary laughed so hard because the wind continued to blow her curls across her forehead.  “Oh, it doesn’t look good!” she exclaimed when the photos got back.  She looked beautiful.  I brush the bangs back now, and give a kiss to the clammy skin. 

Mary’s eyes are closed tightly and I think of the many, many times I listened to her prayers, while I watched her hands folded and eyes closed shut, and I remember…..I remember days where Mary knelt next to me and begged God for answers to prayers that we lifted to the Heavens.  I remember me driving the car and Mary bowing her head to pray over a grandchild, or one of my children.  I remember how one day, she held up glasses to her eyes and asked me, “What do you think of these?  Do they make me look old?”  And I fight back a smirk as I question how anyone could look so young and be 79. 

Her chest goes up and down now, with odd, shallow, breathing, and I am reminded of seeing that same chest heave up and down as she spent moments sobbing about her dear Karna, who died so young.  Or when we sat only 7 short months ago, at Willmar’s hospital, looking at her husband, Grandpa Gene, as he laid on the hospital bed so peacefully taken to Heaven from a heart attack.  Her chest would cave in with every sob and cry, as she expressed her grief. 

Mary’s mumbled some words now that sound like she needs water, and I watch her sweet grandchild helping her, and think back on how many times beautiful, encouraging, words came from those now, dry lips.  Not just for me, mind you, but for anyone and everyone that had contact with her life.  The number of people she encouraged and prayed for was insurmountable.  And those lips would be famous for a rich, hearty laugh, or a lovely alto harmony that would accompany a worship tune that I had sung while we were driving. 

I look down at Mary’s hands.  They are swollen now and so heavy.  I caress them lightly and remember how many times she held my hand to bring me comfort.   I think of my daughter’s recent wedding  where I was wondering why our lives had turned out the way they had.  I didn’t even say a word, but felt her gentle hand reach for mine as she said, “I know what you’re thinking.”  Of course she did.  That was who she was. 

I have cried now.  I have cried and cried,  and yet the tears still come.  I want to be strong for her family members….but I cannot….not yet. 

These past 7 years, I have learned so much.  And anyone who has been fortunate to call Mary, “friend” has learned so much right along with me. 

I am a better person because of Grandma Mary.  I know more about women’s ministry, I value worship at a deeper level, I have learned about marriage and grandchildren, I have laughed over a starry night, and soaked in the glimmer of the moon on her lake home, and I now know the secret of how to make fudge frosting. 

For everything else that God blessed me with over these past 7 years in my friendship with Mary, I am forever grateful. 

I remember…..When we got to Frank Lake Church, Mary was the first person that Kathleen dialed and said, “We’re here at Frank Lake Church, Grandma, would you pray?”  She did….and we closed our prayer time with “How Great Thou Art and How Great is Our God,” the vast distance between the church and her lazyboy was no longer in existance in that moment in time.

A couple months later, I picked her up and drove her to the church.  We sat and meditated on the goodness of God, on life, and on God’s provision of this church.  She prayed and I smiled. We knew she would probably never be there again.  “Live life serving God, Kathy.  Do good work for God right here in this little church building.  It’s meant for you.  Use it for God,”  she told me.

Yesterday, when everyone left the room, and it was just sweet Mary and me, alone, I prayed with her and she looked at me and said, “I keep asking Jesus, ‘Can I come home today?  Can I come and see you today?”  I pray with her that it will be today.

It is not that day…..but now….this day…..Today, she is closer to Heaven’s doors than yesterday, and as she approaches, she flicks open her eyes and her daughter says to me, “Do you want to say something to Mom?”  I say to Mary, “You’re almost home, Mary.  You get to be there so soon.”  She looks at me as though she is already walking up to the gates. 

I tell her I love her, one more time, and I treasure in my heart the last words she spoke to me yesterday…. She had grabbed my hand, like she has so many times in my life, and she said, “I love you, Kathy….I love you.” 

Oh, the words in life that make everything all come together into one….life, death….and the in-between…..and in that in-between……I found the true love and care of a trusted friend….someone who truly invested in me, who I was and who I was to become.

I love you, Mary.  Oh, how you will be missed.

  1. shari anderstrom andros10-22-12

    Thanks for your words about my dear aunt. She was such a support, encouragement, and prayer warrior for me. Heaven is rejoicing today and I know she is singing loud with her beautiful voice. Thanks for your ministry and for loving her.

  2. Nyla Gieseke10-21-12

    Words seem so inadequate – please hear my heart. I love Mary & I love you. Praying God’s Peace for all of you as you travel this journey together. Rejoicing in the knowledge that Mary will soon come face to face with the One who loves her more than we can possibly comprehend.

    Holding you close,

  3. Rhonda Tveitbakk10-21-12

    Thank you sooo much for your words – I, as well, am fortunate and blessed to call Mary my aunt… she was as dear to me as a mother – and Karna – was my cousin – the same as I am – and have lived through so many of these memories! You captured them so well – and I cried as well while reading – imagining her Snow – and wanting so much for her relief to be over – and be reunited with her family – yet selfishly – so sad for her family – my cousins……praying for all of them – and thanks so much for your wonderful picture of her!! So perfect! God bless you!

  4. Rebecca Anderstrom Fussell10-21-12

    Thank you for writing this article. Your grandma Mary is my Aunt Mary. Her husband Gene and my dad are brothers. I couldn’t agree more with your reflections of sweet Mary. I told her recently in a letter how grateful I am that God allowed me to know her and be a part of my life. I live in Florida and so we don’t get to see our Minnesota family much. But even though we didn’t get to spend much time with them, I always knew that Aunt Mary loved me and would welcome me just as I am. I learned so much from her life. I, like you, will miss her but I’m looking forward to the day she gets to go to the place for which she has lived 🙂 What a grand reunion that will be!
    I’ve never met you, but I’ve heard her talk of your ministry and I know she loved it and believed in you and the calling God has placed on your life 🙂 God bless you as you carry on and may God send you more like my aunt to encourage and pray for you 🙂

  5. lori peterson10-21-12

    With a very heavy heart and tears pouring down, I thank you Kathy for your beautiful words and I am so sorry that I didn’t get a chance to talk to Mary! Please, please Dear Kathy-hold her hand for me, kiss her gently for me, and tell her how very much I love her-PLEASE!
    She is the most amazing woman I have met in my Christian walk!!! I will miss her so much, but am so happy that she will meet Jesus soon and be home!

  6. Mary Bradbury10-21-12


    What a beautiful tribute to a Godly prayer warrior who also walked with me through some very dark, and deep valleys! I will treasure my memories of her and how she blessed me and so many others. Thank you for sharing these last moments in such a beautiful and eloquent way.