Death is part of life, and picking up our cross and bearing our sufferings is part of the Christian walk. I am the product of two strong, beautiful, and devout Catholic grandmothers. They raised 14 children, loved their grandchildren, and bore more than their fair share of suffering.
My dad’s mom, my “Mocuite,” was a Lithuanian immigrant.
She worked hard, lost so much during the war, but never lost her faith. She died at the age of 93. She was a stern and stoic lady who could cook, grow, or create just about anything. She was afraid of nothing, and her grandchildren held her in a place of genuine honor.
When she died, my mother was very ill. Mom would make her final journey home to God just a few short months later. The heartbreak was almost too much to bear. It is true that the Lord gives you just what you can handle and nothing more.
I assure you, any more grief would have been too much. I had just what I could bear.
When my husband and I moved back home from Washington, DC, I was able to spend some quality time with my other grandmother, my mom’s mom, Granny Bobbye. She was 89. We visited, played cards, had sleepovers, and watched Lawrence Welk together. She loved to dance and pray her rosary. She would bounce her knee, snap her fingers, and do this click thing with her mouth to the beat.
As the next few years went by, she started to lose her memory. It was precious to visit her because she thought I was my mom (I’ve been told we look and act alike—a great compliment to me). She would think my husband was my dad. Coincidentally, my husband and my dad have the same names and the same coloring. She loved our visits, and bless her soul, she thought she was being visited by her devoted daughter. Thank you, Lord, for shielding Granny’s heart by taking her memory.
I know my mother was smiling at us from her place in eternity during that time.
Granny was eventually moved to a nursing home when her dementia advanced. I will never forget, on March 17 at the age of 93, my uncle called to tell me that she had entered her final day and probably her final hour. A priest had been called, and I should come if I wanted to tell her goodbye. My husband and I raced to the nursing home, and she literally had one foot on this side of heaven and one foot in heaven. It was peaceful.
I was told that she had gone to sleep the night before and just didn’t wake up.
She was still alive but not really responsive. When the priest began Last Rites, she opened one eye, surveyed the room, and shut her eye. The family there stood around her singing, praying, and telling her how much she was loved. Nurses cried and left the room while the rest of us loved on Granny.
At one point, a bird came to her window and just started singing. LOUDLY. JOYFULLY.
We tapped on the window several times because we were grieving. We wanted peace and quiet. That bird would NOT LEAVE her window. Finally, my uncle looked through the blinds and it was a robin. My mom’s name is Robyn, and he said, “Of course, it’s a robin. She’s here to see her mama home!” Not a dry eye in the room. Finally, the priest said, “I’ve witnessed many people passing away, and this was grace filled. This is what we should strive for.”
He added, “For Bobbye, Easter came early.”
He elaborated on this at her funeral Mass, and it has stayed with me ever since.
Granny Bobbye and Mocuite passed away at the same age, on the same day, 4 years apart…during Lent. I have thought about this for the last decade since losing Granny.
For both of them, in God’s perfect timing and relentless mercy, Easter came early!
What a glorious thought. What a glorious perspective of death. Regardless of whether one passes away during Lent or not, death is our Easter. Our entrance into Eternal Life. Praise be to God.