Monday, November 05, 2012

Goodbye Grammy

My grandmother, Sharon Schutz, always made sure you knew what she liked.  And she liked a lot of things.  Freshly fried seafood, pickles, olives, garden-fresh cherry tomatoes,  Cadillacs, chocolate cherries, red licorice, scented candles, her dogs, and mercilessly teasing you until you were red with embarassment. She was a woman who had experienced dark days, but who had done her best to put them behind her.  She always drank nonalcoholic sparkling cider at the holidays. She never complained about the pain the car accident had caused her. She didn't even tell her family about her cancer until she had already undergone radiation and they thought her prognosis was good.

Which was why everyone was surprised when they learned last week that Grammy was in the hospital with pneumonia.  While scanning her lungs, the doctors had discovered that the cancer had returned a year later and it was non-operable.

Some of my most favorite childhood memories are of time spent at Grandma and Papa's house.  Looking back, I realize that my parents must have really needed that time away from my sister and I. Grammy always made sure that we ingested our weight in sugary soda, cookies and candy and easily gave in to our badgering and took us to McDonalds to buy us happy meals.  She let us watch as many movies and as much television as we wanted and let us scream and jump on the beds. We ran around their large yard playing with junk, riding the lawnmower, "helping" in the garden, jumping in leaf piles that were taller than we were and delivering raspberries to her in the red radio flyer wagon.  Grandma's house was like child-heaven. Whenever my parents' car pulled in the driveway to take us home, we ran to our fort that Papa had built us or to the tall trees in the back yard and defied them until the tone of their tone of voice changed and they meant business.

Saturday morning, I received a text message from my Dad, her oldest son, that Grammy's condition had worsened. I booked a flight for that day, hoping to make it to see her in time. As I boarded my flight, the person in front of me was wearing a UCONN sweatshirt, which I thought was odd, given that the first leg of my trip was to Philly. The person smelled like stale cigarette smoke, a smell that I still associate with my Grandmother from when she used to be a chain-smoker. Instead of recoiling, I inhaled deeply.  The woman who scanned my ticket had her blonde hair pulled back exactly like Grammy did hers.  I took a breath. A flight representative pulled me aside and asked me to check my bag my the final destination because of space constraints. Reluctantly, I agreed, but teased her that I would be calling her if my bag didn't make it there.  She gladly agreed and told me her name was Sheri.  The same time that I was boarding my flight, at sunset, my grandmother peacefully passed away surrounded by family.

My Grandmother was one of the only people in my family who expressed how proud of me she was for marrying a pastor. She was one of the only ones who thought it was a respectable career and didn't have any questions about how we would ever make money or worry about the "hard life" I would surely have.  She did have questions about great-grand children though. A lot of them.

When I entered the hospice room full of family members and looked at her small frail body in the bed, my first reaction was, "she's not there. This body is not my Grandma." And it was true.  My grandmother's body was there, but her spirit had moved on. She had faith in Jesus and she knew she was going to heaven. When it was time to leave, my family sang Amazing Grace. I gave thanks for my Grandmother's presence in my life and for the assurance that I will see her again one day in heaven.


Laura said...

Loved reading about the memories. She sounds like she was a great lady! Praying for you and the family,

Melissa said...

It's obvious you loved her so much!!! I'm sorry for your loss, friend. I'll be praying for you and your family as you mourn. Love you, Heather!

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