- Death & Loss of Life
Grandma and Grandpa, Always In My Prayers. Memories from: Lori Cotten
Time Changes All
Hope Lutheran Church and Grandma Glesne
The day we had been waiting for had finally arrived. We were about to witness my dads nephew, Gary, give his new bride to be, Joyce, a kiss in the front of the old church Grandpa and Grandma attended Sunday mornings out in the country! Renae and I played our fair share of “wedding” in our spare time. Going to a wedding was as exciting to us as Christmas morning and or our birthday. I think my brother thought differently.
The wedding was taking place in the same old church that Mom and Dad were married in. Time becomes evident in an older establishment. The pews were made from real wood and boasted a glossy white finish that was slippery when you sat down on it; in spots the paint was dried and cracked with age. There was draftiness in that old church and the aroma of percolating coffee crept in from the kitchen in the basement below. Carpet covered only the front of the church and the center isle. It made for a clip-pity clap-pity noise as you took your seat that echoed throughout the room. I remember hearing “SHH,” it seemed to take more than one try to finally get situated and settle in. As we left the center carpeted isle one of us would inevitably drop something, only then have to turn around to pick it up. Most always this consisted of more than one piece of paper and a half dozen crayola crayons. Then it was time to look to see if anyone saw you drop whatever it was, this required making a full circle and the heals on those Sunday shoes didn’t have a mute button by any means. After finally settling in, I was forever side tracked by all the stained glass windows and never understood why they were each designed with a different picture on them. My mind wondered each time I was in that church. I’d stare at the alter thinking what it was like in there the day my mommy and daddy were married. I would imagine that I was there and watching the whole thing, as a matter of fact, I was a bit bitter that mom never chose me to be her flower girl instead of the one that was in the picture; I didn’t know who she was and thought it was only right that mom would have picked me instead of that stranger.
Gary and Joyce were married in the evening; candles lit the darkened room and the smell of fresh cut flowers filled the air. I sat next to my mom and wanted desperately to stand up on the pew so I could see everything taking place. Gary was a handsome young man and Joyce was just beautiful! She had a long white form fitting wedding dress, it reminded me of the kind of dress Ginger wore on Gilligan’s Island. On her head she wore what I called a “crown,” I believe the correct term is a “tiara.” Soon after we watched Joyce walk down the isle, the bride and groom exchanged their vows. In my mind it seemed like an eternity, but the pastor finally pronounced them “husband and wife” and he was instructed to kiss the bride......WOW!!! It was just like a fairy tale.
Of course this was only one of numerous memories in Grandmas’ church, there were many, many more. Renae and I stayed with Grandma Glesne multitudes of times. Each visit included at least one Sunday morning, and many times we tagged along when Grandma attended Ladies Aide, or bible study. On occasion, Grandma signed us up for bible school while we stayed with her during summer vacation at the farm. I never realized what an impact she had on my life until the day I was told she was dying of colon cancer. The corner stone that was there for every major event of my life was leaving us for the great unknown. It’s embarrassing to admit that I took her for granted and placed other people and my own affairs before her all my life. Only when I knew she was on borrowed time did I take the time to cherish her presence. She passed away in my old bedroom. She was buried on my twenty-first birthday.
I always fantasized of the day that I’d be a married woman and I’d bring my husband and my kids to Grandma Glesne’s house for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. I guess it’s not all that out of the ordinary for a girl to have this fantasy, but I was never able to fulfill mine. I was married on July 30, 1983. Grandma Glesne was diagnosed with Colon Cancer the same year just before Thanksgiving. We never had the opportunity to go to Grandma Glesne’s house to share a turkey dinner, she was in the hospital. By the time Christmas came around she was at home. Mom had been staying with Grandma and Grandpa for about two weeks taking care of doctor appointments and all the technical stuff. She was about to drive home when suddenly Grandpa Glesne had a major stroke out of absolutely nowhere. So now things were really out of sorts for everyone. Grandpa wound up in the Hospital in Willmar until he advanced into a dreaded nursing home for the remainder of his life. As an infant he began wearing cloth diapers, as an adult he suffered from a stroke and was forced to revert to diapers made of disposable man made materials.
Grandma spent Christmas with us that year, unfortunately, Grandpa wasn’t able to. It was the end of January in 1984. Grandma was not getting any better. After Grandpas’ stroke she moved to rural Brainerd, Minnesota with Mom and Dad and stayed in my old bedroom on the main floor of the split level home in Crow Wing State Park. My uncle Marvin and his family came to spend as much time as they could knowing well that Grandmas’ days were numbered. They replaced my old bed with a hospital bed to keep her more comfortable. Marvin arrived early one evening with Grandpa from the nursing home in Willmar. We had to carry him in his wheel chair up the short flight of eight stairs from the the front door to the main level. I’d never seen such a sorry sight in my life. A strong self sufficient man was now strapped in a wheel chair being carried by his grandson and his grandson-in-law up to the bedroom where his wife of 40 some odd years lay dying. The stroke left him with the emotional level of a child, crying from the slightest hint of saddnes. Grandma was in pain and tried hard not to show it. They wheeled Grandpa into the bedroom and he just said, “Hi,” Grandma replied, “Hello.” I couldn’t believe the way it was just so nonchalant, no words where exchanged to speak of. Grandpa wept, crying like a baby.
Grandpa sat in the bedroom telling stories about his new nursing home life as Grandma lay on the bed in and out of light sleep. He’d laugh as he explained the childish games they had to play. “Balloon Ball, we have to tap the balloon forth and back...that’s it!” As he laughed about it we laughed with him and suddenly his laugh became a hysterical cry... Life as I knew it was changing extremely fast. I watched as Grandma lay dying in my old bedroom, and I watched Grandpa lose control of all his emotions while in a wheel chair wearing adult size pampers.
I sat in the room with Grandma, listening to her breathing as it became increasingly labored. I’d never seen anyone die before and I really didn’t understand the steps. She would have to use the toilet so Mom would set her on the commode that was placed in the room.
“I’m finished” she said, and Mom had to force herself not to cry. There was nothing in the commode; her body was shutting down, Mom knew it, I did not. At times Grandma seemed a million miles away, other times she’d open up her eyes and talk as if nothing was wrong. Mom, myself, Renae and my sister-in-law Debbie were all in the room. Grandmas’ breathing was extremely labored when suddenly out of no where she started talking as if she were in a grand hall reciting a speech in front of an audience. It was a prayer. I wish so badly I could remember the things she said but I have nothing except,
“ It’s paradise, just paradise...”
Dad wheeled Grandpa into my old bedroom for the last time, he said goodnight to grandma and waved to her like a child would wave to his mommy. We said goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa and drove back home. I was in bed but unable to sleep. I went downstairs to my living room and opened up my bible that Grandma gave me for Christmas that year. I started reading it and had an odd feeling as if someone was looking at me. I turned around and looked only to see I was all alone and it was 12:15 am. I situated myself once more and continued to read when the telephone rang at 12:20 am. It was Dad calling to tell me,
“Grandma just went home to heaven, she passed away about five minutes ago...”
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Five Finger Prayer
1. Your thumb is nearest you. So begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you. They are the easiest to remember. To pray for our loved ones is, as C. S. Lewis once said, a "sweet duty."
2. The next finger is the pointing finger. Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers. They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction. Keep them in your prayers.
3. The next finger is the tallest finger. It reminds us of our leaders. Pray for the president, leaders in business and industry, and administrators. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God's guidance.
4. The fourth finger is our ring finger. Surprising to many is the fact that this is our weakest finger, as any piano teacher will testify. It should remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in pain. They need your prayers day and night. You cannot pray too much for them.
5. And lastly comes our little finger. The smallest finger of all is where we should place ourselves in relation to God and others. As the Bible says, "The least shall be the greatest among you." Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself. By the time you have prayed for the other four groups, your own needs will be put into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively.