By Corinne Smelker
Grandma died two months ago. Not unexpected, but still, it’s never easy – the finality of it all, I mean. This is our first Christmas without Grandma. Firsts are always hard.
"Grandma went into hospital tonight. She’s not expected to live. Will you fly up?" Mom’s voice was shaky, but calm.
"Of course! I’ll be there as soon as I can."
‘There’ was a small hospital in Ohio, just outside of Toledo. I flew into Detroit and rented a car to drive the hour south.
"How is she?"
Mom looked at me through tired eyes, "She’s holding her own, but time is short. Do you want to see her?"
Trepidation filled my heart. This was my first experience with death. Oh, I had distant relatives die – you know the kind. You’re sitting at the dinner table and Dad says, "Your Aunt Millie passed away."
"Who?" You ask.
"You know, Aunt Millie from your great-grandfather’s side of the family – always wore orange lipstick. You met her once when you were about 2."
But this is the first time death has come to my house, and I don’t know that I welcome him. Grandma’s going to heaven, it’s all she’s talked about for years, but she’s my grandma, she’s not meant to die!
I walked into the barren hospital room and saw Grandma, small, frail and still. So still. That’s not how I remember her. She’s such a live wire, always on the go, visiting friends, baking cookies, and driving her car – not well, not safely, but still driving. The person there was a facsimile of the vivacious person I know. I reached out and grasped her paper-thin, wrinkled hand, noting her long, slender fingers; fingers that could make miracles happen with anything you put in them. There was no response, and the stillness in the room was eerie. It was close to the end, and we all knew it.
After the funeral I flew back home – Nogales, Arizona. Gratefully I walked through the front door of my ultra-modern home. Being an architect had its advantages. I built my dream home, all soft angles and bright colors, nothing old-fashioned and stuffy for this gal. But Grandma never seemed to realize that.
"I made another quilt. Would you like it?" She’d say.
And always, I turned it down, "Thanks Grandma. It’s lovely, but it won’t go with the décor in my home."
"But dear, you can use it on those cold desert nights."
"No really Grandma, that’s fine. Why don’t you give it to Elsa?" Elsa was my cousin, and as country as they came.
"Perhaps," Grandma would reply with a soft sigh. Carefully she’d fold the quilt, and replace it.
Six weeks later and once again I was boarding a plane – not for a funeral, but for a celebration. Christmas in the Murphy family was a gala event! Aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, nieces and nephews all descended on my parents’ house.
Christmas Eve found me trolling the tree, looking at the gifts, seeing how many had my name. Mom peeked around the corner.
"Ah caught in the act!" She smiled at me.
I ruefully laughed, "I know. You’d think now I’m an adult I would get over it, but just seeing presents with my name makes me feel special!"
Mom wrapped her arms around me, and together we stared at the lights twinkling on the tree, sharing this moment together.
"Oh, I have something for you." She pulled away, and made for the door. "Wait right there," she called over her shoulder.
I sat, hands cupping my face, mesmerized by the lights. I barely heard her come back. "Honey?"
"This is for you."
She held out an envelope and a box. Immediately I knew by the distinctive paper the box was from Grandma.
"From Grandma? But how?"
"She gave this to me just before she went into the hospital, and told me to give it you on Christmas Eve. I think she knew she didn’t have long."
Tears blurred my eyes as Mom said, "I’ll let you open this by yourself."
Softly the door closed behind her, and I was left alone. I held the card between my hands amazed at Grandma’s foresight. I opened the envelope and pulled out the card.
"Teresa," I saw my name written in her unique hand. "I hoped to see you open this yourself, but I don’t think I will. No matter, I am now in a better place.
"I want to tell you how proud I am of you. Of all my grandchildren, we are the most alike." I smiled. She was right; I was the most like her.
"But there is one thing we have never seen eye to eye on, and that’s the quilts I make. I know you think they’re old fashioned and too ‘country’ for you. Don’t think I haven’t seen the rolling eyes and the huffy sighs (when you were much younger of course) because the quilts didn’t match your style.
"I wanted to leave you something special, something to remember me by, and perhaps one day when you get married and have your own family, you can pass it on. I love you my precious one.
With all my love, Grandma."
With shaking hands I reached down for the box, and even though I could hear my mother’s voice echoing in my head, "Save the paper!" I ripped open the wrappings.
There nestled in the box was a quilt. But not just any quilt! I lifted it out, and shook it open. This was not a regular patchwork quilt; this was filled with all the colors of my house, not a flower in sight! And it was all geometric – I had never seen anything like it. Light danced off the saturated colors and made a rainbow on the opposite wall.
I sobbed as I saw the love my grandmother had put into this quilt. I felt guilty for all the times I’d shrugged off her efforts. I felt Mom’s hand on my back, "Honey, it’s ok. This was Grandma’s last quilt, and she told me she was making the perfect gift for you. Don’t feel guilty; she loved you enough to make what you’d like."
I tenderly wrapped it up and replaced it in the box – this most precious gift of all was going to go home to Nogales with me, to take center place on my bed. My Grandma had given me her most precious gift – her understanding and respect of who I was.
Corinne Smelker is the mom to five kids and wife of one husband. She is a self-employed writer and also the administrator for Prophetic Life Ministry, a Christian Ministry located in San Antonio. Cori also writes and posts daily devotionals to that site.
Send this Page To a friend!