grandma frosty, and life within death

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Me, Lindsey, Grandma Frosty and Grandpa Jack

Lindsey’s grandma Faustena passed away last Saturday, and we subsequently had the funeral on Tuesday.  It’s been a whirlwind last week, especially when you consider we’re in the throes of buying a house and trying to pack up our apartment.  Turns out these things do not go to any particular plan, and so we’ve put together things as best we could.  If you all could have been an intimate part of my last year, you’d see that these kind of things are just part of Lindsey’s and my life – everything happens all at once, and it’s always big, heavy stuff.  Frosty was in the hospital at Ohio State right when we began dating, and we moved our wedding up in large part because we wanted to be sure her grandparents could attend.  In fact, had we waited, we would have been two weeks too late.  That would have been devastating.

Death is something I’ve always had a hard time with.  Its permanence; its finality; and perhaps most difficult for me, its inertia.  I could be working on something today, and suddenly die.  My work and efforts to this point will suddenly cease, and I won’t necessarily be able to come back after a brief vacation to come back and start again – no “surprise!  Back to business!”  I struggle with the thought that every last thing I’ve done could potentially be affixed with ellipses, never to be brought to final declaration.  It hastens my steps at times, even before I’ve clicked over to begin my fourth decade on the planet.

However, Jesus died, was buried, and three days later returned to fulfill Scripture.  In Frosty’s funeral mass, we were reminded of this, and many shared in the Eucharistic celebration of a Jesus that could conquer death.  The priest reminded us that Frosty’s cancer was her crucifixion, and that by sharing in death, she will celebrate the resurrection with Christ at her side.  While that thought simply rocks the logical and scientific parts of me into disbelief, I know that these things are true.  The completeness of my worldview helps me believe that there is a reunion, however it happens.  The ellipses of this life merely move to a new paragraph of eternal life.

Henri Nouwen, in his book Life of The Beloved, mentions in one of his final chapters (“Given”) that while we give in life, we also give in death.  Our legacy, our life, and what we’ve done have lasting impact on those we knew.  Our penultimate gift is ourselves in death.  As I write now, I think about what impact Grandma Frosty had on her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and all of the spouses that entered into the family.  I am the newest one of those spouses, and her heart and humor had an impact on me.  How much more when months instead span years and decades for all the other members of her family?

So death’s inertia is not inertia at all, but rather resting on the accomplishments of a life lived as best as possible.  Whenever I pass, I will put the final touches on my work here, and join a multitude cheering on the rest behind me to grow, learn, and leave behind something better.  That’s something to fear and anticipate with excitement, but not hasten more than necessary.  There’s so much to do here.

When Lindsey and I visited in the afternoon on Saturday, just a few hours before she passed, her sentences were broken and not easy to understand.  One thing that came through clearly, however, was her asking Linds “Are you going to be okay?”.  Linds said yes, I’ll be okay, will you?  Grandma Frosty replied “oh, yes, I’ll be fine.”  That interaction shook me.  Am I the type of person who even now asks folks “are you going to be okay?”

God, please help me be that man.