Death Ends But Love Continues

It is a long time ago now, but I still remember going to my grandmother, Situ’s, old apartment when I was about six-years-old. I went several times, but I remember this one in particular. We were sitting on the couch — all three of us — Situ, my sister, and I. We’d eaten and finished dinner long before, and the Barbies were strewn across the floor. Mom and Dad had yet to come back from their dinner out and Situ was taking a moment to tell us some stories from her childhood. She talked about her days in Lebanon with her many brothers and sisters and all of the animals that they had. Situ explained certain customs and words to us as we watched in fascination. But more than all of that, I remember how she told us that she loved us oh, so very much. And it seemed to me like that would never change, through death or life, her love would remain.

I called her almost every day — or she called me. We talked about a lot of things. She was the one that I told about my success and my failure and everything of consequence or of none at all. Situ would talk, too — usually about her latest purchases or what she was cooking. Sometimes, we even had political debates. No matter what though, we always ended with the words, “I love you.”

Often, when people ask me where I got a particular sweater or accessory, I answer with the words, “My grandma.” Even though nothing has been given in the past year, I still use gifts that she bought so lovingly. She was an expert at shopping and always had something to give us, because she loved us, wherever she went.

Situ always worried about where we were and what we were up to. She didn’t like it when I disappeared to look at books while shopping when I was ten. “Something could happen to you if you don’t stay with your mom and me!” I remember how relieved she was when I quit riding for good, a sport which she deemed dangerous. And she never did approve of my trip to Mexico that last summer. But she always said, “It’s just because I love you.”

Last October, Situ wasn’t shopping or supporting her favourite politician because straps bound her to a hospital bed. She gasped for life, on morphine and dialysis. I went to say good-bye to her there — in that cold, hospital room. “Don’t be too upset when I die.” She said, though I could not help but cry. And for some reason, it took me a long time to say those words of love that had always come out of my mouth so easily before. Perhaps it was because it was so final. Maybe it was for the fact that I would never say it again. She was dying, this love that I had. What words could I use? Finally, I whispered, “I will always love you.”

A year ago today, my grandma, Situ, had her last breath on this earth. It seemed so strange and unreal. I remember calling her apartment after it happened, just to make sure. I knew that she was dead but I still half-expected to hear her voice on the other end. All I heard was an answering machine, the shadow of what once had been. A dead love.

And there was the funeral, in which everyone cried, I read a poem, and we buried her and put roses on her grave. We went through days and weeks and months and holidays without her. Her birthday came and went. The chapter of her life on earth has ended, yet I still think of her everyday. She has not left my mind. Yes, I have kept my promise for I have realized, that love does not really end like death.

For although Situ is gone today, her memory is forever alive. I can’t hear her voice right now, but I remember when I did. I can still see her face, and feel her warm embrace. I may not be able to tell her my accomplishments, thoughts, feelings, and failings but I can imagine what she would say. I know that she’d be proud of all of the things that I’ve done. I know that she would smile and cry with me again if she could. And I am certain that I shall see her again someday, when to that place I go as well. Most of all, I love her even more because although death ends life, love continues it forever.

Situ, my grandmother, forever in my heart.

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When Sixteen Isn’t So Sweet

Sixteen. It’s the magic age where you can drive. Its a romantic time where they call you sweet. I used to think it was when you fell in love forever. It is the year that all of your dreams come true. Unless you’re me.

I was scared to turn sixteen. I didn’t want the day to come.  I don’t know where I got the idea, but somehow I knew that sixteen would change everything. I was losing my innocence and going into a world of unknown and scary things. Just because it was sweet, even though I could drive, and although I would fall in love and my dreams would come true, I dreaded my birthday.

I failed my knowledge test on the day that I turned sixteen. Even though it was just an exam, I cried and cried. I felt like a horrible failure. And although I was cheered by “happy birthdays,” cards, and presents, dinner out, and a call from a new, special friend, I was still miserable. Sixteen wasn’t sweet to me.

Sure enough, sixteen was anything like what I thought it would be. I never did drive and no one called me ‘sweet.’ My grandma died less than two months after my birthday. My grades dropped, and I hid myself in the mask because of my misconceptions on beauty. The feelings that I thought were “true love” soon turned into hurt as a friend disappointed me. Not one of my dreams came true. Sixteen was anything but sweet.

Today, I’m seventeen. Its been a year since all of this started, though it feels like a thousand. It is hard for me to believe that I am the same person who cried on her birthday, and wished that she could be eight again, just one year ago. I’m so happy today and life seems so worth living that now I finally feel sweet.

But that’s just the mystery of life, I guess. God never tells us what He has in store for us. Often, He gives us dreams and turns them into something totally different. And in the end, the grief and the suffering make the joy and the happiness much sweeter, even if sixteen wasn’t.

You Can’t Take Away My Love

I stand almost alone in the grave yard, in front of a casket baring her I love. I look at the roses laid for her, I feel the rain on my shoulders. I try to say a prayer for her but the words won’t come, I want to cry for her but the tears won’t fall. Still, I’m overcome with grief. I wonder how God could let Satan do this to me. I hear the devil’s laughter and I feel his satisfaction. I don’t want to leave but eventually I have to. The devil laughs again and tells me to look back but I don’t.  The rain continues to fall, touching my silver locket that I wear around my neck. I touch it and I smile. She gave it to me! I remember and instead of looking back to her grave like the devil wants me to, I smile again and retort “You can’t take away my love.”

The tears fall down my cheeks as I’m tormented with the thought of never being with her again. I want to scream, I’d like to yell. The devil laughs again in his evil, satisfied cackle. I fall upon my bed and cry. My head hits a heart-shaped pillow…I stop…she gave it to me a long time ago. I sit up and wipe away my tears. I look around me and see glimpses of her everywhere: in my cherished collection of books, in the shirts that I haven’t put away, in the lap top on my desk, in the suit case I’ve yet to unpack, in the stuffies she bought me as a child. She is here, love is here. I scorn the devil again with my words: “You can’t take away my love.”

I pound my fists against the ground, I let the carpet absorb my tears. I miss her! I want her! I just want to hear her voice, to see her face, to hug her warm body one last time. The devil cackles and tells me that my wish will never be fulfilled. Suddenly, a force pulls me up and I reach for the phone. Nervously, I dial her number, the one I’ve known by heart since childhood. It rings. It rings again. It rings several times…no answer…but an answering machine. I hear her voice again. I listen and cherish. I go and get the photo album and I flip through pictures of her holding me on her knee, and smiling down at me. I recall and I remember. I think on happy times with her and to the devil I say: “You can’t take away my love.”

I sit in dismal fate at the table, missing her. I still want her. The devil challenges me. I pick up the thick red book with the gold lettering on it and begin to read from the last chapter. I read about Heaven and Hell and the end of times and I remember where she is and where I’ll be then too…with her. And to the devil I say: “You can’t take away my love.”

Now my silver locket gleams in the sunlight, shining clearly with love. I smile as a friend notices it. I tell them that she gave it to me. I open it and close it and open it again. It is empty, just as she is gone but I know that won’t be for long…perhaps at present she is  not with me but I’ll always have her in my memory and I will meet her again one day. She is not really gone and I am not really without her. “No Satan…no matter how hard you try…you cannot take away my love.”

Journey Back To Passion

I was once a care free girl who laughed and smiled with few worries on my chest. I never missed youth group and I loved to volunteer at my church. I didn’t always enjoy school but I did love my Social Studies class! Theatre was my passion, singing was a joy, and playing the piano and cooking were dearly loved hobbies. I loved life and these precious things with great ardour. I never imagined myself abandoning them, especially not by my own decision. But then, I did not know that I would have no choice for my passions in life, though God-given, good and enjoyed, would be killed.

They began to fail as Situ, my grandma grew weaker. They were injured badly the week that she phoned to say that she would be going off of dialysis, a death sentence for her. Like a soldier healed from their wounds, my vigour arose with the news that she would not go through with this after all. My passions were shot again when I learned that she was now in palliative care, that she was on her way home. They bled as I said good bye to her through a storm of tears, and a choked voice in the cold hospital room and cried out in pain when she fell into a deep sleep that she would not awaken from. Finally, with the death of Situ, my passions were murdered, killed, dead.

I stopped going to youth group and I volunteered with a heavy heart. I shoved my textbooks into my school box and tried not to think about them. I would decide to make dinner or bake cookies but would excuse myself with tiredness. I kept going to music lessons and rehearsals but never did notes or lines resound at home. Only tears came, there was no laughter or joy, practice or passion. It had all been lost, all been killed, all been buried somewhere deep within my soul.

With the death of Situ, my grandma, I began to push away many of my God-given, well-loved passions.

But God restores and He restored me, slowly but surely.

It started one day at church with the sweet voice of my youth leader, encouraging me to come that Thursday. And I went, despite the pain, and God gave back my passion, He restored my heart.

The smiles and sweet giggles of grade 4 girls and the little “meals” made for me by pre-school children returned the joy of volunteering. I decided not to quit, God gave back my passion, He restored my heart.

The comforting words of my wonderful piano teacher and the sweet ripple of music from her hands made me want to play again. And with a Sonatina, God gave back my passion, He restored my heart.

God restored the passion of piano to my fingers and my heart.

The patience of teachers and pure God-given motivation led me back to my school books. Yes, God gave me back my passion, He restored my heart.

The fun that I had baking with dear friends during a visit to their house one weekend, the joy in the faces of my GEMS girls when they saw the green bowl that meant either cookies or muffins, and the words “they melt in your mouth” made me remember how much I love to be in the kitchen, how joyful baking is. With words and smiles, God gave back my passion, He restored my heart.

Friends and family members helped me regain the joy of being in the kitchen.

A talk with an amazing teacher and mentor, a casting call, a monologue, practice sides, and an audition made me realize my love for theatre. And through people and events, God gave me back my passion, He restored my heart.

Finally, after a month-long break, a CD by Amanda Falk, “The Music of The Night” from The Phantom Of The Opera and a very patient, kind and caring instructor, I wanted to sing again, and I could do it without crying. Through a wonderful person and music itself, God gave me back my passion, He restored my heart.

The journey back to passion was not an easy one: there were many tears and much pain along the way. I had times where I felt like giving up, times when I wanted to call it a day. But God is a loving God, one who gives as well as takes away, one who restores health to the sick, heals the wounds of the injured, and resurrects the passion of the dead.

For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds,” says the Lord.

Jeremiah 30:17

He is also a God who works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) for not only did He restore, heal, and resurrect my heart, He also brought my passions back in a greater life than they have ever been. Yes, through death he worked to bring about a new fire, a new love, and a new life in my heart, greater and bigger than before.

My Favourite Christmas Present

It’s Christmas Eve but I don’t understand it.  All month I haven’t been able to fully realize that Christmas is just around the corner. How can it be Christmas tomorrow? I keep wondering.

It’s not just that either, I haven’t been looking forward to Christmas this year. I didn’t complain when we got our tree on the 21st, I didn’t enjoy decorating the tree, and I put off doing baking until last Sunday. I don’t really care too much about the presents I’m getting and I realized yesterday when I started to feel a bit sickish that I wouldn’t even mind getting sick for my own sake (I would be worried for my Grandma though.)

Where is this less-materialistc, depressing, passive view on Christmas from? Is it that I’ve lost all of my joy in life or am I just growing up? Have I finally realized the true meaning of Christmas or is this simply a pattern in the grief of loosing Situ (my grandmother)?

I’d say that although I have grown up and while I do think about the true meaning of Christmas even more now, that the reason is Situ’s recent death. This is my first Christmas without her after all. Plus, everything that I seem to feel gloomy about has links to her. I didn’t feel like doing the Christmas baking because it made me think about her and how much she loved being in the kitchen. I don’t want any presents because it reminds me of how she used to brag about how many presents she was giving me. I didn’t care about getting the tree or decorating it because I was consumed in my grief. I don’t feel like seeing family because it will remind me that she’s gone.

I guess there is some guilt too. Last Christmas, we were supposed to go to her apartment for Christmas dinner and my Uncle and Aunt and Grandfather were going to come out for the holiday as well. I remember how I really didn’t want to because I thought it would be tedious and boring (while I was extremely close to Situ, in general, I’ve always been closer to the other side of the family.) However, we didn’t get to do any of it anyways because she went into the hospital. So, my Uncle and Aunt and Grandfather cancelled their trips and we stopped in to visit Situ on the way to my mom’s family’s house. And instead of preparing a feast and spending Christmas day with her whole beloved family, Situ, my grandmother, was forced to lie in a cold hospital bed with short breads and Christmas cards for company.

Now, I know that none of this was my fault. In fact, Situ didn’t even know that I wasn’t excited about going to her place for Christmas. But for some reason I can’t stop feeling bad and wishing that we had our little Christmas party after all (I know that there was nothing I could have done about this anyway.)

A  Christmas with Situ.

Other Christmas memories with Situ stream my memory too. My mind goes off in a flurry of “Do you remembers?” whether I ask for it or not. Do you remember the year she gave you and Daragh the Santa hats and the three of you were matching on Christmas day? Do you remember the one time that you went to her apartment for Christmas with the rest of the family? Do you remember the year that she felt unwanted and went to a political function dinner instead? Do you remember the year that she gave you ten gifts, or was that twelve? Do you remember how she would phone you on Christmas day when she’d go to visit Uncle Buck and Aunty Rose? Do you remember how she used to alternate Christmases with them and then with you? Do you remember seeing her in the hospital last Christmas and bringing her the short breads? Do you remember when you hurt her feelings by saying that Grancha (your other Grandma) made the best pies? Do you remember the pie contest that you arranged but that didn’t work out? Do you remember the Christmas dresses? The one that was black with silver sequins on top? The one that you wore the Christmas you were eight? The Christmas that you were with her, the Christmas that you were happy…Do you remember? Do you remember? There are no more memories to come….

These things haunt me and sometimes I feel like crying when I remember that last part: there are no more memories to come. I try to be happy about Christmas, knowing that Situ would want that for me. But realizing that I won’t see her this Christmas, is harder than ever. Knowing that there will be no more fights about whose house we go to, no more Christmas day nights sleeping out on the couch, no more tension at the Christmas table does not help at all. Situ is still gone and she’s not coming back, even for Christmas. It’s ten times worse than when she went to the political function instead of to our house. Situ and Christmas are no longer entwined.

But even through my grief, I can hear God’s voice calling to me and saying “I came on Christmas. I came for you and I came for Situ too. I came so that you would not have to die but so that you could live in Heaven forever.” His voice is calm and comforting and it wipes away the tears for I know that because of the first Christmas gift, my grandmother lives in Heaven right now with no pain like she had last Christmas, no tension like she had when she’d spend Christmas with my mom’s side of the family, no spitefullness like she felt when she went to the political function and no hurt feelings like I gave her over the pie. Situ may be on this earth no more, and memories of her may be extinct but because of the virgin birth, because of a child born in a stable, because of Jesus Christ Situ no longer suffers and I will see her again one day.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord.’

Luke 2: 8-11

There, isn’t that the greatest news ever? Jesus came to save us! Jesus has come! Jesus is here and He will take care of us. Situ is home, safe and sound and to her that is the best Christmas present ever. And my best Christmas present is the one, not under the tree, but in my heart, the one wrapped with love and filled with hope…the blessed birth of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Elizabeth