The Transplants: Grand-hearts

Disclaimer: This is an excerpt from a collection of stories I’m putting together of the beautiful hearts I knew and loved during my Kentucky years. I’m pulling this story to share with you in memory of G-ma’s 4th year in Heaven. Names are changed to protect friends mentioned in the story.

“Grandmothers create memories that the heart holds forever.” -Anonymous

Carin received the phone call first. You know the ones, you can almost feel the dread in the ringing, and most definitely in the tone of voice of the caller on the other end. “It’s time,” they’ll say, “Not much longer now.” Simple words in any other context, except for this one. These moments create such a depth of sadness in our being that our first reaction is to hit the floor as we nearly drop the phone from our grasp. Even when we know goodbyes are coming, the moment they do show up is always still a surprise. Too sudden. Too soon.

It was a snowy day in February, and Carin pulled herself from her bedroom to the dining room where we all gathered for her. There were eight of us living together in an intentional Christian community as we served in our respective programs. Somehow, throughout the months we had created an inseparable bond, once strangers now closer than friends. Though her emotions were still longing to be alone in this sudden sadness, she pulled herself towards the community that she knew would provide her with comfort and distraction. As she shared the news of her grandmother taking a turn for the worst, and as she mourned the fact that she couldn’t immediately rush to her grandmother’s side (snowy roads in rural Kentucky are not safe to venture along), we did what we all did best, each in our own ways. We sat her down at the kitchen table as one community member made her tea, another grabbed her a snack, as a few of us asked her questions or simply sat together in silence. As long as we were together, we knew everything would be okay. We encircled her in prayer and encouragement. Later on, we distracted Carin with games. Carin loved games more than anyone, and living in this community together we all knew how to love each other best.


Three months later.

We were returning from our organization’s National Day of Prayer gathering. My heart was happy from reconnecting with volunteers from the other communities (there were six volunteer houses at the time located in five different counties throughout southeastern Kentucky). Ring Ring. Ring Ring. That ring. I had heard it five months prior when my mom’s tear-soaked voice told me the news of my aunt’s sudden passing. Here it was again. Her voice at the other end of the line. My mind rushed as my feet flew from under me, and I somehow still gracefully hit the floor. I heard words, but all I could feel were the tears moistening my cheeks. I bowed my head as to not make more of a scene while attached to the corded phone in our dining room. My head felt faint. The same words. The same words every time, “It’s time,” strewn along amongst other words. There must have been other words besides, “Not much longer now.”

I knew it was coming. How much sorrow could one woman bear? Losing her son, my father, so many years ago, as well as her daughter, five months prior. Her husband seven years back, and brothers and sisters along the way. Along with cancers and sickness and the wear and tear of an 86 year old body, it was her time. But I wasn’t ready. I’m not ready. Almost instantly after I hung up the phone, or perhaps he hung it up for me, our Czech housemate Radek enveloped me in a hug. There was no shame as I cried. My grandma, my G-ma, didn’t have much longer. She is my person in the world. There is none like her. What will I do without my person in the world? She is… She was. A day or was it three later (time seems irrelevant in moments of love and grief) came the final realization. It was time.

In one sad and unfortunate way, our twinness shone through. Carin was there for me, as I had been her. We shared in sorrow, as we grieved our grandmothers. Together we were sisters, in moments of joy to moments of sadness, always in community via heart, soul, and mind. What a blessing it is to have a soul sister.

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