Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Visit to Grandma Popcorn

Eliza, Grandma Flegal, Andrew and Henry
August 2009

Today has been a day of tears and tender mercies. I have to say first how grateful I am for the the plan of salvation. Central to our Father in Heaven's plan of happiness is our Savior Jesus Christ. Because of Him, families can be together forever. I know this!

Moments ago, I overheard my sweet seven year old crying in her bedroom. I know immediately the cause of her tears.Our beloved Grandma, Lois Flegal (a.k.a. Grandma Popcorn), is preparing to return back to her heavenly home. Today we had the opportunity to drive to Salt Lake and visit with her for what could very well have been the last time.

"Mom?" Eliza has left her room in search of comfort. Finding me on the couch, she nestles under my arm and informs me:

"I'm going to go without food tomorrow, but not water... because I have a cough." Her resolve is firm as she continues, "I'm going to fast because I want Grandma to get better." The sight of her tear stained cheeks combined with her seemingly perfect faith touches my heart. I hold her without saying anything for a minute or two. Finally I ask,

"Do you want to know what all these tears mean?" 


"They show how much you love her." We talk of how blessed we are to belong to Grandma's family. I tell Eliza how special she is to Grandma. When Eliza was seven weeks old, we moved in with Grandma. She watched her grow and achieve many of those special milestones. The three of us spent many hours together as Andrew was busy with school and work. I tell Eliza about how she'd roll all over her kitchen floor and play with Grandma's metal measuring spoons. I'd give Eliza baths in Grandma's pink tub as we only had a shower in our basement apartment. These shared memories make Eliza smile. In the summer of 2007, when Eliza was one, we left her home for a few months to spend our summer in Germany. When the time came to come back home, we were so excited to see Grandma again and move back in with her. It was a happy reunion! When Henry was born in March of 2008, it was Grandma's house that he came home too.

Andrew enters the room and escorts Eliza back to bed. I hear him tell Eliza how he wishes he never had to say, "Goodbye" to her too. But then he reminds her that her body is 96 years old! She's tired and in pain. He tells her about her husband and son (and so many others!) who are waiting for her on the other side. After praying with Eliza and sharing some scriptures with her, Eliza has decided to fast tomorrow that Grandma will be comfortable and have peace. Andrew comes back downstairs and simply says,

"That girl is an angel."  

This week we've been receiving reports on the sudden decline in her health. It's thought that she suffered a stroke followed by a day of pernicious vomiting. Having settled into a wonderful care center, we received word yesterday that she had been unresponsive most of the day. After some debate, we decided that we'd head down Saturday to see her. We were encouraged when we received word this morning that she was talking a little bit. 

The kids made her cards and Eliza made her a pink, purple and red bracelet on her rainbow loom this morning. She chose those colors as they remind her of Grandma's beautiful roses. Shortly after Forrest woke up from his morning nap, we loaded up the kids and went to Salt Lake.

We did our best to prepare the kids for seeing Grandma. Even so, it was a shock to see her in this feeble state. I don't know how to explain it other than she just seemed so different. Timing was on our side, enter the tender mercy, as Aunt Becky helps sit her up when we walk in. Grandma is presented with the bracelet and cards. It doesn't take long to receive assurance from her that she is aware of who we are. 

"Grandma," I ask. I'm looking directly in her eyes, "Do you have a favorite song?" 

"I do." She replies.

"What is it?" 

"I Am a Child of God." And so we sing her that song. 

"Grandma, guess what?" I ask. Knowing she hears me, I proceed:

"Andrew's wearing one of Grandpa's shirts. He wears it all the time. In fact, he wore it when he asked me to marry him." That was something that always made her smile when we lived with her. 

She likes seeing Forrest. We talk about how she championed the name, "Forrest" as it is the name of her Father in law. I tell her how her opinion of the name softened my own feelings toward it. She mentions while we're there how beautiful our Forrest is. More than once she seems concerned about whether or not we have his blanket. 

At first I thought she was asking about the one we'd brought with us. She keeps bringing up his blanket. Finally, it dawns on me that she must have made him one herself. She wants to make sure he gets it. Telling a lie, I reassure her:

"Yes, he has it. Thank you so much." And she smiles; the issue finally settled.

I point out the bracelet on her wrist once more. She seems more alert than when we first arrived,

"Grandma, Eliza made that for you." Looking at Eliza, Grandma asks in a tone so familiar,

"Did you make that for Grandma, honey?" Smiling, Eliza nods her head. Once more we explain the colors and how they remind us of the roses that she loves. 

"Thank you." She says. 

We bring up some funny memories. 

"Do you remember when I went to the store for you and brought you back cabbage when you'd ask for lettuce? I didn't know the difference and you didn't want to hurt my feelings so you didn't say anything. You just laughed behind my back!" Andrew dutifully reports that I'm a much more competent cook these days.  :) 

"Do you remember when Andrew was giving himself a haircut and the attachment on the clippers fell off and he gave himself a huge racing stripe up the back of his head?" 

She didn't seem to remember these experiences, but it gave everyone else in the room a good laugh. 

Grandma, I remember how comforting it felt to live with you. As a new Mom, it was a great blessing to have the sweetest, most thoughtful friend living upstairs. I always had someone to talk to. Thank you for all the times you brought me down my mail and a dish of your potato salad. I remember laying in bed at night with Andrew and suddenly we'd smell something wonderful, like homemade bread or even lasagna. We laughed knowing you were busy in your kitchen and it was well past ten o'clock. You were a night owl! There was also the time when we woke up startled as we heard this great pounding coming from your bedroom; which was directly above our own. Alarmed, Andrew went up to check on you. Giggling you thanked him for his thoughtfulness but told him that your leg had fallen asleep and you were just trying to wake it up! 

Returning to today, I go and give her my final hug and kiss. Looking in her eyes, I tell her how she is (one of the) best thing I gained by marrying Andrew. The eyes are truly the window to the soul. 

"I love you so much. You are the best." I tell her. I'm so grateful she can hear me say this. 

Eliza holds her for a long time. Lottie pops up next to her and without hesitation gives her a kiss. Henry's much more timid with his "Goodbye." Andrew is so brave. It's so hard for him but he keeps it together and tells her how happy he was to be able to see her today.

We are told how amazing it was that she was so aware and alert for our visit. Our hearts swell with gratitude and sadness as we make our way back to the car. In thinking of the time she has left, we know what we should be hoping for even though it's not what we selfishly want.  
Oh we love you our dear Grandma. 

One final thought. When I think of her great posterity, I personally know and have felt of the incredible love she has for each one of her family members. As a parent, I also understand, to an extent, how a heart has room to grow and love all those who come to you. It is through that experience and her example that allows my simple brain to understand and trust that God certainly does have the capacity to know and love each one of us. That brings me comfort and peace. 

Comfort and peace, those are the blessings I pray that are hers in these coming days. We love you Grandma!

Photos from today:
Grandma's wearing the bracelet Eliza made her. 
She hugged her for a long time.

My favorite from today. 
You can see she knows him.

Making Grandma's cards and bracelet:

Lottie's very own 'desk'


Kim and Franklin said...

Oh thank you for sharing this; Sister Flegal is one of my favorite people.

Teresa McCormack Flegal said...

What beautiful sentiments you expressed. I know you two had special bond. She loves you all so much. I'm glad she was able to speak to you.

Karen said...

Ali, I'm so sorry that Grandma Popcorn is leaving this earth. I don't know her, but have read about your times with her on your blog and know that you and your family are close to her. What good coaching you've done with your children to help them learn about losing a loved one. I hope that all of her family feels great love and peace during this time.

tortured mormon mom said...

It just made me cry! i love her so much for loving me and my obnoxious bunch! She always tells me how much she loves my kids. She has been the best grandma to them! I will miss our walks around the circle and her wonderful attitude!

Audra said...

So sorry Ali! I remember visiting you a few times while you lived below her. I remember she was making pickles and how strong it smelled! I loved reading your tribute to her!