Saturday, May 9, 2009

Stop This Train

May has many big events and anniversaries for me and my family. We have three wedding anniversaries, birthdays, Mother's Day...and today would be a year since my grandpa died. He was very sick. When Jake and I were trying to pick a date for our wedding, I had always wanted to have a fall wedding since it is my very favorite season. We had the football issue (my younger brother was playing football at Iowa State, plus Jake and I come from some serious football fans that would be slightly aggravated if a wedding coincided with a wedding) but we also wanted to have all of our living grandparents at our wedding. As we started our plans and picked May, my Dad's mother was diagnosed with cancer.

My grandma died the very beginning of October. She knew that I was pregnant with Iain, and it was hard having her know about our baby, but never meeting him. A year and a half later, my grandpa (my mom's dad) went in to the hospital the same morning that I was in the hospital giving birth to Fiona. He was in the hospital for 5 weeks to the day that he died. With Fiona in the NICU, and Grandpa having serious infections and complications, we were not able to connect in person or on the phone before he died.

Both of my grandparents dying were bittersweet. They were both in so much physical pain, and their bodies just couldn't fight anymore. I never realized how fortunate I was to have grandparents see my children until one was missing for each of my babies. It felt like I was sacrificing a grandparent for a child. I know that my grandmother would have given her life for Iain as well as my grandpa would have moved heaven and earth for Fiona.

I contributed some good memories during the open sharing time at my grandma's funeral. I sort of remember what I said, but it was not a planned out speech. My grandpa's funeral was a bit more formal, and when no one was offering to give a eulogy, I thought that I could be brave enough to speak. There is a John Mayer song called Stop This Train that I just couldn't get out of my head. I had been listening to it since the album came out, but since it is a bit about being scared of growing up, seeing the older generations die, being alone, but feeling like your life is flashing before you the lyrics were verberating in my head. Having babies and loosing loved family and friends can do that to you. Here is the eulogy I gave at my grandpa's funeral:

A Grandpa’s Lap

A eulogy for Grandpa Madden

May 12, 2008

Erin Joseph

Almost two years ago at my wedding, a little girl walked over to my grandparents and they started talking. She asked Grandma, “Can I sit on his lap?” Grandma said, “Well, I think that would be alright. “ She told my grandparents, “I don’t have a grandpa, and I have always wanted to sit on a grandpa’s lap.” I had always taken for granted that I grew up with a grandpa’s lap to sit on, but she was so poignant with her request it gave me a reality check, that many people don’t get to know their grandpas into their adult hood. I just figured that my grandpa would always be there, immortal and looking like John Wayne.

I think my grandpa kind of looked like John Wayne. He was rough around the edges, but had a quick wit and great one-liners. Grandpa didn’t have a hard time telling you what he thought about something, and that was just fine because he was right about a lot of things. He had a strong work ethic, durable patience, a love for God, his country, his wife and his ever expanding family.

It is important to have a Grandpa’s lap to sit on, but as I have gotten even older, I have realized how fortunate I have been to have my grandpa as my friend. After I graduated from college and had joined the work force, I had absolutely no life and no social life. I started heading here to Lowden on Wednesday nights to visit with Grandma and Grandpa. We would have dinner and get to talking into the wee hours of the morning and Grandma and I would be working on a project of some kind, so she was always making me stay over. I am glad that she did. We would have such great conversations about work, politics, family, sports, and current events. I learned so much from his storytelling about his family and friends and the genealogy of his ancestors from a by gone era and time on the farms in Iowa. There were stories of good times and bad times. Stories that made him the man that he was, someone with true grit, hardworking, a great joke teller, a great story teller, a great friend and athlete, and resilient to the fickle life of farming.

I admire his example as a loving husband to my grandma and a great friend to her for over 50 years. They are such a cute couple: two people who enjoyed each other’s company, and when they didn’t like each other, they weren’t afraid to fight about it. They had passion and emotion for each other, spunk and one of those timeless romances that everyone wishes and dreams about. Before Jake and I got married, they gave us some tips for a good marriage, but it is their acts of love will stick in my mind forever. They weren’t afraid to kiss each other and retell the story of how they met, and to keep it interesting, they weren’t afraid to give each other hell! They took care of each other and loved each other so much, and that is the best thing for two people.

The two of them were my personal psychiatrists, and it was so easy to talk to both of them. I discovered that grandparents and grandkids get along so well because they have a common enemy: their parents. I could get some good dirt on my parents, and my grandparents could get some good dirt on their kids from me! It was a win win situation!

All of it has all been so fast for me, and so I can’t even imagine how fast it was for him. He had written down that the moment he knew God was real was when his children were born. It is amazing how having children can bring your lens in to focus so quickly, just in time for you to be thrown on a freight train and have your life start flashing before your eyes. Grandpa was so excited to see these great grandchildren of his. In the last year when we would talk on the phone, he wanted to hear stories about Iain all of the time. We would put the phone to Iain’s ear, and Grandpa would tell him that he had his photo on the refrigerator so that he could say hi to him every time he got a drink of water. Iain was so content to sit on his great grandpa’s lap and I know that it gave my grandpa great joy to hold the next generation in his arms. I think being a farmer, he understood the seasons of life. I could see how excited he was with this spring of new life for our family. He knew about all of the joys and hardships as we start these plants of ours, and he delighted in the cultivating of the earth and children and watching his labors bear fruit and in turn multiply. He knew that he was in the winter of his life, and not many of us like winter, but he knew that it had to come.

Yesterday, I got to meet my cousin Paige for the first time, and we had great fun getting to know each other. During our time visiting, we were standing in the isle here, and all of a sudden she slipped her hand into mine. I looked down at her and she told me “I bet you that Grandpa can wiggle his toes right now,” and with that she took my breathe away. I said, “I bet you are right.” Then she said, “But it is his soul that can wiggle his toes, and his soul isn’t there in the box or he couldn’t feel his toes wiggling.” I said, “Yeah, now I know he is wiggling his toes in heaven,” and she said, “Yeah.” We were so connected in that moment, sharing our Grandpa and sharing the belief that our Grandpa is in heaven and he is wiggling his toes, in a new body, free of sickness and free of pain and starting a new season of his own. I know that he is in heaven, celebrating with his mom and dad and taken into the arms of our Heavenly Father. I am thankful that Paige was able to sit on her grandpa’s lap, and she will know from the rest of us what a great man and friend he was.

I would like to close with this verse from Romans 8:38, “For I am convinced, that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


BGriebahn said...

Thanks sweetie--it was a nice reminder that I really don't have ice in my veins, since you touched my heart again and I got that watery stuff in my eyes. HOL.

Julene said...

Awww, Erin, now you have me crying, reminding me of my sweet Czech grandmother, and of my dear 88-year-old aunt who insisted on spending 10 hours in the car Saturday just to see Joanna wed.

Deborah said...

I am convinced this is the best blog in the whole world... ;) wow.