**This is REALLY long, but it was cathartic to write, so there ya go.**
I hate to brag, but I think I have the BEST extended family around. It took me a long, long time to understand the difference between extended family and immediate family concepts. Even as a graduate student, in my family counseling studies I found the concepts fuzzy in my brain, and not just because I'm dense about certain things (well, that might be part of it). *A quick note, maybe THIS is why my group project got a B+ in that class, if so, my apologies to Christy, Jade, Sarah and Steph. Wait, I'm still fairly confident that it was because the adjunct professor didn't watch our presentation and was thrown off by all of the big words in our paper. Okay, I feel better now (Clearly, I'm still bitter about that B+).
Back on point, I think the real reason I struggle with these concepts is that my cousins might as well have been my brothers and sisters. My uncles are like 2nd dads, my aunts like 2nd moms, and my grand-parents were the parents of ALL of us. We didn't live in the same house (or town), but we got together often (and still do), we laugh at our own jokes, a trait from my Grandpa, we love fully and completely. My childhood memories are wrapped up in these people. At the center of it all, was a Grandma. She was a strong lady (and you would need to be if you birthed and raised 7 boys, on little to no money). She was a loving lady. She was a hard-worker. She made the BEST food. Notice how I've used the word, was? That's because she died last week. She fought a tough stinking battle with congestive heart failure, and it was painful. It was painful to hear about and see. Growing up, and until last week, I'm pretty sure that I had convinced myself my Grandma was going to live FOREVER, because part of me just never wanted to imagine my life without my Grandma. I'm not one for 'platitudes' and it sometimes annoys me to no end when people constantly say, "She is in a better place." Yes, I believe that to be true, but I'm selfish, and I'd rather have my loved ones on earth WITH ME! Really, just a 'sorry, I love you," is more than enough. However, I truly am relieved in many ways that my Grandmother's earthly pain has come to an end. She really is dancing with her 4th born baby boy in heaven, and that is an incredible picture in my mind's eye.
So, the theme of my Grandmother's incredible prayer service and funeral was FAITH. The quote that best applies, "PREACH THE GOSPEL AT ALL TIMES AND WHEN NECESSARY USE WORDS." --St. Francis of Assisi. My grandmother lived out the gospel in her love and service to her family and others. The best example of how she did this in my life relates to the adoption of Cupcake, though I could mention things like the times she cared for me when I was sick so that my mother didn't have to use child sick days. I think you get about .2 of those as a teacher... blah. Not allowed to have sick kids, I guess. Wow, again, I digress... sorry!
Well, we started the adoption process at the end of February 2010. We wanted to tell the majority of our family in person, but we live far from most of them (which I HATE). So, we hate to wait until July to really announce what we were doing. It was HARD to keep it to ourselves. I was a little nervous about telling my Grandparents (which in hindsight is LAUGHABLE). We had told a couple of family members, friends and co-workers (what, I'm not a MACHINE?! I had to talk about it!) Unfortunately, we didn't always receive positive and supportive remarks in return when we shared our news (which was heart-breaking). I was nervous that my Grandparents, being from a different generation, and surrounded by
I was incredibly sad not to make the 2nd trip to Ethiopia to pick up Cupcake, but my mother came to take care of me and ended up bringing me to my childhood home 9.5 hours away at my request because I didn't want to sit home and miss my husband and daughter when I could be surrounded by family members. This provided me the opportunity to spend some time with my Grandma while she was hospitalized. She was feeling ROTTEN, but that woman told EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON. that walked into her hospital room about how her new great-granddaughter was coming home from Ethiopia and she was so excited. The poor nurses were probably so sick of hearing about it! I received e-mails from people about how my Grandmother would show off Cupcake's pictures and light up when she talked about her. HEART-WARMING! My grandmother had this talent. We have a big family, but she always made each one of us feel special. She supported and prayed us on this journey, and I'll forever be grateful.
In August, we surprised my Grandparents with a trip home so they could meet Cupcake. The look on my Grandmother's face when we walked through the door with Cupcake will forever be one of my favorite memories. You wouldn't have guessed that she didn't feel well in that moment, because her face lit up and her eyes danced. It was the last time I say my Grandmother in person, and I will always remember the hug she gave me when we were saying our good-byes. I'm certain (now) she knew it was the probably the last hug she would give me. She gave me a giant squeeze and kiss. She whispered in my ear that He answered our prayers with Cupcake coming home, and she told me that she was certain I would have a beautiful life and be a fantastic mother. Thanks, Grandma. I will forever treasure your words and hugs. Love you!