The car pulled up the long dirt road to her house. We rounded the corner and my eyes caught sight of that beautiful lake. A flood of memories washed over me. Riding bikes on that road and the crunch of dirt under our bike tires. The cool summer evenings…insects chirping…..eating steak and potatoes on the porch, fishing and playing for hours in the lake – jumping off the little rickety dock. My brother and I spent weeks there in the summer and we would eat ice cream cones every night with the Loons singing in the background and play store in the little pantry – which was huge when I was a child. I slapped cream on the poison ivy that racked his body – every night – wore matching outfits with my cousin and spent hours making up dance routines with her in the musty, cool basement – we danced like we would grow up and take the big stage.
MINKEVICH. That was my grandmothers last name. She lived through the deaths of two men whom she loved dearly. One gone to cancer and the other to diabetes. A determined and resilient German woman, Margaret Theresa Hatton/Minkevich was mother to 3 girls and 2 boys, grandmother to 14 grandchildren, great-grandmother to 15 and great-great grandmother to 1. On a little cottage on a great big lake in Troy, Maine is where Grammie spent the last half of her life. She loved this little cottage – living a simple life without a complaint against the darling place that was built by her second husband. She dreamed of dying in this place. And she did.
How does one ever prepare themselves for the footsteps that will bring back a flood of memories? For the catch-your-breath reality that life has ceased – all the memories now threatened to be loss because that real, living body now sat in a plastic urn on her own side table in the living room beneath the big window. My sweet little Italian great-aunt Fanny once mumbled to me in her grief of losing her husband “All good things come to an end.” There’s nothing greater than death itself to remind you that the end will come. I opened the squeaky door to my grandmother’s cottage following behind brave mom, our noses met with the earthy smells that I always remembered when we came for visits. It was still and quiet – no raspy German accent to greet us. There were pills on the kitchen sink that were never swallowed. A toothbrush upside down in a cup in the tiny bathroom- waiting to scrub her teeth once more…..reading glasses set atop a magazine….knitting needles tucked in the yarn of a half-finished hat she was knitting for the less-fortunate, food molding in the pantry….her bedroom closet half-opened and a pair of well-worn white, cotton drawstring shorts hanging on the clothesline outside blowing in the gentle breeze.
And then we saw it. The calendar that would mark her final days. We squinted our eyes to make out the very last thing she had written – COOKOUT. That day, she drove her own car and stopped and picked up a pie and met her son and his family for a cookout. 2 days later, her end came. Just like a thief in the night. The phone call that came daily from her sister in England never happened. Just like that, her worn out ole’ heart failed to beat. The days to follow would be slapped with grief – and more-so for the God-believing family left behind who would never would have the assurance of their dear family member’s salvation. A very dark and sobering reality. No one ever talks about this side of death. It’s awkward….painful….sucks the life right out of you. It’s like watching someone drown and you are helpless to do anything for them. This is the kind of suffering that causes some to throw their towel in. “I’m done with Christianity! Done with this God thing!” Hoe do you wrap up this story in a nice neat blog-post? How do you wrap up a life of unbelief?
Dear friends, though the sting is still fresh, there is great hope in the promise of salvation for those who believe. God isn’t safe. But He is good. We will live life with unanswered questions, but bitterness can’t have us because he IS.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements-surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this. “(Job 38)
Who knows? Maybe we will all be surprised one day when this life is over – when our eyes meet someone whom we thought we would never meet in heaven. But there’s a good, real, hard chance we won’t be. I’m thankful for a God who can be trusted. Because the end will come. We are all marching towards death. And death has a way of widdleing away the distractions. May you and I learn from the death of my grandmother. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow but we are guaranteed a beautiful redemption if we will take hold of it. This world? Nothing to offer compared to knowing Christ. Today, I choose to live in this moment. This is my life. I have want for nothing because I have Christ and no one, nothing can take Him away.
In loving memory of Margaret Theresa Minkevich.
(Pictured on right with her sister)