In memory of…
Father Peter asked if I would like to write a few words of remembrance for my grandmother, Mary Hensley. Initially, I had thought not to do so, for I am but one of many grandchildren. But the more time I spent with cousins and other family members this past week, the more I wished to put some of those memories into words…on behalf of myself and all of my cousins. For we all loved Gram and it is only right that we reflect on the joy of her life.
Perhaps what stands out the most about Gram is her unwavering, unconditional love for all of us. No matter who we are, no matter what we did, we always had our grandmother’s love. She was there for us – graduations, weddings, birthdays – she was there, proud of her grandchildren and what we’d accomplished. When her phone rang and she heard a grandchild’s voice, Gram experienced such joy. A simple, “Hey Gram…can I come by and spend some time with you?” never failed to bring a smile to her face. It brought a smile to our faces too…because we loved being with our Gram.
If we could grant one wish to Gram’s great-grandchildren and others in the younger generation, it would be to know the Gram that we knew as children. The Gram who would come outside with us and show us how to play jacks the right way. Or how to dribble a ball between and under her legs. Or school us on what jumping rope really should have been like.
The years brought arthritis to Gram’s knees, and her days of skipping rope sadly ended. But her playful, adventurous spirit was never diminished. She loved to get out into the world to see and do things. Time spent in Florida with her brothers was always a happy time for Gram. We missed her while she was away, but were happy to know that Gram was enjoying herself. A road trip across the country to attend a grandson’s or nieces wedding? Not a problem for our Gram. Just load up the car and get on the road…and make sure you find a good place to have breakfast. Too bad they didn’t have crepes in Arkansas.
Gram loved having the family together. Holidays were seen as a blessing for her – all of her kids, grandkids, siblings, nieces, nephews and friends would converge on Gram’s house. Sitting with her family and friends having good food and even better conversation made for a good day! Even the less elaborate “spaghetti Sundays” were greatly anticipated. It was the time when her children would gather around the table and spend the day together. Gram was truly the most happy when everyone was gathered together in love and joy. It’s what she has always wanted for all of us.
Gram’s last few months were perhaps the most difficult for her. Her great sorrow was the loss of her son, John, who made his way to Heaven ahead of his mother – most likely to find her the most comfortable spot. That’s the way Uncle John was. He loved his mother more than any other person in this world. For her, he would move mountains and he very often did.
Uncle John was the most generous of men. Like his mother, he was always there for his family and friends. As a Chicago police officer for 40 years, Uncle John saw the worst of society. But it never dampened his love and kindness toward others. He was always there to lend a hand. Everyone knew they could count on Uncle John. He never, ever let us down.
Uncle John’s children and grandchildren brought him great joy – he loved his kids and grandkids unconditionally. He was taken from us too quickly. We all still grieve for the loss – his children, grandchildren and sisters feel this loss acutely. But we can all find peace in our hearts knowing that Uncle John is happy in Heaven. I know, with all of my heart, that he was there with Grandpa to welcome Gram home…and Gram has found joy and peace in that reunion. There is great rejoicing in Heaven this day.
We’ve gathered in love to celebrate the life and memory of Mary and John. Though we shall grieve, it is important that we believe that our loss is Heaven’s gain. The Lord has called upon Gram and Uncle John to carry on His work in Heaven. But that does not mean they have left us. It simply means that their love will be shown to us in boundless ways. Their ability to watch over us is now unlimited…feel glad that we all have two more Angels sitting on our shoulders.
If Gram and Uncle John could speak to all of us today, I believe this is what they would say to us:
When I am gone, release me, let me go.
I have so many things to see and do,
You mustn’t tie yourself to me with too many tears,
But be thankful we had so many good years.
I gave you my love, and you can only guess
How much you’ve given me in happiness.
I thank you for the love that you have shown,
But now it is time I traveled on alone.
So grieve for me a while, if grieve you must
Then let your grief be comforted by trust
That it is only for a while that we must part,
So treasure the memories within your heart.
I won’t be far away for life goes on.
And if you need me, call and I will come.
Though you can’t see or touch me, I will be near
And if you listen with your heart, you’ll hear
All my love around you soft and clear
And then, when you come this way alone,
I’ll greet you with a smile and a “Welcome Home”.