As a belated birthday gift, I took my grandmother to the O'Henry Hotel in Greensboro for their afternoon tea service. It is just my grandmother's sort of thing and well; I really like it, too. I invited my only aunt, Sue, to join us because I thought it would just be fun to have three generations of my family there. We never get together, just the three of us.
I sat listening to my grandmother reminisce over a time when she and my grandfather had tea every afternoon when they were on an anniversary trip to the Greenbrier Hotel. Afternoon tea and my grandfather really don't belong in the same sentence, but my grandmother said he sat there, participating like it was something he had done his entire life. I have no doubt he hammed it up with a little pinky lift, too. The thought makes me smile.
I took a moment to soak in the picture before me. My grandmother, my aunt and I. How God has worked in each of our lives. You see, this isn't an event I would have thought a likely scenario say 15 years or so ago. And, as recently as this summer, I figured that most of my memories with my grandmother were already made.
Life has a funny way of putting distance between family. Actually, it isn't life and it isn't funny. Specifically with my relationship with my aunt, I am not sure why the relationship wasn't always on solid ground during the earlier part of my life. Different life phases, careers, school, interests? Misinterpreted statements, misconstrued circumstances. We never really had a bond or connection. I don't know that I will ever get my finger pinpointed on it. However, like a testimony, life before Christ should never be the focus...it is the incredible transformation of life with Christ - you know, the good stuff, that really matters.
I can say without a hesitation that I love my aunt. Sure, it was always there is some form, maybe only because she was family. But, God has worked what can only be described as a miracle in both of our lives in the latter parts of our years. Perspectives have changed; worldly matters that consumed us have been taken away and the loss of my precious sister have factored into it. In place of these things, I believe a softness and compassion for God now resides which trickles down to how we view each other. I have been given a chance to see and experience her heart and I praise God for that. She is one of the most incredible women I know. Smart, funny, thoughtful and compassionate - she has so many incredible qualities that I never knew. Maybe they were always there, but as I grow in my walk with Christ, I see them. They are shining. I am amazed at how God has so quickly and without any hubbub or therapy fully restored this relationship as if it has always been. I am a teensy sad I didn't have all of this earlier, however I am more thrilled to have it for the rest of my life.
It shouldn't go without mentioning that she is a master gardener - the absolute coolest garden I have ever had the pleasure of visiting - cool, funky garden houses, a green house made of old windows, hideaway seating areas, nooks and crannies that keep you poking around for days. To top it all off, she and my uncle are organic farmers, grow a vineyard, have chickens and the two largest, and possibly the most spoiled goats of all time. Years of managing a furniture store have also given her incredible design skills and an eye for the unusually whimsical. I can't even begin to describe her unconventional, yet totally hip house. What more could you wish for in an aunt?
Regarding my grandmother, I have missed quite a few years with her as well. This occurred most recently as she was the primary caregiver for my grandfather during his 10-year run with Alzheimer's. I never held any grudges - of course not. I just missed having her as a constant in my life. During this time, I always knew she had some misgivings about not really knowing my children and about missing out on the important events in our lives. But, it was what life had dealt her and her dedication to my grandfather was beyond admirable. It was a perfect picture of what God asks of us when we say our wedding vows.
After my grandfather passed away in August, I wondered how my grandmother would pick herself up and start living again. Inwardly, I wondered if she wouldn't quickly pass of a heart, broken and grief-stricken. After all, she was married to my grandfather for 67 years. Yet, she has managed to not only move forward, but to have moments of true enjoyment. I hope that our excursion to tea was one of them. I think it was as she savored each morsel of goodies presented to us over a two hour period and said no less than 7 times how wonderful it was to be together.
With a heart bursting with gratitude, I couldn’t agree more.