This morning my grandmother, Sarah Owens Toole, let go her last breath on earth. At 89, her fall over a month ago lead her into failing condition. It was apparent from the first surgery that recovery might be difficult, and so it was.
Last Sunday she was brought back to her home under hospice care. As Danae and I spent Sunday morning with her and my parents, she asked my father to pray that God would take her soon. It was a tough prayer for my dad, but he did it, and she thanked him for it. Tuesday night Danae and I returned, but now she was unresponsive. I hugged her, told her she ran a good race and kept the faith, and I was proud to be her grandson.
In a week, we'll return to my hometown of Augusta, Georgia and lay her body to rest. My father has asked me to give the funeral, so I thought writing in my blog might help give me direction.
Sarah was my last living grandparent. It's a strange feeling now that they are all gone. I spent more time with Sarah then all my grandparents, one because she lived the longest, and two, because she was the grandparent who wanted to spend the most time with me. She moved to Texas about three years ago which I was thankful for, as the kids had the opportunity to spend lots of time with her and know her well.
She was born just before the great depression, and this would be a part of what shaped her person. She was a follower of Jesus, and the only church you would find her in was a Baptist church. She still thought all democrats were just like FDR and I could not convince her otherwise no matter how hard I tried.
I always think of her when I watch the BBC sitcom character Mrs. Bucket, as my grandmother was all about "Keeping Up Appearances". I never remember her leaving the house unless she looked her best. If guests were coming over then everything had to be in it's place and she would only be using the good china. I was expected to perform well while the guests were there.
I would spend at least a week or two each Summer with her as a child. She was sure to have a complete schedule of where we would go and what we would do. Many times this included going to her friend's homes for dinner. She would fully expect me to show off some talent whether it was to play the piano, read a story I wrote, share about some accomplishment, a recent drawing, etc. She was almost single handedly responsible for making me a salesman and a showman.
I loved her home on Magnolia Drive, just a mile south of the Augusta National. She did have a Magnolia tree in the front yard that my brother and I use to climb. In the back yard were tall pines that echoed with deafening sound of cicadas in the Summer months. It was among rolling hills, and at night, it sounded like the nearby train was going to come right through your bedroom.
She was a tough lady, and at times very stubborn. The relationship between her and my parents was sometimes tense, and I am still not sure exactly why, but forgiveness ran well on both sides. I always played the submissive role with her. This was intentional because generally I could get things to go the way I wanted and she would think it was her idea.
My grandfather died in 1980, and at 10 years old it was one of the first deaths I had to work through. She remained single until 2000 when she married a good man named George Toole. They were married for five years until he passed away. She said she enjoyed her time with George. I never heard her say she enjoyed her time with my grandfather. This was always interesting to me, as I remember my grandfather being a pretty gruff man.
She was a worker. She worked for the Richmond County Board of Education for 33 years until she retired. She spent the years after that carrying for her mother who had Alzheimer's disease until her death. Then she cared for her sister who passed away about a year ago.
She wasn't perfect, then none of us are. Her faith was in the finished work of the cross. She demonstrated this in her lifestyle, her faithfulness with her finances and in community.
She and my grandfather trusted their lives in the hands of Christ and saw the world through his view, as do my parents, as do my wife and I, and as do both of my children.
She left a legacy of faith. There is no other lasting legacy one could leave greater than this. One day, after I have passed, and my children have passed, there will be no one who'll remember her, but the legacy of faith I am confident will.
Proverbs 13:22 reads: A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children, but a sinner's wealth is stored up for the righteous.
My grandparents have left us a great inheritance, and it has been passed on.
Proverbs 14:22 reads: A true witness delivers souls, but a deceitful witness speaks lies. In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence and His children will have a place of refuge
The only book she read over the last month was her Bible. My mom brought it up for her to keep nearby in the rehab center. It was the book that defined her life. It told her who she was, It contained the story of her life. It told her who God was. It told her what God wanted for her. It told her what God wanted to do with her, and through her, and it told her about her future. It told her about her coming death, and it told her about her eternity. The Bible is as much about the story of us, as it is the story of God, as the two are twined together. She knew this, and rested in it.
Next week is the last trip I can foresee to Augusta, Georgia in my life. Maybe I'll return, but I ca't imagine why. I plan to visit the places of my past and her past. I plan to thank God for the memories and lessons. I plan to share some stories with my kids, even if now they find it uninteresting. And then, I plan to tip my hat to my grandmother, acknowledge her's and my great God, and wait to see her again.
I know I'll see her again very soon, but when I do arrive in the presence of God, she will have to wait - I will be looking for Christ so I can fall physically at his feet, as I am sure she did today.