I just returned from attending the viewing & visitation for Evangeline Stamoolis, the dear grandmother of one of my best friends who graduated into heaven this past weekend at the age of 95. If I write and reflect too much here I'm going to start crying again (a battle I fought and lost at the funeral home), but while it's still fresh I wanted to remember just a couple things.
The first is something Josh's mom mentioned--that 4 nurses from the allergy clinic where Grandma went to get her shots all came together to pay their respects because they remembered her kindness and so appreciated her sense of humor--she would tease them on their shot-giving technique. I want to be that kind of woman, not only when I am old and white haired, but even today. The kind of woman that is remembered not because she sought to make a name for herself, but because she sought to bring kindness and life to others. "Preaching the gospel without words," Grandma Stamoolis was the "fragrance of Christ" to many, many people.
The second is that her last word was "alligator," as in "See you later." Again, to cultivate humor all of one's life is a gift and an accomplishment indeed.
And finally, I'm reminded of a quote from Frederick Buechner. In an imaginary conversation with his grandmother, he asks her what death is like.
"When somebody once asked your Uncle Jim if some friend or other had passed away, he answered him in his inimitable fashion by saying, 'Passed away? Good God, he’s dead,' and I know just how he felt. I always thought 'passed away' was a silly way of putting it, like calling the water closet a powder room—or calling it a water closet for that matter—and I am here to tell you that it is also very misleading."
She goes on to say, "It is the world that passes away," and flutters one hand delicately through the air to show the manner of its passing. "When I used to lie there in that shadowy little room Mrs. Royal gave me in her nursing home that looked out onto the garden, where everybody used to congregate for a Coke after picking up the mail and Miss Capps would read the picture postcards over your shoulder, I could feel the world gradually slowing down more and more until one night I realized it was slow enough for me to get off, and that is just what I proceeded to do. It was rather like getting off a streetcar before it has quite come to a stop—a little jolt when my foot first struck the pavement, and then the world clanged its bell and went rattling off down the tracks without me."
For Evangeline Stamoolis, the world has passed away. There is a hole here on earth, but heaven is richer for her arrival.