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Today would have been my Grandma Neal’s 90th birthday.  Five years ago, on a December day in Columbus, Ohio, grandma was on her way to her second Christmas party gathering of the day, blacked out while driving and drove off the road.  By the time the ambulance got her to the hospital, she had already gone to be with Jesus.

My mom and her brothers are going to celebrate her today, scattering her ashes (what remains of her earthly “shell”) at the foot of “her mountain” in Huachuca City, Arizona. Grandma used to live out there in the Sierra Vista valley surrounded by desert hills and it’s the perfect resting place.  She would have loved knowing they are doing that today, and that they’re doing it together.

I miss her.  As I’ve thought about her this week, a fresh sadness at her absence in our lives has washed over me.  There was so much good about my grandmother, who wasn’t perfect of course, but was a vibrant, genuine, extremely loving woman of God.

I miss her impassioned voice when she prayed to Jesus, whom she loved more than anything or anyone.  I miss hearing her cheerful voice and laughter and seeing her make strangers into friends at the grocery, the bank, restaurants and even at the door of her apartment, inviting the pizza delivery boy to church.

I remember so many things, so many good memories are swirling around in my heart today.  One that stands out is how, following my mastectomy, my mom and grandma came to take care of me and help John with the house and the girls.  After mom left, grandma stayed longer and watched over me, brought me my meals, told me to take naps, sat with me and talked, prayed with me, and folded laundry while I sat on the couch.  It was a precious time and it was the way she loved people the best.

Grandma was a hands on person, she showed her love by serving.  For a time she worked in the V.A. hospital treating old soldiers with respect, cheering them up with her ever-present smile, washing their old tired bodies and keeping them comfortable.  For years she watched over and took tirelessly care of my grandfather when he was battling Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.  I remember one time she went over to my other grandmother’s house, Grandma Shultz was wheelchair bound at the time, and gave her a decent bath.  Humility and love was wrapped up in her tall, fair-skinned, Norwegian body.

She made friends with her neighbors, no matter what nationality.  At her last apartment complex she had befriended several Indian families and had them over for dinner, took them jello salads, and enjoyed dinner in their homes.

She was acting out her love for Jesus by loving people.  She did it well.  I want to be more like her.  I love her so much, still, and miss her so much today my heart aches.

When her ashes are scattered it will be meaningful and special, but Grandma isn’t in those ashes.  She’s with God in heaven.  If Grandma had her way she’d be surrounded by cute little white doggies, lots of flowers and maybe even a concrete donkey or set of frogs on a love seat in her heavenly garden.  I can imagine her sitting at the foot of a mountain with Jesus, smiling and talking with Him, praying still for her children and their children to know Him.

I remember you, Grandma Neal, and I love you!  Someday I’ll sit with you there.

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