Friday, November 17, 2006
After getting his package, it took several seconds to realize I was standing in the Post Office parking lot crying.
My uncle Charley sent me photographs of my grandmother--a ton of photographs. Photos of she and my grampa, over the years, pictures with the kids, what looks like a high school photo of her signed in white at the bottom ("Midge"), she in her casket last May.
But there's this one picture of her, just one, that makes my eyes well up while I try to bang out this column.
She's looking over her shoulder, hair and lipstick so perfect, with that beautiful, heartwarming smile of hers.
It's the perfect picture of how I remember my gramma, and that's what's so touching.
She had Alzheimers' disease. And I'm sure if you have a loved one with the disease, you know what it can do to appearances.
My Thornbrugh clan gathered in Idaho and paid her a visit about a year before she passed away. I couldn't go, but my big brother Scott sent pictures.
It broke my heart. Gone was her beautiful hair, her heart-shaped face. Gone was the lipstick, the fingernails, the perfectly made up look.
And instead of that spark, her eyes featured a dull, vacant look.
When she died in May, going to the funeral incited fear inside of me like you wouldn't believe.
Why? Because when someone has the disease, and it's drawn out over the course of time, you lose pieces as you go.
Growing up, she and I would write letters to each other. I remember being the same age my son is now, sitting on the front porch, swinging my legs, waiting for her letters to come.
I was convinced that since everything else was gone, I'd lose that memory too.
I believed it right up until the ride to the cemetery.
On the way there, it occurred to me that I still get to keep those precious memories, being young, learning to write better (both legibility and creativity) and I could even hang on to the first scripture I ever memorized just to impress her (she ended every letter with "God bless you"):
It was II Thess. 3:5, which I remember as May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverence.
Charley's package made me cry, but in a good way. I've got that beautiful picture to grace my wall.
And instead of focusing on all that was taken from me, I'll cling to what I can remember.