On Saturday, March 24th, my grandmother Evelyn passed from this life to the next. As my Mom said, "She graduated to glory, where she received her crown of honor." Known dearly to us kids as Nana, (Not Nanna, but Na-na) she will be sorely missed this side of Heaven. I know she is there with Jesus and with Bumpa (Grandpa Kenneth) and all of her other loved ones who were already there waiting for her.
What is better than the specifics of a life to encourage one another and what, I ask you, is more interesting than a life that was lived for God and for his son, Jesus? Nothing that I can think of, not right now!
Evelyn Holm Johnson was a tender, kind soul. She was a prayer warrior, and she taught me not to worry, but to present your requests to God in prayer, because he cares for you. Her loving-kindness was a part of her live-out-loud evangelism, which you can read more about in her obituary, which was written by my dear Mom!
Easter is the perfect time to remember my Grandma. For me, these are powerful memories.
My memories of Grandma include a visit to her mobile home park with Grandpa in Clearwater beach (where they moved from St. Paul Minnesota, after Bumpa's retirement), florida almost every single year for Easter week. I have the sweetest, fondest memories of those trips. We would swim in their pool, walk to the gazebo, sing at their Easter sunrise service my Dad always playing the guitar. We would hunt for Easter eggs and Lizards and real oranges growing on trees in their backyard. We would ride bikes around their park looking at the lovely street names, which were the names of fine jewels: garnet, crystal, opal, pearl, diamond.
Grandma would tell us in utmost strictness to do the dishes, dry them, and put them away after every meal. She would always serve fresh shrimp cocktail on our first night of the visit. Delicious, fresh shrimp in Florida, what is better?? Her love of hymns and service to her community was evident by the joy I felt while in their home!
She was a kind soul but also a quiet soul. While Bumpa told jokes and read us the funny paper, she would often be playing her organ or reading a good book, which she Loved to do. I am sure I got some of my love for reading and playing the piano from her! She would turn on Lawrence Welk show and patiently and always with kindness, put curlers in our hair, in preparation for Easter, just as she had done with my Mom and her three sisters growing up!
At the 50th wedding anniversary of Grandma and Grandpa, (in middle school for me, I believe) I memorized this short poem and recited it for them at their wedding anniversary party in Clearwater beach, FL:
"What made you partners in the long ago,
When you first met,
Well I think I know!
The best in you, and the best in you (pointing to each person)
Hailed each other,
Because He knew
That always and always,
since life began,
Your being partners
Was part of God's plan."
Their kids got up and sang the song, "Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, never let it fade away." What a memory!
Only a few weeks before she passed, I could not sleep and got up in the middle of the night. I heard God say, "Go see her." I drove to Nashville and back a few Saturdays before her death and am so glad I did. I was so worried because I knew she had been on hospice for nearly 2 years, so I wasn't sure if she would be ok or just wasting away in agony. I was so surprised when I got there. She was smiling, giving me advice even in her last weeks. Her witness was, "Life is fragile, handle with prayer." She pointed to the gold cross on the wall and told me the youth pastor at her church in Franklin Pastor Wayne had given it to her, and she had it ever since.
This experience reminded me of the movie I saw recently: A Wrinkle in Time. As the children look for their father, they see images of him trapped in a dark web, struggling to get out. When Meg Murry finally gets to him, he is standing in a glowing orange and red square, and he's not just OK, he is downright happy. I was shocked that he wasn't trapped in a dark web, suffering and wasting away, as they originally thought him to be.
It reminded me of my recent visit with Grandma Evelyn. She clearly lived her witness and her legacy:
"Said the robin to the sparrow, I would really like to know
why these anxious human beings rush around and worry so.
Said the sparrow to the robin, I should think that it must be,
that they have no heavenly father, such as cares for you and me."
Evelyn Johnson with her children
I can now continue this legacy of peaceful living, by the power of prayer, by trying with my example always to live for Christ, live for others, and as we may even cry over devotions in the morning, it gives us victory all day long. This is something that ultimately, is her biggest witness:
Teach these things to your children. Grandma had 17 grandchildren, and she taught us this with her witness most of all.
"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframe of your houses and on your gates."
Grandma died on March 24, which just so happens to be the feast day of St. Catherine of Sweden, where my grandmother takes her roots. She is sure to be considered a saint in heaven! "How precious in the sight of God are the death of his saints!"
cross-posting at the ACWB