I was 12 when Grandpa had a seizure. He was taken to the hospital for all the usual tests. It wasn’t much later when that we learned he had a brain tumor. I remember sitting in the waiting room with the rest of my larger-than-should-be-legal family for our turns to go see Grandpa. I can’t remember if it was before or after the surgery. My 12 year-old brain couldn’t understand what it was seeing.
Aunts and uncles and parents stood about chatting with each other, their faces a jumble of terror and laughter; there is always something to laugh about in my family, regardless of the situation. What I couldn’t comprehend was why they were not screaming in the face of this horrible beast, this fabled closet-dwelling monster that was attacking our family. It was coming for Grandpa and no amount of night lights could chase it back into the recesses of the darkness it crept from.
Grandpa’s tumor made its home on the motor strip in his brain. Surgery couldn’t remove all of it and left half of his body paralyzed. When we were told we only had a couple of months left with him, we all hunkered down for the last days. Mama and her sisters took turns with Grandma staying in the hospital room with him while we grandchildren flitted in and out. Mama’s brothers and Papa spent copious amounts of time with him working on his plans for a battery-powered bicycle. Just after the New Year, Grandpa was sent home—not because he was better, but because there was nothing more to be done for him.
On February 15, 1988 Grandpa opened his eyes for the first time in days. He gazed into Grandma’s eyes, told her he loved her, smiled, and left us.
I was 33 when Linda bent over to put her boots on and felt a sharp pain shoot up her back. She grew worse instead of better. Four months later we were told Linda had Multiple Myeloma. And just like that, I was a 12 year-old girl sitting in the waiting room, hearing the most devastating thing one can hear. I was once again staring a nightmare in the face, knowing that my mother-in-law’s days were limited.
But I saw an expression on her face that I remembered seeing on Grandpa’s 20 years earlier. No fear. She wasn’t afraid for herself or for us. When she was admitted to the hospital the first time, laughter filled the room. We soon discovered that she had a fan club among the nurses and staff. Of course she did.
When Linda was admitted to the hospital for the third time, I remember saying to her, “Round three, here we go.” She smiled at me and responded, “Last round, Daughter.” Shortly after that she came home. Like Grandpa, it wasn’t because she was better, but because there was no point in keeping her. Family came out to visit, to say their goodbyes.
Linda’s breathing was becoming more labored and painful. On August 19, 2009, while I raced down the freeway to get my husband to bring him back to his mom, and my sister-in-law and her husband sat on the back patio taking a short break from the strain, and my father-in-law held her hand, Linda left us.
Grandpa and Linda showed no fear in the face of death. They knew where they were going. They didn’t scream and yell, or rail at God for ripping them from their families. They didn’t just give up, though. This was the most important mission they’d been given. Grandpa did all he could to make sure that we knew, and would know for the rest of our lives, that he loved us. Linda did the same.
They both showed the Grace they had been given to all who came near, and took every opportunity to share it with their captive audience. One of the most horrible things we can imagine came for Grandpa and Linda, and they matched its snarl with a smile, and they held our hands, and they showed us it would be all right.
They showed us what it looks like to be Grace in fire.
Kelly Heuer resides in Idaho and asserts that she is foremost a wife to her best friend and hero. Five children (plus a few extras) call her Mami, and she considers being a wife and mother to be her most important job and ministry. She is her church’s Music/AV Coordinator and serves as a song leader among other roles as needed. A missionary kid, Kelly lived in the Dominican Republic for 14 years learning to read and translate legal documents in both Spanish and English. She says one of the most important revelations of her time there was learning the value of writing in alleviating the pain of both internal and external struggles. She says while others might describe her as a survivor, she calls herself a fighter, a thriver, a winner. Kelly’s heart is to help women worldwide to go beyond survival and be freed to never again fear enslavement.
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