My grandparents call each other “Buncher.” I have no idea why, but they do. Sometimes they shorten it to “Bunch.” Their term of endearment for one another is just a tiny snapshot into their rich life together. Seven children, nineteen grandchildren, and four point five great-grandchildren who live within an hour’s drive (save a few of us who have defected–well really just me), their love for their family and for God is a model for me. It has shaped my life more than I know. When I’m around my family, all 45+ of us, I feel like I’m a part of something bigger than me. They make me not want to live so far away.
Over two weeks ago I got news that my grandmother had her second stroke. She was with my grandfather, my great aunt (her sister, Marg), and my mom boarding a cruise ship on the west coast of Italy. Until last night, she was in a hospital in this port town recovering. Mom said it wasn’t a great town. “I didn’t see any stores I wanted to go into,” she said. I wasn’t able to talk to my mom much, but the family has been emailing a ton. The email list consists of the seven siblings and their spouses, Aunt Marg’s eight children, plus many of the nine children of my grandmother’s brother, Bob. To say there’s a lot of communication is an understatement. But living hundreds of miles away, I’m thankful for the updates.
Interestingly, Mom told me that both strokes have been in times of great joy for Grandma.
The first: Grandma was surrounded by her family listening to her nephew play piano music her mother had played in her childhood.
The second: the moment she boarded the cruise ship bound for the Holy Land. She leaned over the rail of the boat and cried out in wonder at the sight.
According to my mom, some days are better than others in terms of her lucidity. The first thing she said after the stroke was,
“I love my husband, I love my God, and I love my family.”
I love that no matter what her physical or mental condition, she is sure of what she loves. The right side of her body is still immobile, and we are hoping for some great therapy in the weeks and months to come. It’s hard to hear news that she isn’t always recognizing her family, and that she doesn’t always know where she is. My grandparents are full of life and love; they hate to miss a thing! I know it’s killing them to be so immobile right now.
Today she is back in Annapolis after a flight across the Atlantic in a special plane where she could lie down throughout the trip. We are so thankful for the doctors, nurses, lawyers, family members and friends who worked hard to get her home safely. It was quite a feat after release papers were literally ripped up in my mom’s face. I can’t wait to be home for Thanksgiving to see her. Today, more than ever, I praise God for her life.