Great Grandma Smit passed away a few months ago.
It was hard not to feel pangs of guilt, the aftermath after she took her last breath. Grandma was always quiet. She said very little and usually just sat watching you play and chatter away with your cousins.
As I heard the stories and the memories about Grandma, I felt not just, "I miss Grandma," but "I missed Grandma." I missed her while she was here, I missed out on getting to know her.
Even though I didn't see Grandma that much growing up, over the course of my life there were many parties that I could have sat next to her, asked her about her childhood, what it was like having eight children, what she missed most about Grandpa, why she loved Jesus, and so on.
But I didn't. I was young enough to care more about presents, care more about me. And the older I got, I didn't always know where to start. So being with Grandma meant giving her a hug and telling her it was good to see her, but that was all.
Despite the regret, there are memories. Touches of Grandma that thread through my childhood and my sibling's childhood too. The receiving blankets that she crocheted borders to, wrapped around all of my brothers and sisters as infants. The washcloths she made that wiped off sticky hands and counter tops The handmade caramels that were the most important part of the Smit Family Christmas to my brother Isaac and I. We would stuff our dress clothes pockets with them and savor them for days.
And one day, when I was small, she knelt down on the floor with me and helped me make a puzzle that was too difficult for me to do on my own. Grandma was a master when it came to puzzles. I never would have finished that Little Mermaid puzzle without her help.
As I reflected over the passing of Grandma, I wondered if regret was unavoidable. Whether we don't spend enough time with our loved ones, don't listen enough, don't say I love you enough, or the last thing we said isn't what we wanted it to be... our lives are tinged with regret. We just aren't as perfect as we want to be, and that unavoidably affects our relationships, especially with those who are closest to us.
A fallen world means fallen relationships, and we feel the sting most bitterly at the passing of loved ones. What hope is there, when hurt is unavoidable?
As we sat in Grandma's funeral service, I was struck with the depth of her spirit and her love as I heard stories from the pastor and family members. When Grandma died she left a legacy of love for Jesus and her family, and that legacy lives on today. I experience it in my family and my extended family... and it is getting passed onto to the next generation already, to our cousins' children and my brother's newborn son Ezra.
This legacy is bigger than the regret in my own heart. Through the very act of fellowship with family, through loving them and being present with them, we pass on their legacy of love to the ones they loved so dearly. And one day, we too shall pass away and be reunited with Christ, our loved ones, and there will be no more tears. The regret is soothed by being with family and making right what was wrong in the past through neglect or selfishness.
Not all families though have a legacy of Christ, or some parts of your family may be more broken than others. The amazing thing is that the love, the legacy can start with you. Anyone of us can choose to be the ones to break cycles of dysfunction and familial pain and be that Grandma or Grandpa.... the one that generations from now your children's children will remember and say, we are where we are because Great Grandma loved Jesus.
Abraham was a man like that. He responded to the call of God and left a history of paganism to become a spiritual father to thousands of generations who love God.
Let the love of Christ take root in your own heart and share it with those you love. You can change your family's story by letting the legacy begin with you.
I am learning through all of this, to work on being present with those I love. To focus, cut down distractions and cherish the moments because young or old, none of us are guaranteed to live tomorrow, next week, or next year. I want to share the love of Christ everyday through word and deed.
I am thankful for Grandma. I will remember her love for Jesus and her family. And I look forward to giving her a hug again one day in heaven.