Ninety-nine. The fact that my grandma lived 99 years is impressive, but it's not what impressed me the most about her.
As a child, I was impressed that she cooked for a living. Not only did she cook for schools all day, then she went home and made dinner. On Sundays she frequently made a big pot roast dinner with potatoes and carrots. She'd invite us over as that was my dad's favorite. I was also impressed that she was a good cook.
When I became a teen, I was very impressed that she raised her six children in a house with one tiny bathroom, three bedrooms, and the narrowest kitchen I have every seen. I struggled sharing a bathroom with my brother, but at least we had two in the house.
Each Christmas I was impressed that when we came to the Swanson Christmas she had gifts for all of us. Sometimes it was homemade cookies, sometimes bacon avocados from her tree (really, the best avocados ever). When great-grandkids became abundant, so did Cold Stone gift cards. On a good day it was difficult for me to remember how many cousins I had, but she didn't forget us or our kids.
Speaking of avocados, her guacamole impressed all of us. "Is that Grandma's guacamole?" everyone would ask as they passed it. Even served with Fritos (is that a midwest thing?) it was the best. One year when I was grown with kids of my own I convinced her to give me the recipe. I stood beside her in that narrow kitchen of hers watching as she mixed the magic ingredients together. She spoke through the recipe, taking her time though we could hear "Where's Grandma's guacamole?" from the patio converted to a family room. It was very clear that good guacamole couldn't be rushed.
But what impressed me the most was her strength. Her strength to live over twenty years without the love of her life. Her strength to live alone until she was ninety. Her strength to make friends and connect with people in her senior community.
And then early one morning two years ago I watched her hold my father's hand and tell him goodbye only hours before he left this world. She told him how much she loved him and what a great son he was. My heart soared at her strength and broke at her pain.
Seven months ago when she was put on hospice for her breathing, I went to visit her (photo above). We spoke, as we often did after dad died, of loved ones who had gone before. I listened and held her hand, as she told me about those who had gone before. Tears filled my eyes when she mentioned the last two---my dad and then six months later, her oldest son.
"I know it's hard to loose so many people." I squeezed her hand. "But the best part is the big family reunion that will take place in heaven when you finally get there."
The smile that spread across her face warmed my heart.
That family reunion took place October 2, 2021.
"Ninety is a pretty good run," I've told her for years.
Tonight I realized the truth. She had a great run.
My heart breaks at our loss, but soars at her gain. Today I texted my prayer warriors who have lifted her up since March and those who knew this week was a difficult one.
Grandma passed early this morning, I texted. I'm thankful she will get to celebrate Dad's birthday with him on Tuesday,
Isn't it good to know Jesus? one of my fellow Tear Soup chefs replied.
Yes, yes it is.