Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Mom

Marjorie Ann Grinstead - our Matriarch—a mother and grandmother to all—has gone to her reward… and to be with her dear husband, Bobby, who preceded her ten years ago (Margie was also preceded in death by three sons: Howard, John, and Greg; and two grandsons: Gary Jr and Greg II).

 If you knew her, then you will understand the magnitude of our loss.  If you didn’t know her, ask someone who did and they will tell you something like “She was the most loving human being I ever met” or “She made me feel so welcome.”  That was our Margie Ann.  She was about Love and Family, Family, Family.  

She was born on March 14th, 1931.  The baby of a large Catholic family (just like me).

Her mom (my Nanny) fed hobos during the Great Depression.  Her dad worked in the steel mill and was her hero.  Her brother, Jim, joined the Marine Corps on December 8th, 1941 and fought in the Pacific campaign (including on Iwo Jima).  Her other brother, Jack, also tried to join, but was turned down due to heart problems.  He ended up dying young in 1962... which crushed my Mom.  Her sisters were larger than life characters with many stories of their own.

I could go on and on and on with such things... but I'll hold off for now and fast forward...

My dad saw her in high school and vowed to win her... he was NOT worthy.  Her family told him to find the Catholic Truth or leave her alone.  He found it (or it found him).



What a beautiful and amazing woman!

So... they did it.  16 August, 1949.

And then, life just got... very interesting.  Their love story is like no other-- a book for another time.   Kids (boys) just kept blessing and one tragedy after another.  Life... 

My Dad, the mighty Robert D. Grinstead (Bob), passed away in September of 2007.  Since then, Maggie has lived only for her family... and only because it was God's Will that she go on.  A more faithful person than her you are not likely to ever encounter.  That faith served her well and she trusted in God's Grace and Mercy to carry her on.  It did.  

For certain, this was one tough lady!

Throughout her final ordeal (during which she suffered much and well), the two things she had on her lips and in her heart were Love and gratitude.  Pure and simple... just like her.  

Amidst the storm of her final days, there was no shortage of strife and raw emotions within the family.  Some (like me) were wanting to pursue near "heroic" efforts to keep her alive.  Part of that motivation was selfishness... but I didn't really care.  In any case, her condition was made worse by her frailty; brought on by recent falls and fractures of ribs.  She handled it all in the most elegant and perfect way possible.  Like King Solomon splitting the baby, she gave me the gift of staying one more day at the hospital to try more treatments.  She knew, though, that it was time.  

She asked to go home to be with her family.  That is where she died.  In her room, surrounded (really surrounded) by family.  It was perfect.  And awful.  Perfectly awful and awfully perfect.  Most of the family had a chance to visit with her in the final days.  She was ready and she was at peace.  Even if I wasn't and may never be.  But it wasn't about me.


We were able to have her funeral Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral.  It's a stunningly beautiful church.  As a young girl, she went there; and as a young lady, she was married there.  Bob's funeral Mass was held there. 

The sky mirrored our pain; showing its respect with an overcast bed of heavy gray clouds.

The six surviving brothers came together-- and held together-- for her.

A close representation of the eulogy I stammered out at her funeral Mass:

I'm selfish... and my heart is heavy, just as I'm sure yours are.  The night before the funeral, I was trying to put some coherent thought into what to say for my Mom.  I kept running into a grief wall that was 50 feet tall.  C.S. Lewis said “Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead!”  My brain is tired and frequently misfiring… so hard to find the words I wanted for my Mom. 

Margie Ann had a love/hate thing with me being a cop in a big, stupid city.  EVERY NIGHT before work when I spoke with her, she said “God is with you… He's on your shoulder.”  If she forgot it (which almost never happened), she would call back in a panic.

Here's a bible verse to keep in mind- I'll come back to it in a minute.  ROMANS 8:28  "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose."

So, I looked to God on my shoulder, and I stood on the shoulders of some wise people to help me for a few minutes.  

Is she really gone?     “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” (C.S. Lewis)

Without my family… this week… my brothers….   This week, I was reminded how important the little things are.  I prayed at first for big things—full recovery, sunshine and lollipops…   My mom’s pain… and nausea—that awful nausea—those were the enemy.  My prayers changed to the simple: “Please, God, no more of that for her.  Please.”  Thanks to hospice, and Steve, and Ashley, and my son, Arthur, those prayers were answered.

So, I cracked the code on the amazing Margie Ann Grinstead.  It wasn’t really that hard.  A moment on Love

~~Saint John of the Cross said: “At the end of your life, you will be judged by your love.”~~
-            If he’s right, and it feels pretty sure that he is, then Margie Ann’s judgment likely went very, very well.

~~Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: "It's not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving that counts." ~~
-           Grandma gave and gave and gave… and every single thing, big or small, that she gave, she gave with maximum love.

~~Mother Teresa also said:  “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”~~
-             Give more love, and more is created inside you.  Give Love and it comes back to you-- often in ways you could never have predicted.  Love heals and strengthens and enhances.  Love brings a power above all powers to the least powerful among us.  In so doing, it makes itself even stronger.

~~Saint Augustine said: "Love is the beauty of the soul."~~ 
-          This woman’s beauty shines on to this moment, and will continue inside all of us… because we remember how she loved us.

~~Mother Angelica said:  "You can't go to heaven hating somebody.  Forgive now.  Be compassionate now.  Be patient now.  Be grateful now.  Love Jesus and Mary now.  Accept God's will now." ~~ 
-          Guess who’s not going to have trouble with this…?

       She is still with us.  No question.  Jesus said, He is not God of the dead but of the living.”  -  Mark 12:27   The Catholic teaching is that Saints are those Christians we believe to be in Heaven.  They are still very much alive and a part of the Body of Christ... so we ask them to pray for us, just as we ask our living brethren to pray for us.  When my Mom died, I dropped to my knees and asked her to pray for me and our whole family.  I know I had no need to do that... of course that's what she's doing!

 ·         QUESTION FOR THOSE WHO KNEW HER  (I asked this at her Rosary service and at the funeral):  When you were with her-- sitting, speaking, visiting, whatever-- did you not feel very important to her?  As if she was acutely interested in what you were saying... looking you in the eye and... caring?  Yeah... me, too.  And for those of us in the family (9 sons, 25 grandchildren, 44 great-grandchildren, 2 great-great grandchildren), weren't you her favorite?  Go ahead, raise your hand if you were her favorite.  Yeah... me, too.

      That's what her Love did... it was big enough for every one of us to be her favorite... and for every person she met to be VERY important to her.  Her Love was Christ's Love: agape, charity.  Pure Love.

·         A few more C.S. Lewis quotes, just because they are so perfect...

o   “To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.”  Gram had her heart broken so, so many times… but she kept on loving.

o   “For the greater the love the greater the grief...”  Yes, for sure.

o   “You can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears.”  It's going to be a long time before I can see anything "properly" again (if ever).

o   "They say that cowards die many times: that happens to loved ones, too."  Each time I think of it (which is continually), I feel the loss again.  

o   “Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? How often—will it be for always?—how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’?”

Several of us noticed, over the course of the last week and a half, or so, of this terrible event, some strange… coincidences.  All over the map, involving trip schedules, cars, freak snow storms (guess who loved the snow?), birthdays and anniversaries... and on and on.  Things just... fell into place on a grand scale.  Remember that bible verse from Romans?

·        We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.

It was THAT kind of week.

The lesson my Mom taught me my whole life is suddenly clear and concise to me:  It is never too early to Love.  It is never too late to Love.  So, just Love.

A few closing quotes that apply.

~~"In a world gone astray from God there is no peace, but it also lacks charity, which is true and perfect love... Nothing is more beautiful than love.  Indeed, faith and hope will end when we die, whereas love, that is, charity, will last for eternity." --Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati ~~


Here it is in audio form.   I recorded it the night before, in case I was unable to speak at the service.

HERE is the entire funeral Mass, if you are interested.  It really was a beautiful service... and everything was just as she would have wanted.  I'm confidant of that.

And HERE is the graveside commitment.  

The three bible verses we chose for her service (click to read):

Wisdom 3: 1-9

2 Timothy 4: 6-8

John 12: 23-28

A final word before I close this post.  I am grateful beyond measure for my Mother and all that she gave me (I could write a book... and just might).  I'm happy that she is in Heaven-- for sure.  Even so, I miss my Mom more than I ever thought a person could miss another person.

I'm sad and this cross is very, very heavy.  It's so damn hard... I talked to her every single day of my life.  She was my friend.  My Mom.  You only get one of those... and mine was a superstar collector's edition.  Her life was big... and her absence is just as big.  There is a smoking crater where she was; and I'm still struggling to get through each hour of each day.  This world will never be the same... it is much, much poorer without that woman.  And I will never be the same person again.  I guess this part is about me.

And that's okay... Jesus (God Himself) "wept"and was "deeply moved" when his dear friend, Lazarus, died; even though He knew Lazarus would soon rise from the grave.  So, I guess I'm in good company.

What a woman.  Just... wow.

I love you, Momma... more and more.  You never said goodbye to anyone-- and so I'm not saying it now.  We will see you again.

Her favorite (non-religious) song... warning to those who miss her: it will hurt you.

And if you made it through that one... here's another to hurt (and heal) your heart.

God bless all.


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