“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
-2 Timothy 4:7-
There are many verses in the bible that remind me of my Grandma Cooper, but this specific verse in 2 Timothy epitomizes her; her fight, her grace, her strength, & her love for the Lord.
After a ten year battle with cancer, my brave Grandma Cooper was called home to be with the Lord on Wednesday, March 21st at 5:05pm.
The Kubler-Ross method of mourning & grief states that there are 5 stages of the Grief Cycle (although, in my opinion, did we really need a psychologist to theorize this for us? Seems like common sense to me!)
Not to take anything away from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross because I’m sure she’s a brilliant woman, but I think her list is a bunch of hogwash.
So, I’ve decided to come up with the “Carey Dawn” method of grieving:
1) swearing-this includes everything from “damn” to “eff you”
2) eating-maybe this is my problem, perhaps I’ve been “grieving” for 31 years now!
3) shopping-what starts off as a trip to get a simple pair of red high-heels turns into 6 hours & 3 outfits later (as was the case for me last Thursday!)
4) wine drinking– hard liquor, beer…pretty much anything alcohol-related is acceptable during this stage!
5) God– intended as a life-long stage
I could go on & on about what an incredible woman my Grandma, Georgene Cooper, was. The truth is, anything I write would never do her justice. Anybody that knew her would tell you that they were the most important person in her life because that’s how she made them feel.
I could tell you that she valued loyalty and that it showed up in specific ways. Like the fact that she was (one) of the longest running members of her church, a church that she raised her kids & grandkids in. A church that she herself grew up in, stood by & supported, even when conflict & pastoral changes caused others to seek other places of worship. A loyalty that showed up in her lifelong love for the Cleveland Indians baseball team. Loving them through the good & bad years, repeating every year that, “this is our year”, when statistically the odds were stacked against them. Loyal to the end, she even chose to be buried in her Cleveland Indians spring jacket.
My Grandma valued promises made & promises kept. We live in a day & age where wearing a white wedding dress is more about fashion than the meaning behind it, when divorces happen because “I married the wrong person” or “It was just to hard” are the excuses that are used. This wasn’t the case with my Grandma, she wore white because she earned the right to wear white & her promise, her vow, of marriage was said before God, my Papa, & her family…therefore meant to be taken as a lifelong commitment. She made a promise to put another person’s heart before her own & to stand by him regardless of how rough the times were. She stood by him, when I know at times, she felt like running. I’m a product of that promise, as are the rest of my cousins. All of us resulting because two people fell in love, started a family, & have kept unwavering promises to each other.
Above all else, & undoubtedly the most important, was her belief in God. She believed in his goodness, when she could’ve easily given up on him. She continuously lifted him up & praised his faithfulness through 10years of cancer. Through chemotherapy & radiation. Through the loss of her hair-to many times to count. Through the loss of her energy, her appetite, her memory….even through the loss of her son. She still continued to praise him. Even hours before her death, while lying in a non-responsive, comatose state, she still continued to praise & give glory to God. Unable to communicate, she made a continuous humming noise, not out of pain (she was unable to feel pain at that point), but out of praise…praying, singing, rejoicing…we can only guess, but she was peaceful in her faith, rightly earning her place in heaven.
Over the last year & a half my faith in the Lord, my faith in His Word, has been restored. Sometimes the Lord pulls you back to him in a dramatic, intense way (especially when you come from a line of stubborn woman like I do) such was the case with me. The Lord met me where I was & brought people into my life, both old & new, to get me back on track & where he wants me to be. He was already rooted in my heart, the foundation was already there, but I never watered it to allow for Him to grow in my heart, my life. Knowing my Grandma’s time was limited, it gave us opportunities to talk about God, the Bible, her life, her beliefs, her dreams & desires for herself & family. My heart was open & she was a great teacher.
She taught me that even though dying isn’t glamorous, you can choose to face it with grace & dignity. That life is always worth fighting for.
Yesterday, I was baptized. I made a public confession of my faith by declaring that I have chosen to follow the Lord. It was exactly one week & one hour past my Grandma’s death that I found myself at the bottom of a pool being re-birthed into a personal relationship, a personal walk, with the Lord. Leaving behind all the mistakes, regrets & broken promises of the past behind. It was starting over with a clean slate… a new beginning. My mom & Papa Cooper were there to witness my baptism, my Papa was even honored with the whole church clapping when he walked through the doors. A tribute to a man who stood by his wife during the hardest parts of cancer.
Two weeks before she passed, I told my Grandma of my decision to be baptized. She said, “The best decision you’ll ever make is to follow the Lord.” How incredibly fitting that before my baptism I was checking the voicemail messages on my cell phone, only to hear the bubbly, joyful, sweet voice of my Grandma ring through the line. It was a saved message that said, “Happy Birthday sweetheart. Hope you have a great day, & a great year. I love you, bye bye”
She wasn’t physically with me during my baptism and that’s okay. She is celebrating with the Lord himself, that another one of his children & her grandchild, has made the commitment to spend eternity in paradise. I know that they were both with me because I felt it. I can’t describe the way it felt, just that something inside feels…different.
I feel peace inside me, when there hasn’t been for a long time. I feel calm, relaxed…constant. My heart feels light.
I feel closer to my Grandma now than I ever have. I closer because I know I’ve given my heart to the same God that she loved so passionately & faithfully. A God that fulfilled his promise to her. A God that called her home for a very special purpose that will one day reveal itself. The last words I ever said to my Grandma while she was alive was, “I’ll see you soon.” Now I truly know that I can hold up my end of that promise & we’ll be reunited again.
A reunion that I know I’ll patiently wait for because I know she’s the one planning my own, “Welcome Home” party.
I just hope that she has plenty of red wine handy!
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
–Psalm 116: 15-
All us Grandkids wore Cleveland Indians shirts to her funeral showing…a perfect way to honor our Grandma!