"I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbors children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden. I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived."
Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Monday, August 30, 2010

Grandma Stratford

I am almost 30 years old, and I have never been to a funeral. Just this past week I found out that my grandma Stratford has terminal cancer and only has a week or two left to live. Since I can not make it back before her passing, and since I have a fountain of emotions flowing inside of me, I wanted to write her a letter. I share this with you for a couple of reasons: 1. So my family and cousins that frequent my blog will remember these times that we've all shared together, and 2. so that you too will know what a special lady she is.

Dear Grandma,

I have been thinking about you a lot this past week. I wish I could be there to visit with you and talk about all of the great memories we’ve shared together. Some of my earliest memories of us are when I went on a road trip to Oregon with you and Grandpa. I remember you trying to entertain me from the front seat of the car with a green sock puppet (was it a frog?), and I remember the two of us riding an elephant at a zoo. Who would have thought that this was the beginning of a number of memories from trips and adventures we’d share!

Grandma, you are THE BEST person to shop with, hands down. I remember when I was little, you would take us birthday shopping, and I specifically remember a time when you took me to the BYU bookstore to pick something out. I narrowed in on some (what I thought at the time) beautiful and rather beady hair clips. After a few minutes of trying to decide whether to get the bold rainbow colored one or the softer pastel one, you asked me which one I felt prettier in. When I finally made my decision, you enthusiastically proclaimed that I did indeed look very pretty in it and that you were proud of me for making my own decision. Now, thinking back on this experience and having children of my own, I admire the way you handled that situation. I know it has influenced the way I approach my children in their moments of facing seemingly difficult decisions.

I also remember that you took me shopping for my very first bra, but we don’t need to go into that now, do we?

If we ever needed a prop for a play, an article of clothing from another country for a school project, or just a unique Halloween costume, your house was the place to go! What fun we had trying them all on together! I also remember borrowing your OWN clothes for special events and fancy dinners. How many grandchildren can say that? You are surely the best dresser around!

Have I ever told you of my secret wish to be on the TV show “The Price Is Right” with you? It’s true. Not only do you have awesome shopping skills, you are more enthusiastic than most people I know! You would win the final showcase for sure (and split the winnings with me, of course). I also remember a time when the whole family went to Lagoon for the day, and the two of us rode that crazy sky coaster ride where we were pulled by a launch cable until we were about 140 feet in the air! At the top, I was sure we were about to plummet to our own immediate death, but YOU were the one brave enough to pull the ripcord! You had that thing pulled without blinking an eye (and before I could wet my pants. For which I am very grateful)! You are blessed with a special love for life, and it radiates to all around you. I love that about you.

I have so many memories of driving up to the cabin with you and grandpa. You would always have a large bag of books on tape from the library. Do you remember the chicken fat song? Classic! I think we listened to that song on repeat from Salt Lake to Island Park without taking a single break. I also remember our traditional stop at Dairy Queen for a Hawaiian blizzard, and the occasional time we would drive with all of the windows down per my request. Another reason I wanted to ride with you to the cabin was your awesome driving skills—we would consistently arrive a couple of hours before everyone else. You are the fastest best driver.

I remember all of the foreign exchange students you took into your home, and all of the gourmet meals you made for our family game nights.

Grandma, you have instilled a love for music in not only me, but most of our extended family. For this gift, I am eternally grateful. You always tried to attend my band/orchestra/choir concerts while I was in school, and when we visited your house, you would take out a rare musical instrument along with an instruction book, and we would try to learn how to play it together. Do you remember our recorder lessons? You had a soprano, alto, and tenor recorder, and we would perform trios. How many hundreds and hundreds of people now know how to play the guitar because of you? You are truly blessed with the gift of music, and it has touched many, many lives. I also remember some of the songs you wrote like, “I love you. Yes I do. And I’m about to hug you. How I’ll hold you all day long, while I sing my Jacob song.” Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing. Thank you for the music. For giving it to me.

Grandma, as I sit here and write, my mind and my heart are overflowing with love and appreciation for all of the wonderful times we’ve shared together. I cannot write them all down, for they are innumerable. I hope you know how loved you are, and how grateful we all feel to have you as part of our lives.

Thank you for raising my mom in the gospel and teaching her about the plan of salvation. She in turn has taught me, and I am teaching my own children. This is the greatest gift you’ve given me. When my children ask me to tell them a story about when I was young, I can tell them of all the wonderful Thanksgivings I had with you, and about my memories of setting up your Christmas village. I can tell them of our trips we took together all over Europe and the Mediterranean, and all about the sleepovers I had at your house. I will also tell them about a beautiful place of peace, rest, and love where there is no pain or sickness, or goodbyes, and where our family members who have already arrived there are waiting to welcome us when we get there. Your life has helped mine to be a wonderful journey, and I look forward to continuing our journey together into eternity. I love you.




Chase Gunnell said...

Thank you, Lindsay. That was very tender and nice. I really needed this today.

Christy Gunnell said...

Linds thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm sorry you're so far away during all this. I wish I could give you a big hug. You as well as the whole Stratford family are in my prayers. I know this is a hard time to be going through. What sweet memories to hold on to though. I love you.

Megs said...

Oh Lindsey, thank you. You've managed to express so many of my own thoughts, feelings, and memories. I wanted to write a letter, but couldn't quite find the words to say. Thank you thank you. :)

Bastian Family said...

Lindsay, our thoughts are with you.

Brie and Jeff said...

Lindsay, I'm glad you did this. I wish I were old enough when Gramie passed away to have recorded what I was thinking, my memories, what I loved and would miss most about her . . . We are praying for you and your family. We love you.

Claudia said...

Beautiful sweetheart, you surely are blessed to have such a wonderful grandma and so many rich and exceptional memories to go with it. Your life is just a small part of her legacy - I am sure she finds great happiness in her successes as a grandmother. Love you Linz - and all the rest you know because I tell you.