Another bittersweet goodbye

Wool sweaters, cheese puffs ("cheesies"), pink wafer cookies, jelly beans, and afghan (blankets).

Yep, that's a bit of what comes to mind when I think about my Oma DeJonge.  She made beautiful sweaters and blankets and almost always served her grandkids (and great grandkids) jelly beans, wafer cookies, and stale cheesies.

Oma DeJonge died this past Sunday. On Thursday, I will join my brother Dave and other cousins as pallbearers.  She was 91 years old and ready for her heavenly home.  She was not afraid to admit that she was tired and worn out.

And rightly so.  At first glance, parts of her life seem almost romantic.  As a young woman living in The Netherlands, she met and married a handsome Dutch boy who had to hide on her father's farm along with her brother and a Jewish friend.  The three boys were hoping to escape the German army - work camps for two of them and the death camp for the other.  All three boys survived the war - and Opa married Oma.  The same three boys emigrated to Canada and lived long lives.

A novel could be written with that as a plot line.

But the true story lies in my Oma's memories.  It was a difficult life, moving to a strange cold country, raising babies in a culture that was different from home and a language that was not familiar.  As grandkids, we learned that good experiences came from the challenges.  But I don't think Oma would describe her life as romantic.

She and I wrote letters because I was unable to visit her as often as I wanted.  In fact, I received a letter from her a few days before she died.  I'll be keeping that letter close.

She often asked how I was able to cope with my kids and their needs.  I reminded her that I was not boiling my diapers on the stove to clean them!  We always had a good laugh about that.

My Oma was honest about her life and how she felt, kind thoughts or not-so-kind thoughts.  A difficult life makes the emotional side of living complicated, and she knew that.

In recent weeks, I've had a number of conversations and experiences related to suffering and death.  I have been reminded how quickly we jump to platitudes and cliches - either in trying to gloss over our troubles or in trying to bring comfort.

Those tidy phrases may have their place, but when we are sitting in the shadow of suffering, those words fall short.

I think my one of my favourite verses in the Bible is from Job when his friends come to visit:

Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.  
No one said a word to him [Job] because they saw how great his suffering was.

They sat on the ground with him. No one said a word.

Sometimes the silent company of a good friend is far more comforting than a handy phrase or expression of concern. Gives a person time to think - and find honest words.

Oma was not afraid to be honest with her troubles, yet she knew her difficulties wouldn't consume her. She showed a quiet resiliency and strong faith that carried her over many challenges, giving her glimpses of joy in her knitting, grandkids, books, and adventures in that small blue (VW?) van she and Opa would take over the country.

I want to learn how to balance the honesty of living with the promise that God will provide the strength to live and the grace to accept what doesn't always measure up to my expectations.

* * *

Before I put on a sweater, throw an afghan over my legs, and snack on stale cheesies, jelly beans and wafer cookies, here are a few photos from the week:

Rachel actually slept through her casting procedure last week.  These will be on for two weeks, hopefully helping to strengthen her legs and gain more flexibility in her feet and ankles.  We started two weeks ago, and already she is doing some supported active weight-bearing on her feet!

Janneke took time to explore the back hallway of Beacon while I watched Em and Soph sing at chapel.

The garage has shown purpose for more than just storage.  It's handy for kids who are learning to play band instruments.  Enough said.

And we had a great visit with Christina who was back from Calvin College for American Thanksgiving.  Poor Christina had to listen to Ralph and I pull out our college memories, not wanting to admit it has been quite some time since we were on campus...

Peace for your week.