Friday, April 19, 2013

The Sweet By and By

Sorry I've been away for a while. In light of everything that is happening on the news, I feel distracted and useless today. It's been a tough week for this country. And it's been a tough week for me. My grandfather, my mom's dad, passed away on Sunday night. He was 85 years old and lived a long and rich life. I think somewhere deep down I must have known that his time with us was not long. The timing is just incredible. With our move, renting our old house, kids' ballgames and the hectic pace of life, I had not seen him since Christmas. I had been feeling guilty for months and wanting to see Granny and Papa. I am so glad that we made time for a quick visit on Sunday on our way home from camping trip (more on that later).

The Corn family, circa 1985. I'm the older girl. My mom is wearing pink in the back. Papa, of course is beaming left center.

The change in both him and my grandmother since Christmas was dramatic. He could barely talk but when we walked in he asked how things were going in Atlanta. Granny tried to make small talk but made little sense - the effects of Alzheimer's and a recent stroke. However, both seemed to know that we were theirs and they made us welcome. When we left, I hugged each of them. My youngest gave them each a hug and a kiss. Granny said to Nicholas, "You're a sweet boy!" Papa grabbed my hand and looked me in the eyes. "You come see us again soon," he said. I promised I would. Later that night I got the call that he had passed on. He died peacefully in his sleep. Amazingly, he and my Granny have been able to live at home. The same little house they built more than 60 years ago.

Gathering with family and old family friends is always the best part of the funeral process. (Good food is usually involved too!) It was so nice to be with those that I love and who love me. It was nice to make jokes and remember the essence of who Papa was. He was a farmer and a church-going man. He married his high school sweetheart and loved her faithfully for 66 years. He wanted all his kids to have a college education - something that he never had. He was immensely proud of his family and his heritage. He loved genealogy and figuring out how he was kin to everyone in the county. He was firm with his four children, but doted on his grandkids and great-grandkids. At family gatherings, there was often a baby in Papa's lap. Though certainly not perfect, he was a very good man.

A picture I found from last year.
I was surprised at how much his funeral and burial brought to the surface so much sadness that I still feel about losing my mama. This was her daddy and I so felt her presence among her people. I felt almost as if she were there the whole time but conveniently missing if I were to look around for her. I especially felt her next to me as my cousins, her sister and brother sang the hymn, "In the Sweet By and By." The chorus, "We shall meet on that beautiful shore," is still ringing in my ears. I do know in my heart that we will meet again, but life here on earth is never going to be same. I want her here with me and I always will.

I've heard a lot of talk about heaven this week and it's challenged me to think more about it. I guess I don't think of heaven as a big party where loved ones, religious figures, angels and celebrities from all the ages are hanging out in golden palaces. I think it is so different and so holy that we cannot even begin to understand it. I think of it as the ultimate comfort, the ultimate safely and wholeness. Although I often struggle with my faith, I do believe, deep down, that God is good. I do believe there is life beyond the sorrows of this world. In the midst of darkness, there is hope.

Thanks for reading this "therapy post." I will be back soon with happier stories and recipes. Take care, and my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston and all those who suffer on this day.


  1. Rachel, I love this post. What a beautiful and loving tribute to your grandfather and your family. It is amazing how happenstance brings us together at just the right moments - what a blessing you were able to visit him on Sunday before he passed. I just visited my grandparents two weeks ago; it is so true you can never let too much time pass. Wishing you lots of love, light and healing. (((Big Hugs)))

    1. Thanks so much, Jessica! I am so fortunate to have had all my grandparents in my life well into adulthood. I will always treasure the memories and the time I had with them. Definitely visit them as much as you can!