Sunday, April 3, 2016
That is how I feel about Lois. To some, Lois is known as Gram, Lo, Mom, Aunt, Sister Passey, friend, and sister... to me, she is Nan.
From the start of my life, she has been there. Literally. Right out of the womb and there was Lois, ready to hold me, to love me, to take care of me. I remember our weekly gatherings at Poppa-Nan's, I remember the Disney channel movie night/sleepovers we had, coupled with lots of laughs and Ben and Jerry ice cream. I remember the family meals and Christmas traditions, the way Lois made sure that everyone got thirty kisses on the cheek (and all over the rest of the face) before they passed through the doorway, the way she would count her blessings before Thanksgiving, setting the three kernels of corn to one side. I remember.
I remember how things changed when Pop died. Drastically. The glue that seemed to hold our family together suddenly burst apart, sending our loving Lois and others into a spiral of cold depression and an aching heart. Our world was turned upside down, and it would be a while, or perhaps, never, that we would see the real Lois emerge again.
Slowly but surely, over the years she regained some of the old spunk and style that once lived within that young heart and spirit. She adopted a dog (who I never liked), and he become a true emotional asset to her as she clung to the memories of the past when faced with the grips of reality. She bought and sold a couple cars (gangster blue, ford Red). Though I was young, I still remember that Nana would walk with confidence, leading us through the shopping malls (which I loved) and giving us great big hugs (sometimes too touchy for my siblings' taste). During one stay in our home, she mentioned to us that she was selling her Bountiful house and moving permanently to St. George. Since St. George was a beautiful refuge to us, we didn't mind. She gave us a business card and a picture of her and Chester (the dog) and told us to stay in touch. Oh, Lo. As if we wouldn't.
Time went on and Lois was fine. Shining her light in everyone's life, she never knew a stranger. Her wit and spunk was slowly returning as she made what had once been a favorite vacation spot her permanent home. Things didn't continue easy forever, however.
My junior year of high school, Nana's heart stopped. Just plain stopped. With a broken head and soon to be broken ribs, my angel cousin miraculously brought her back from the dead and they flew my grandma to the ICU where wonderful doctors and nurses fought for her life. It became a cruel reality that she wouldn't be with us our whole lives. It didn't sit well with me. I thought we were going to lose her, but thanks to the saving hand of God, she survived. That woman sure is tough.
In the years to come, she would survive multiple falls, a scarring surgery that left one leg significantly shorter than the other, hellish holes of what should be nursing homes (from which she fearlessly escaped), and a never ending batch of family problems that continued to affect her failing heart.
before my mission, I decided we needed to have a serious talk.
"Nana?" I began. We were at a restaurant, I was eating a corn dog, she was eating a shake. The opportune moment.
"Yes, dear?" (Conversations with Nan go like this, always a 'sweetie' or 'dear' or 'prize of my heart', no matter who you are. She even says those things to the grocery cashier)
"I need to talk to you about something." Silence. either she was really enjoying her shake or waiting for me to go on, so I took a shot.
"I need you to promise me something."
She blinked at me with her large blue eyes.
"I need you to not... kick the bucket while I'm gone." I couldn't say the word 'die'. I couldn't. I panicked at the thought.
She briefly paused. "I can't promise anything sweetheart. I'm not feeling too good." Still munching.
"Then promise me you'll try. I want you to be there when I come home."
"I will try."
Later on I would casually convince her to say the words, "I promise not to die while you are gone" and "I will be there waiting when you get home". It was all I took not to print out a legal document and sign it. Call me selfish, but I couldn't imagine my world without her. Not yet.
In July 2014 I embarked, or should I say we, because my Nana served her own mission for a year and a half. Both were missions of survival. Mine was spiritual, hers was physical. It was long, hard, and tough. Many long nights for her and hard days for me, and on many occasions after a exhausting day I would fall upon my knees and start to say a routine prayer of gratitude and petitions when I would then receive an overwhelming prompting to pray for my Nan. So I would pray and cry and pray and cry and wrestle with God and beg him not to take her. I received word from her friends that those were the very times that she was struggling the most. While her friends and ward members were gathered around her bed, waiting for her to pass on from this life, I was kneeling at the edge of mine, pleading and praying and begging for one more moment with her. I promised full dedication to Him for the rest of my mission if He would just hear me out. He answers prayers. She was waiting when I came home. We had kept our promises.
Living here hasn't always been easy. But it's taught me so much. I've had to grow up in many ways. I now know what to do if:
1. A dog escapes
2. You lose your credit card
3. You lose the car keys
4. You need a tow truck
5. Your car lights go out in the middle of a canyon
6. how to balance a checkbook and multiple bank accounts
as well as many other things.
But I've also learned where I got my
1. love for trashy tv shows and Sandra Bullock
2. spunky, sometimes too honest for regular taste personality
3. extreme love for ice cream
4. tendency to lose and forget things (as so indicated by the aforementioned list)
5. ability to love another human being more than one's self
So, it's true. My Nana might not be the same Lois she was 21 years ago in that Lakeview Hospital...
Yet she has remained strong. Courageous. Lively. Spunky. She laughs with ease at the tiniest things and let's life become joyous to her in an instant. She cries over clean carpets and random acts of kindness, she smiles at strangers and gives more love to her dog that I thought was humanly possible. All who know her love her. She is a true example of Christ-like love.
Thank you, dear nana, for everything.