Currently, I am in NC with my husband's family.
We had thought that yesterday would be a celebration of my birthday with our small little nuclear family on the shores of North Carolina. Instead, it has become a larger gathering of extended family to commemorate a different life.
On January 9, 2009, iivo's dear, sweet, 98-year old grandmother slipped quietly from this earth into eternity. For ten years now we have commemorated her life on her birthday, since my daughter OG was born the same day as her "Helde," and we have celebrated their birthdays together these last ten years. Now we will forever also commemorate her life on my birthday, since the Lord chose to take her home on the same day I was born.
Nearly 99 years ago, He created her inmost being and knit her together in her mother's womb. Her frame was not hidden from Him when she was made in the secret place. When she was woven together, His eyes saw her unformed body. We praise Him that she was fearfully and wonderfully made, and we praise Him that all the days ordained for her were written in His book before one of them came to be (comforting thoughts from Psalm 139).
We also praise Him for her amazing life... and the testimony she gave to His constant protection and mercy toward her. It is hard to let her go, and we miss her sweet, feisty presence immensely. She was a fighter. She was strong-willed and stubborn. And she was one of the dearest people on the planet to me.
Selfishly, one of the things I'll miss most about dear, dear Helde is the fact that she, more than any other person in my life, could make me feel beautiful. Every time I saw her, she told me how very beautiful I am. (I'm not, really.) She told me how remarkably lovely my body is. (It isn't, really!) I can still hear her broken English, "How you have four children?! Really?! I can't believe it. Your body is not that. What you doing keep your body so nice with four children?"
I hear this voice in my head and it makes me smile even as I cry. Somebody famous somewhere once said that her favorite emotion was "laughter through tears." (I don't know if Dolly Parton's character in Steel Magnolias was the first or not, but she's the one I remember.)
Remembering Helde is filled with "laughter through tears." I miss her. The house just isn't the same without her quietly appearing in the doorway; the table just isn't the same without her proudly sitting at one end.
She was in amazingly good health, and not even in that "especially for 98" sort of way. She was more zippy and fast and active and fun than many fifty-somethings I know.
I'm so grateful that my children got to know her as well as they did. Who, in these days of late marriages and birth control, gets to know their great-grandparents well?!
We will miss you, dear Helde!*
*Vana ema, helde, lahke is a line from an Estonian folk song about grandmothers, translated Grandmother (literally 'old mother'), generous, kind. She became known as "Helde" early on, dubbed such by her very young grandchildren who were learning the song. She remained "generous" to her dying day, even as she was a "vana, vana ema" to my children. I hope I live to be an "old, old mother" to some great-grandchildren, and that they love me even half as much as my children loved Helde.
Farewell, dear elderly friend. Your marks are indelibly over our lives. OG's birthday will forever remind us of you. EL's name is what it is because you bore that middle name. Your voice makes me smile every time I listen to the message I have saved on the answering machine at home. I will miss you more than words can say, and I rejoice that I believe we will see each other again one day.
"A message only! Here is Helde. Nobody at home? Okay. Then I send you a message. Bye."