My Grandma Hannan was the most beautiful person I ever had the pleasure of knowing. Selfless and sociable. Always greeting others with a smile. We would always visit her on the holidays where she would prepare great feasts. She would refuse to sit down until she knew everyone was satisfied. That our plates and cups were full. That there wasn’t anything else in the world that she could put on the table in front of us. On Christmas, she would have several gifts for each of her grandchildren. On Easter, she would hide eggs full of money. On our birthdays we’d receive cards. And on the birthdays of the saints we were named after we’d receive another. Whenever we visited, regardless of whether it was an important day or an unexpected visit to say hello, she would always greet us with joy. She would give us a big hug and a kiss on each of our cheeks, both when we came and when we left. She always seemed to be prepared with some small gifts or treats for us to take home, who knows where they would come from, but she was always prepared. When we left she would stand on her porch waving as we got into our car and drove off, and would continue to wave until we were far out of view. I remember, as a kid, waving past this though. Just in case she was still standing on the porch. My dad and my grandparents would frequently talk on the phone, so she always seemed to know the happenings of our lives even before we would get together. She would sometimes even ask about specific members of our family on our mother’s side by name. How’s Jacob? How’s Mary Kate? She would never forget a name. People said she even knew the names of the workers at the stores, and that she learned sign language so that she could talk to her deaf neighbor. She cared a whole lot about whoever came into her life, with a love no one could ever really deserve. And so abundantly that it seemed to flow from her naturally. She was beautiful.
…But then she developed Alzheimer’s. She slowly lost her mind. She forgot everything from the most mundane tasks, to the names of her own grandchildren…and she slowly died…
One night recently, as we cleaned after a delicious meal, Michelle, David, and I decided that we had a little time for a quick game of Bananagrams. Searching for something to satisfy my perpetual sweet tooth, David mentioned that we had some “ready to bake” sugar cookies in the fridge.
Pillsbury ready to bake, “shape” sugar cookies. Those close to me know the significance of these cookies. Grandma Hannan always had a plate of these for any special occasion. Upon remembering that we did in fact have a box in our freezer, I was instantly reminded of my grandma. Later on in the night as we sat having completed our game, I pulled the cookies out of the oven, I told the others of their significance, and we got into a discussion about our grandparents. I talked briefly about mine, but I didn’t go fully into Grandma Hannan’s story.
The next day as I ate some of the leftover cookies I was filled with a beautiful sense of comfort. I went up to my room and almost cried at a thought, “I’m glad that my grandma died slowly.” Perhaps a strange thought for some, and I had never really thanked God for this before. I felt a strong desire to record my feelings in my journal:
I felt compelled to write about my Grandma Hannan.
It feels unrelated to current events though there is a reason she comes up. Last night David mentioned those sugar cookies. I put them in the oven, and Michelle, David, and I sat and played Bananagrams. After playing a round, we talked about our grandparents.
I learned about Michelle’s trip to Hawaii.
Another trip to Florida, cut short by her grandma going to the hospital.
“Disney World will never be the same.”
I talked about grandma and grandpa Hoernschmeyer. But I didn’t go into Grandma Hannan.
Today after returning from morning prayer, I saw the leftover cookies and ate some. I thought of what I wanted to talk about with Michelle and David. I thought about her funeral, how we brought a plate of shape cookies because of how much they symbolized her remarkable hospitality for us. I thought of how blessed we were that she died slowly. I’m not sure I even thought about it until now, but if such a beautiful person were to have left my life abruptly, I would have been devastated. At her funeral, we weren’t as sad as our guests were. We had more time to prepare. We had walked with her through her experience, and we knew it was her time.
Such a beautiful woman.
She died on her birthday.
You allowed her to finish one more year.*
God thank you for giving us time to prepare. Thank you for her long and beautiful life. Thank you for my Grandma Hannan. God, please bless her now wherever she may be. If purgatory, please help her to lessen her sentence. If heaven, be with her eternally.
Amen, love, Danny.
Grandma Hannan, please pray for us.
Later, as my community and I examined our day over dinner, I shared both this experience and the joy of my grandmother with them, and they accepted my words with warmth and gratitude. God offers us many blessings by the remarkable gifts, opportunities and people he places in our lives. But also through the low points. Even through suffering, we can find unity. Even in tragedy, we can find peace. Strange how such a revelation can come from a plate of cookies. But I’d expect nothing less from our God.
God bless Mary Hannan. May she rest in peace.