Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Tribute to MaMaw Thomas: March 22, 1914 - October 23, 2009

The words I spoke at my grandmother's funeral on Monday, October 26...

My Words for MaMaw Thomas… Inspired Sunday, October 25

I could talk to you all day long about the wonderful memories I have of my MaMaw Thomas. She moved in with us from the time I was born to help take care of me and free up some of my parents’ very-much-needed energy to keep up with my then 2 ½ year old brother, Joseph Jack. So, I have spent my entire 30 years of life around my MaMaw. I have always referred to her as one my very best friends. She introduced me to hot chocolate using those little packets of Carnation chocolate mix, cottage cheese, chew gum, keeping Kleenexes under my pillow, Totino’s pizza, jokes about dogs that my cousins and I would try to get her to repeat over and over, and last but not least, my favorite drink of all-time, Root Beer! More importantly, she taught me about serving others. Ever since I can even remember, she took me up and down the elevators of the Trevecca Towers delivering meals to residents who were unable to get down to the cafeteria to eat. What I cherish most about those times was being invited into these people’s apartments to provide them company. As an insanely shy 7 year old, I then and there developed a love for the elderly that has stayed with me throughout my life. I was probably the only elementary-aged child who watched the 6 o’clock news with 80 year olds in my spare time! What else have not only I, but many other members of our family inherited from Nola Thomas? Blue eyes, silliness that only we understand, and stubbornness that unfortunately those around us are forced to put up with!

I am so blessed to have been able to be by my MaMaw’s side when she took her last breath on Friday, October 23rd. The moment I got the call the night before, I quickly packed and drove Mason and me to Nashville to pick up my dad and head on to Sparta, TN where MaMaw had spent the last few years in the last of several nursing homes. We sat by her side for 13 ½ hours until she passed away. Even though according to medicine, MaMaw’s body was failing quickly, we all knew there was still a chance she would pull through like she had every time before. She is the strongest woman I had ever known and has fought this battle of Alzheimer’s with all her might since January 1998. For the petite, 5 foot tall little lady she was, she endured many trials during her 95 years of life.

The beautiful words of Paul from First Corinthians 15: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I will never forget those last moments of MaMaw’s life as my brother Jody, our cousin Cathy, and I snuggled up beside her in her bed. Our moms, mentally & physically exhausted, were getting a little bit of rest wherever they could find a spot in the room while my 2nd cousin Makena was thoroughly entertaining my very active 17 month old, Mason Thomas. So, it was us 3 grandkids left to keep watch. We watched her breaths get slower and slower. She had run 104 temperature for about a month and her lungs, heart, and kidneys were failing. She had also developed pneumonia. The nurse came in at 7 am that morning to tell us that MaMaw’s heart had completely filled up with fluid, making it more difficult, and soon impossible, to breathe. That was when the reality truly set in for me that we were losing her. I was so dreading the gurgly harsh breathing sound that I knew would mean the end, along with severe pain & discomfort. She was breathing so quickly and loudly from the minute I arrived that Thurs. night and I knew what was to come next. All we ever wanted was for MaMaw to not be in pain. God answered our prayers. She did start the rough breathing that I just described, and we immediately called the nurse. They said they would start giving her morphine every hour to help keep her comfortable. They started those rounds of morphine immediately. That was when we were piled in the bed with her. Within minutes the horrible breathing turned into slow, peaceful breaths. I looked at Jody and Cathy and said, “I think this is it. Should we wake our moms”? We waited a few minutes so that we could watch her breathing to see if it picked back up. During those minutes something happened. My MaMaw looked more beautiful than I could ever imagine for someone who was dying. She had beautiful rosy cheeks, perfect wrinkle-free skin, her silvery white hair was perfectly in place, and she had the most content look on her face. She definitely did not look like a 95-year-old lady in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. She looked like an angel. She was done fighting and ready to meet her Heavenly Father. I just kept saying over and over “She looks so beautiful!” Cathy started counting the seconds between breaths. I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest as I thought each breath was the last. The last breath came as our moms awoke. There are no words to describe that moment. We were touching her hands and face and could feel the fever immediately leave her body. Peace filled the room. Her body was whole again. Her sight was made perfect. Her memory came back after being stolen from her 11 years ago. She was experiencing Amazing Grace!

I am now forever changed by what happened during those last 10 minutes of my grandmother’s life. I saw death like I had never seen it before. We were crying tears of joy that would have been tears of anger, bitterness, and resentment if we did not know that this world was not our home. MaMaw was on this earth for 95 years and we all knew it was time to finally let her go. It would have been selfish to keep her here any longer.

We can use this time to look at our own lives. Has the sting of death been taken from you? My grandmother was a woman who knew where she was going, not because of what she had done, but because of what He had done. Life was not always easy for her, but through it all she trusted that God would carry her and her family through. Nothing says it better than my favorite Bible verse that was handed down to me from my PaPaw Myers :

Romans 8:18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us.

My MaMaw Thomas has left a legacy. I pray that my faith can be as strong as hers and I pray that for you as well.


Shane, Natalie, & Madelyn said...

ok...I cried! I'm so sorry to hear about your sweet grandmother. We'll be praying for you and your family!

Blessed said...

This is just beautiful, April. I can tell your Grandmother was a Godly woman who was loved by so many. I can feel your love for her and I know she loved you dearly. I loved reading it. Thinking of you right now. Call when you get a chance...

Pauliwog said...

Ape, this was the perfect tribute to your Nola! I know that she smiled down from heaven as she heard you talking about her, the wonderful memories that you shared, and the impact that she had on you and those around you! She has given you a wonderful heritage of faith and for that I am so thankful! She was an amazing woman and there is a lot of her that lives on in you and that will live on in your children as you teach them to love the Lord that she loved so dearly! We love you and your family so much!! We have been and will continue to pray for you! Let us know if there is anything that we can do for you!Love you so much dear friend!!!

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