My Granny, June Penn, passed away last Tuesday, March 30th. She was 92 years old. Our family gathered in Havre de Grace, Maryland this past weekend to celebrate her homecoming to heaven.
The weekend was full of remembrances from friends and family: tales of the many summers spent at our family’s cottage on the Eastern Shore and testimonies of Granny’s gentle spirit, strong faith and unconditional love.
Granny was an incredible seamstress. She made me (and many others) dolls, blankets, clothes, and quilts. I spent the weekend carrying around my Easter basket that she sewed for me when I was a little girl. It has multi-colored bunny rabbits sewn together, connected and a pretty braided handle. My name is stitched across the handle. On the bottom, she sewed my name again and her signature heart. She finished all of her work with a small, embroidered red heart.
Before she had children (my dad, Bill and my aunt, Bonnie) Granny was a beautician. All throughout her life, she was active in her church. I remember going to visit and watching her sing in the choir.
I talked with one friend at the visitation who told me, “Granny was so proud to be an American. She was so proud of her parents who came over from Germany to start a life with freedom here. She loved her country so much.” Perhaps it was appropriate that Granny was born on June 14th—Flag Day.
Of all the wonderful qualities that Granny possessed—loving wife, mother and grandmother, talented beautician and seamstress, excellent singer, patriotic American—the quality that we celebrated the most and were the most thankful for was that she was a dedicated Christian. Her life truly imitated Christ’s. She was humble but proud of her Christianity. She was soft spoken, but bold when she needed to stand up for what was right. She was a faithful believer even when it was not easy.
2 Timothy 4:7-8 was in the memorial bulletin:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
It is only fitting that the death of a loved one should prompt those left behind to re-examine their lives. It can be overwhelming to consider the prospect of death, however, the Christian has such a great hope because of Jesus’ death. I cannot think of a more magnificent weekend for Granny to be in heaven: Easter. It was also comforting to our family to be able to focus so heavily on the resurrection. Perhaps you sang the classic hymn on Easter Sunday, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” There are two lines that I could not stop thinking about all weekend: “Where oh death is now thy sting?” and “Where thy victory, O grave?” I wanted to shout those lines! Granny is alive and perfect and with her Savior right now. She is no longer suffering here on Earth.
There are not many situations that are more sobering than burying a loved one. However, as I continued to think about Granny and other loved ones and my own death one day, I realized that I am not afraid. I know that I will not be on this earth on moment longer or shorter than I need to be. In her last years, Granny used to say sweetly, “I don’t know why the Lord still has me here, I am ready to go.” We can never be sure when our time will come, but we can be sure that the Lord has a perfect plan that he is carrying out, despite what may be obvious to those of us on earth. The sovereignty of God comforts me in these situation because the general thought tends to overwhelm me…until I realize that I do not have to be overwhelmed because God has it all worked out already (whew).
The past few days have served as a reminder and have been encouraging to me. Death is not the end. In fact, for Christians, it is only the beginning. The beginning of spending eternity with our Lord, Jesus Christ. As C.S. Lewis describes it in The Last Battle: “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.” Heaven is reality. Praise the Lord.