On our way home from driving the other girls to school, my daughter Maggie likes to talk. The drive to school is noisy. Sometimes it’s all bickering and whining. Other times the older girls sing or tell the same joke repeatedly. Maggie, usually still sleepy, doesn’t say much.
But during the quiet drives home — my sweet four year old, my sidekick, my Maggie Mae — she likes to talk about God. And Grandma.
I miss Grandma, she says.
I miss her too.
She’s with God, she says. In heaven, where there’s no crying. Can you be sad there and just not cry? she asks.
I wonder at what Maggie understands about God. I wonder if Maggie really remembers Grandma at all.
We lost her a year and a half ago, early on a June morning, after months of illness and pain. When we visited, Maggie would race into the living room and climb up onto Grandma’s hospital bed for hugs. She’d squirm down quickly and wander away, dragging a wooden wagon full of dolls.
If she remembers Grandma at all, I tell myself, it’s because she’s never far from our thoughts and conversation.
Grandma loved ham, I remind the girls. Do you know what Grandma liked for breakfast? She liked peanut butter, banana, jam, and cool whip on toast.
Grandma loved my rolls, I say, taking them out of the oven. Every time she visited us, I had to make them.
Grandma bought these pajamas one Christmas for your sister, I say. And now they fit you.
Do you remember how Grandma always helped us decorate the tree?
Grandma would have been proud of you tonight.
My husband talks about Grandma, too — his mother, after all.
When we’re with extended family, we keep her close by sharing stories.
It’s the same with God.
What Maggie knows about God, she knows because we talk about Him daily, in ordinary ways, weaving faith lessons into each day, prayers at meals and bedtime.
We keep Grandma close, we make God real, by sharing conversation in quiet moments together.
God and Grandma.
In the days following my mother in law’s death, I wrote this post. Tomorrow, as a family, we will celebrate Grandma’s birthday. She would have been 69. We’ll eat ham and homemade rolls and share stories. And we’ll miss her.