Like a Saving Rain

My grandmother died this morning. Suddenly and in tragic circumstances. She was ninety-two, but probably in better health than many people thirty years her junior. She was still very much full of life and love. Her loss feels massive in a way that I can’t really articulate. She was the anchor of our large and unruly herd, the glue that held us together. She was the common, persistent, faithful thread that wove through all of our lives.

Over lunch, my wife mentioned that this was the last of our eight grandparents to die. The last of a generation. There’s a sadness that sort of seeps into the bones upon realizations like this. I will miss my grandma’s morning emails (which she sent out to all her children and grandchildren), her correcting the grammar on my blog posts, her many kindnesses and encouragements, her blunt pragmatism, her prayers… Always, her prayers.

I need good words at times like this. Some don’t, I know. Some don’t even want them. But I do. Christian Wiman’s writing is often the first place that I look when I need language for loss. Wiman lost his own grandmother in difficult circumstances. I read this passage in his marvelous book My Bright Abyss this afternoon. His words express my faith, hope, and love beautifully:

What does faith mean, finally, at this late date? I often feel that it means no more than, and no less than, faith in life—in the ongoingness of it, the indestructibility, some atom-by-atom intelligence that is and isn’t us, some day-by-day and death-by-death persistence insisting on a more-than-human hope, some tender and terrible energy that is, for those with eyes to see it, love. My grandmother… whose spirit poured and pours over the cracked land of her family like a saving rain, exemplified this energy, and I feel that to be faithful to her, faithful to this person that I loved… I must believe in the scope and momentum of her life, not the awful and anomalous instant of her death. In truth, it is not difficult at all. Nor is the other belief—or instinct, really—that occurs simultaneously: that her every tear was wiped away, that God looked her out of pain, that in the blink of an eye the world opened its tenderest interiors, and let her in.

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19 Comments

  1. Condolences to you and your family. Abe phoned to tell me, then I heard it on Global News at noon today.

  2. So sorry for your loss. I had the privilege of sitting with her at Keith’s and Julie’s wedding and had a wonderful time chatting. Love and prayers to the entire family.

  3. Sorry to hear of your loss. Praying for comfort and peace during this difficult time for you and your family

  4. “She was the common, persistent, faithful thread that wove through all of our lives.” -Memory Eternal.

  5. As I have just come from doing a funeral today and tonight and and attending another in the morning, this blog was timely to read. In addition, I also received some troubling news about my own mother’s failing health and so it seems that death and loss is leading our entrance into this new year. I am sorry for your grandmother’s passing and while I feel your pain I also share in your celebration for the “scope and momentum” of her life and the lives of those who have recently gone home to be with the Lord. Prayers are with and for you and thank you for sharing while journeying through your grief.

  6. Such precious words in memory of your most precious Grandmother . My deepest sympathies to you and your family, Ryan. Blessings of peace as you all adjust to life without her here. But with all the love and prayers and emails and consistency she was in your lives……she’ll never really be gone.
    My prayers are with you,
    Cheryl

  7. So very sorry for your loss.
    I read your blogs daily and they help me to move on in my life dispite life in
    general.

  8. “Whose spirit poured and pours over the cracked land of her family like a saving rain”…

    A true matriarch. A real Saint. How blessed you were to have your grandmother in your life.

  9. I’m sorry for your loss Ryan. Grandmothers are special and she clearly love life and her family. Her life was a blessing.

  10. I appreciate each of these responses. Thank you for taking the time to write and for the encouragement that your words offer.

  11. Ryan, Deepest condolences.
    Count yourself blessed to have known a grandma of that caliber who was interested enough in you to have corrected your blogs (the nerve of a grandma. Many of us would not have dared!). Thanks for your spirited authentic grieving. Jake Froese

  12. Your grandmother was an amazing woman. I ran into her not long ago. She was working a shift at the MCC store. She recognized me and we chatted for awhile while she rang my items through the till. I have always marvelled at her ability at her memory and spirit. Seeing her has always reminded me of my grandma Janz. I am so sorry for your loss! My deepest condolences to you and and your family.

  13. Such a beautiful tribute, Ryan. Thank-you! Also for finding these words from Christian Wiman: “God looked her out of pain, that in the blink of an eye the world opened its tenderest interiors, and let her in.” I was grateful that the Celtic Daily Prayer Book II suggest the reading of Psalm 116 twice during the month of January. Your quote and Ps. 116 seem well-matched.

    1. “Return, O my soul, to your rest,
      for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.”

      “Precious in the sight of the Lord
      is the death of his faithful ones.”

      Yes, a very well-matched psalm, Renita. Thanks very much.

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