Memory of My Grams

When asked what important life lesson she could share, Grandma wrote:

I know you need to be kind and compassionate. We had a clique in high school and now I can see how hard that was on the kids who didn’t belong. Such a cruel thing. The ability to get along with other people is so important. I hope I have learned to be caring to others.


On January 30, 2016, I lost one of my heroes — my grandma, Marlene Miller Searle. It’s been nearly a year since her death, but this December, as the days have gotten colder and the nights longer, I’ve felt her loss more keenly than I felt since she passed. I think it’s knowing that a new year has come, a year that she will not be a part of, that has made my heart hurt when I least expect it, as I push my cart through the busy grocery store or listen to Christmas music in my car.

I wish I had something deep and profound to say about death and afterlife, about where Grandma is and what she’s doing, but I’ve never experienced death myself, so I really know very little about it.

I can, however, say something of what Grandma taught me about life.

As a kid I was always shy, especially intimidated by anyone older than me, but I always felt more at ease around Grandma because she knew how to make people feel comfortable. Grandma loved to talk. She always had good gossip and great stories to share, but she possessed a quality that many great speakers lack — she could also listen. And I don’t mean just politely listen, all the while waiting for the speaker to end so she could launch into her own big story that was even better than what the speaker had to share. She focused and listened as though what you had to say was the most interesting thing she had to hear that day. If you had something exciting to share, she’d burst with joy, and if you had bad news, she’d woefully mourn, and if it was really bad she’d lose sleep that night. Grandma was a great listener because she loved the people she listened to — their triumphs were her triumphs and their sorrows were her sorrows.  Romans  12:15 tell us to, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Those words were my Gram.

Great 90s picture of 11-year-old me with my sister, mom, and Gram.

Many people debate about whether there is life after death. There are all kinds of theological theories, proof, lack of proof — much of it beyond my comprehension. I don’t care for any of that debate because the only proof I need is my memory of Grandma. Her life convinces me there must be an afterlife because a soul as bright as hers could never really be gone. Somewhere right now I’m sure she’s patiently listening to someone’s sad story, bragging about her amazing children and grandchildren, getting frustrated when Grandpa teases her for not laying the right card in their pinochle game. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if heaven looks a lot like Grandma’s house, dishes all cleared to the kitchen from a big family dinner, cards being dealt for games of pinochle and hand and foot, surrounded by people I love.

We miss you Grandma. Thank you for all the laughs. Thank you for all the love. Because of you I know heaven isn’t all sternness and solemnity, because it wouldn’t be heaven if you weren’t there, and if you’re there, heaven’s got to be one rocking party.

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