On January10, my beloved grandmother, Verna Ellen Shank Bushong, passed away at the age of 94. She spent her last days in her own home surrounded by all her children. We were thankful that my mom was able to make it up to Indiana to share that time of closeness with the family. (Thank you, thank you to my cousin Darlene for not only giving Mom and Dad buddy passes, but also traveling up with them.)
Because Grandma required 24-hour care, it would have been easier to let her stay in the nursing home, but Aunt Cindi suggested that all her children could care for her at home. And that's what they did, for hours and hours, days and days. They did everything for her, even the unpleasant things. When Grandma apologized, my mom told her, "It is an honor to take care of you." I cried when I heard all of this. I pray I can learn from their example and serve so humbly if the need arises.
I flew up with all three of my sisters (Melody, Amy, Emily), Emily's baby Charlie, and Melody's son Stephen. We all stayed with my Aunt Sue and Uncle Jeff, which is always a treat. My favorite part of our stay was visiting in the hot tub late at night with my sisters and my aunt, and even praying together in the hot tub--a first for all of us, I think.
At the funeral on Saturday, several of the kids and grandkids spoke. We spoke of Grandma's love, strength, and enduring faith... and her cinnamon rolls (and peanut butter pie and milkshakes and chicken pot pie, and many other favorites). The thing about Grandma was that she knew everyone's favorite meal or dessert, and she always made it a point to serve it to us when we visited.
I didn't mention this when I spoke, but do you know what I miss most about Grandma right now? Her soft, warm hands. I loved to hold her hand.
The best part of the eulogies was the poem that my cousin Jolinda read, in which she listed the name of every child, grandchild, great grandchild, and great-great grandchild, along with each of the inlaws. It was staggering to ponder how such a GIGANTIC family could come from just one young couple.
|Children - Sue, Cindi, Judy; Mary, Charlie, Dolores (My Mom)|
|Grandchildren - 21 of 27|
|Great Grandchildren - 28 of 47|
|Two of the 14 Great -Greats|
|Lots and Lots of Us|
I remember on one of my first visits up to see my inlaws in Vancouver, probably before they were inlaws, I tried to estimate how many grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc., were in the Bushong clan. I think I might have said 75. They thought I was exagerrating. But I underestimated! Counting children, the total number of their progeny was 94. Ninety-four! Can you imagine?
Her Favorite Hymns
I enjoyed singing Grandma's favorite hymns, not usually my style, but absolutely perfect for the occasion. The best was Face to Face; I wasn't the only one sniffling as we pictured Grandma up there in heaven, seeing Jesus face to face at last. What made the songs even better was the fact that my sister Melody was the piano player. She'd been practicing for days on Aunt Sue's very badly tuned antique piano, enduring a fair bit of ribbing over her dubious chords. But she sounded like a pro at the funeral. I know it would have meant so much to Grandma.
Thankfully I haven't had much experience with funeral sermons, but Grandma's was definitely the best I'd heard. I knew that the minister had visited her frequently over the last six months and that he came daily at the end. I also knew that his prayers had been a comfort to Grandma and her children. So it meant a lot to me to know that when he spoke warmly of her, it was from his own experience. He talked about her favorite verse and related that passage of scripture to her life.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Phlippians 4:12-13)To illustrate those times of plenty and times of want, he shared stories from her autobiography, Our Journey Through Life. My favorite was the story of how she once told Grandpa off in their grocery store. At the time, she was taking care of two small children and was still nursing her youngest, Aunt Cindi. Grandpa wanted her to help out at the counter, but she was too busy.
"Your work can wait," Grandpa said.
Grandma stormed into the store and tore into him. "When you married me, you didn't want just a wife, you wanted a housekeeper and a work horse and a milk cow."
Imagine her humiliation when she realized they were not alone in the store! When she had finished her tirade, their friend Royal stepped out from behind a counter with a grin on his face. "Now run through that again," he said. "I want to hear just how that was so I can remember it."
"Oh, shut up!" Grandma said.
I half hoped Pastor Stan might tell the story of how they accidentally ended up in a nudist camp, but I guess that was too racy for a funeral. You'll have to buy the book to read that one.
Another highlight was the slide show that my cousin Callie compiled from hundreds of pictures that the family had emailed. I'm so thankful for all her hard work and expertise. There were photos of all our families as well as photos of Grandma and Grandpa over the decades. Over the three-hour viewing period on Friday, I sat next to various relatives watching bits and snatches of the Bushong love story. What struck me most was our strong genes. The family resemblance spans multiple generations.
|Young Verna - Looks SO Much Like My Mom!|
|Here She Looks a Lot Like My Brother's Daughter Mindy|
|So Handsome! Here Grandpa Looks Like My Cousins Matt and Wes|
They Sat Painfully Still While Siblings Tried to Make Them Laugh
|Love This One of Grandma!|
That's Mom (Who Looks a Lot Like My Sister Emily) and Aunt Judy
Laid to Rest
At the graveside ceremony, I wanted to solemnly contemplate the beauty and sorrow of "ashes to ashes, dust to dust." As it turned out, all I could think of was trying to stay warm in the snow which Pastor Stan said Grandma surely must have ordered. (I never knew she liked the snow.)
I had no right to complain; I was one of the lucky ones who managed to crowd into the tent. We were crammed in like circus clowns in a Volkswagen, but that was okay. I enjoyed both the togetherness and the body heat.
A Non-Stop Eating Fest
For five straight days, we gathered with my delightfully, unreasonably gigantic family and gorged ourselves on food and conversation. I particularly enjoyed getting to know some of my younger cousins better, such as the aforementioned Callie (Charlie's daughter).
On our last evening in Indiana, we went to Dad's sister Carol's house for some of her famous homemade ice cream and hot fudge. While we were there, I enjoyed a genteel political debate with Aunt Carol, my brother Rick, and my cousins René and Jenny. It was getting late, and we had to cut it off just when it was getting interesting. But I did learn that Aunt Carol shares many of my views. I'll have to talk with her some more about that sometime.
All in all, it was a most enjoyable celebration of the life of Verna Ellen Bushong. May her heritage live on forever.