Site Meter

Monday, November 28, 2011

Our MeMe


Heath's precious mom, Melissa Grimes Henderson, went to be with Jesus at 12:50 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on April 6th and has been fighting hard ever since! She has taken chemo like a champion and still been back at work (she owned a Lighting and Supply Store in Andalusia), but also working as a devoted wife, mother and grandmother. She was handling treatments EXTREMELY well, until two Thursdays ago when she developed a high fever. They drove her to Pensacola and she was put in the hospital. The first week she was walking around the hospital and frustrated because she was ready to get back home! They couldn't ever pinpoint why it was getting worse - she stopped responding to antibiotics, and it was more and more of a struggle to breathe each day. By last Sunday, they had to put her in Intensive Care. In the end, her lungs were just too infected by pneumonia or the effects of chemo plus pneumonia - we are not sure exactly. We just know God was ready for her.
When I say she delighted in her children and grandchildren, it is an understatement. She joked with us from when we were early married that she was ready to be a grandmother. I now see why. I am not exaggerating when I say she was the best grandmother I have ever seen.
Kate (my sister-in-law) has been saying all week that she was the grandkids' biggest fan. How true that is! She fell in love with them from the minute we told her we were pregnant. Seriously - I told her about Turner at a Cracker Barrel on Mother's Day in 2008. She literally stood up and screamed in excitement. If you knew her, this was completely unlike her tiny, quiet self!
She marveled at their tiny newborn selves, infancy and thought them perfect even as they were wild toddlers! We could call her to tell her that Turner pooped in the potty (rare occurrence) or went swimming without fear or that John Burke said "Daddy" or put his bottle in the sink - silly things that NO ONE else would care about - and she would throw a party over the phone. She LOVED to talk to the boys over speaker phone and tell them how proud of them she was and how much she and Pap loved them. A couple of weeks ago, Turner begged to call MeMe. I told him we would wait until Heath got home, and he said "But MeMe is sick, and it always makes her feel better when I call her." I don't want him to forget that. As I look at these pictures, I notice that Turner couldn't help but smile every time he was with her!
The boys have been lost this week in Andalusia. We have been here since Tuesday, and they looked confused from the minute we pulled up and they didn't have their MeMe to run to and snuggle up with. Turner and Ellie have both said multiple times "Where's MeMe?" I selfishly have been trying to call everything "Pap's house" and "Pap's room", etc. but it didn't fool them. Turner has woken up about every day here and says "I'm gonna go play with MeMe." The day before she died I found him wandering around in the backyard by the big tractors (his favorite thing). He looked at me, put his arms out and said "Mommy! I can't find MeMe and Pap anywhere!" I told him Pap was at work (easier than saying he had not left his wife's side in the hospital for 2 weeks) and I said "Baby, MeMe is really, really sick. She is going to go to heaven with Dink and Gordon." He looked at me, smiled and said "Oh!! Okay!" and wandered off. That is one refreshing thing - that childlike ability to be resilient and so innocent.
When John Burke heard MeMe's name the other day, he pointed to a big group of pictures of her and the family we had made this summer. They were hanging on the wall, and he either looks there or points there each time we say her name. I know he is 18 months old and won't remember much, but it has been so comforting to know this trip how much his baby self enjoyed and loved her.
To know Melissa was to know how generous she was. I don't just mean with the grandchildren - because she spoiled them rotten! Clothes, toys, beach trips, hugs and kisses, story times - anything she thought they would love. And they did. But, she did that for all of us, too. She showed love to us by giving - they have taken us on countless trips (including the National Championship this year - thank God for that time together as a family before we even knew she was sick!), and opened up their homes in Auburn, Andalusia and the beach for any and every time we wanted to come. Her favorite thing ever was having all of her little chicks and chickadees all in the same place - be it for a Fall football game, a holiday or time at the beach. She and Pap invested in things that would provide quality family time, and I am looking back forever grateful for that.
But she also was generous in time. She considered it joy to stop whatever she was doing to talk to Heath (or Jay or Kelly or any of us for that mattter) on the phone each day on his way home from class in college or work these almost 10 years since I have known her. Heath told me the other day that the greatest legacy his mom left was the time spent loving him and his family, and that is evident. He was equally as close to her before her diagnosis and afterward, as were his brother and sister.
Melissa had a strong faith in Jesus, and that has been our comfort this week. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is dancing in Heaven with Him. When she found out she had terminal cancer, she fought it with every ounce of her 100 pound being. She enjoyed every second of life she had left - she didn't let fear encompass her. She believed Psalm 23:4 - "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Thy rod and thy staff they will comfort me." She told their pastor a few weeks ago in the hospital that she wasn't scared of dying, she was just sad to leave her family. That was very true - and she made the most of the time she had left without having to change the way she was already living.
We were able to say goodbye to her in the hospital, and she was sedated but conscious. We were able to tell her how much we loved her and how thankful we were for her life, and I swear Frank had to wipe tears from her eyes. How comforting to know that she heard us! I hate that she had to fight such a battle with cancer, but what closure to be able to affirm her in those last days! And, praise God that she had 7-8 very normal months with a debilitating disease, and then only 2 weeks of true defeat at the very end. She turned so quickly, but in hindsight that was such an answer to prayer that it was not drawn out and that God ultimately healed her so fast.
As I sit here typing this, tears are streaming down and her little namesake is kicking the computer through my belly. What a weird but refreshing feeling to remember that God "giveth and He taketh away." We weren't near ready to let go of our mother/mother-in-law/grandmother, but we are secure in God's perfect sovereignty and plan.
As we head back to Birmingham today we are so many things: heartbroken, bewildered, exhausted, stir crazy, ready for cell phone service :). But overall, we are blessed. We are loved and we are grateful - for her life, for the legacy and memories, for the family and friends who drove hours in the rain to hug our necks and stand by us in the visitation and funeral, who sent flowers or food, or those who texted, emailed or even just prayed and called out to God for us. What a showing of our brothers and sisters in Christ - we could not be more overwhelmed with gratitude or comfort.
God tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to "Be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." We will claim this as we try to mend the MeMe sized hole in our hearts:)

19 comments:

  1. I am so sorry and so sad. I can't believe she is gone. Though I know she is fully healed- it is hard to take in. I am so sad for you guys loss. Sending prayers your way for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Seems like this all happened so so quickly. I am lifting up prayers for your sweet family. What a wonderful legacy Meme left. It's time like this that certainly shout that our only hope of anything ever being right again is Jesus. I love you guys.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Cried as I read your sweet post. Chris and I are praying for you guys.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great post! We are praying for you guys!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Kelly, my heart just aches for you guys and your families. I know she is looking down on you guys and is so proud of the families she sees from above. Please tell Heath we send our love and prayers too. So glad that you were able to tell her goodbye and be there with your father in law this last week. Prayers are with you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Kelly...I have tears streaming as I read this. What a beautiful picture you describe of Meme. Lovely post of a special lady! I know the heavens had a celebration as Heath's Mom entered and she saw Jesus' face :) We have been praying for you guys. Steven was soo sad...he had to work nights all last week thru the weekend...so he knew he couldn't make it to the funeral. So glad ya'll had family and friends surrounding you!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I can't seem to stop the tears. My heart aches for all of you. I can't imagine. And what a blessing to read of Meme's life, of the legacy she lived before you. I'm praying for you and your precious family. May the God of all comfort sustain you with His peace. Love you.

    ReplyDelete
  8. So beautiful Kelly. Praying for you all.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Kelly, this was beautiful. My heart has broken again and again each day when I think of Melissa and your family. I'm so happy you are able to celebrate and your words captured her perfectly.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh, this makes me so sad, Kelly. I have tears streaming down my face reading it. Please tell Heath how sorry we are. But, like you, we are so thankful that his mom knew Jesus. She was precious. Loved reading all your sweet words about her!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Kelly, what a beautiful and heart-felt post. I am praying for all of you and rejoicing as well that Melissa is now healed and resting at the feet of her Savior. I love you all!
    Blair

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hey! You are such a good writer! What beautiful words. So glad that we got to be with you yesterday but sad for the reason. We will continue to pray for your family. Love you guys.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I didn't tell you this weekend that i had come across your blog because I kind of forgot about it with everything that was going on. What a beautiful tribute to Melissa. Still honored that I got to love your babies during this time, they made my heart happy while it hurt for your loss. As I told them to get out of the pantry, all I could do was giggle at the thought of MeMe seeing them. Still praying for you. Love You!

    ReplyDelete
  14. What a wonderful post, it brought tears to my eyes but also a smile to my heart. We are sending prayers to you and your family. Love to all.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh, Kelly...I'm so sorry.

    What a great legacy she's left.

    Please know I'm praying for you guys!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Kelly - just wanted to let you and Heath know that we have been keeping all of you in our prayers this past week and we are so very sorry. You have captured in words and pictures a story about an angel that Heaven is lucky to have!! I was only blessed enough to meet Melissa a handful of times, but each time she was indeed a smiling and cheerful Momma - always supportive of all of you in so very many ways. That pic of all of you at the National Championship is such a good one - what a great family. She will be missed.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Kelly, I NEVER read blogs (or caring bridge journals for that matter) like this. Even after four years of healing the words "cancer" and "death" and especially "fighting cancer" make me want to run away and cover my ears. However, I was drawn to read you and Heath's story...the whole thing. I sympathize and empathize and flat out understand exactly what you're going through together. I know you are hurting too and love Heath's Mom, but he's going to need to lean on you so hard in the coming months. I'll be praying for strength for you and a knitting up and together for both of your hearts. Grief and loss and...fear can be so hard on relationships, but it can also make you closer and stronger than anything else. I know how crazy pregnancy hormones can make you to start with :) and how much YOU need HIS help...Oh, I hurt for you both! You'll look back and wonder how in the world you survived this season, and the only answer will be His sustaining hand. But He WILL sustain you. He WILL be enough. And your precious babies will remember their MeMe, because you will talk to them about her all the time and keep her sweet spirit alive in your family. I have rambled so long in this comment. Maybe I just needed the reminder myself of how far He has brought us in four years. Praying for you and Heath and truly, truly sorry that God wanted Heath's mom back with Him way before you and Heath would have chosen.

    ReplyDelete
  18. oh kelly. i am just now reading this. i am heartbroken for your family. prayers and love from memphis...

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi nice Post written by you guys. It is amazing and wonderful to visit your site. Thank a ton for such a nice post.
    http://www.daveigh-chase.org/

    ReplyDelete