Something has changed in our world today. Today I found out that my grandfather had died from … my cousin’s status update on facebook. Yes, my grandfather had been near death for days, yes my aunt did text my home phone number, but still … a facebook status update, really?
This week I have been at my mom’s with my sister and our combined 4 children. My sister and I have been coming down to my mom’s in Wimberley ever since ... we could! We came when we had just had our girls in 2004, Sydney was almost 5 months and Madeleine was three weeks old. For two years we rented a minivan and even brought a little port-a-potty that the girls LOVED to take turns in (while we were driving!) Then, this year Lee and I bought a Honda Pilot that has a third row of seats so we were able to fit four car seats and two adults into the car. One of my friends was telling me about how every summer she would get together with her two sisters who lived in different states and they would have cousin camp for their children. So, my sister and I every summer will have cousin camp for our children at Nana and Papa’s. Good thing Nana has a swimming pool!
This week while we have been at my mom’s we have had lots of fun. We have laughed, we swam until we looked like wrinkled up raisins, and we watched deer amble by with their young. This week we have also been sitting a vigil as we have been waiting to hear about two of my family members as they pass from this life into the next. One was my mother’s brother, my Uncle Mike. Uncle Mike and I share a name, his given name was Michael Kerry Nicholls, and I am Kerry Susanne Sumpter Smith. Uncle Mike came down to visit us in Texas every year. He lived in Manassas, Virginia, and worked at the FDIC where he was in charge of important computer stuff. He had lived with diabetes for 30 years and it had taken its toll. When my mom and I went to visit him over Memorial Day weekend he had had one foot amputated and had just been admitted to the hospital so they could amputate a toe from the other foot. My Uncle Mike was quiet, but you knew he cared. He would say, “Hmmm,” in conversations but you knew he listened. And I always knew that he loved his family to the core of his being: his dad, my Grandpa, and his sister, my mom, and his brother, my Uncle Gil. I was not able to witness his relationship with my mom, my grandmother, because she died when I was 6 months old, but I know that they were very close.
The other family member was my Grandpap Sumpter. My last living grandparent. My dad’s father. Kristin and I would visit Grandpap Sumpter at his condo in Sarasota, Florida every summer. I remember the rootbeer floats he would make us, the way that he would dry off our feet so we wouldn’t track any sand into the condo. I remember the way he would dry my hair with a towel when I was little, it hurt! I remember the way that he would put his hand at my back as he would lead me into the car or around the Publix grocery store. My Grandpap Sumpter was a big war hero in World War II, but to me he was just my Grandpap. Sure, he had his medals on the wall, sure he was crotchety and grumpy, and turned the television on way too loud, but he was my Grandpap and he loved me and I loved him. My Grandpap Sumpter will be buried next to my Grandma who died in 1984. Although Grandpap Sumpter remarried in 1985 to Mary Etta, and they lived 25 years together.
So, this week we have been waiting to hear when both my Uncle Mike and my Grandpap Sumpter would die. The waiting seemed to be the hardest part. The not knowing, the inability to make plans, the waiting to cry, the waiting to grieve. Uncle Mike died last night (Wednesday) and Grandpap Sumpter died early this morning (Thursday). The interesting thing about my family though is that my sister and I will be the only ones who might attend both funerals. My Uncle Mike is on my mother’s side and my Grandpap Sumpter is on my father’s side. I never would have thought that those two individuals would die within hours of one another. Yet, both will be cremated, and laid to rest within 4 hours driving distance of one another, Grandpap Sumpter in Pittsburgh and Uncle Mike in Manassas, Virginia.
It feels weird to be on the side of life where the people that were so influential in my growing up years are getting older and older. How can I be that old already? How can I no longer have a living grandparent? How can my uncle have died? God doesn’t promise us a long life, God doesn’t promise us a healthy life, God promises us that God will not leave us, God will never stop loving us, God will not give up on us. As Madeleine and Sydney sang in Vacation Bible School tonight at my mom’s church, “Our God is an awesome God, he reigns from heaven above, with wisdom, power, and love, our God is an awesome God.” God is awesome, and the gift of our lives is simply that, a gift. May we live every day as a gift, and if we find something horrible out on facebook instead of in a phone call, well, the world has changed. Will we embrace it or not?