We said goodbye to my 94-year-old grandma, Jeanette Couch, today in a beautiful celebration of life in her home church in southern Indiana. These are the words I shared.
Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
This was the first of many Bible verses my grandma taught me through the years. During sleepovers at her house – always with a glass of Tang bedside; in conversations in her cozy living room; and in the many Bibles she kept throughout her house for easy reading.
As I’ve grown, and studied the Bible on my own, I’ve seen grandma throughout the pages, in many verses throughout. These are a few that stand out to me:
Psalm 100: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.”
It’s been a few years since I’ve sat beside grandma in a church pew, singing worship songs. But I have memories from the time when I was a small girl, standing in the choir or in the pews with grandma singing harmony to many hymns. She taught me “Love Lifted Me,” and we sang it often when I was a girl, working around her home.
Bart, I remember a sermon you preached years ago about singing loud for the Lord – He would never judge, just sing to Him. And grandma took that to heart, singing loudly and proudly each and every Sunday.
Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart.”
Grandma did whatever it took to care for her family through the years – without complaint, without ever letting it be known it was a challenge. She had such a joyful spirit, whether it was in making that homemade meat loaf for Sunday dinner; baking one of her famous angel food cakes; or doing the laundry and cleaning the home from ceiling to base boards. The lady would never leave the house with a dish in the sink for years – “You never want to come home to a dirty dish,” she’d say.
And as dad’s health declined, and he was in the nursing home attached to her assisted living, she continued to care for him with a joyful heart. Every single day, at 3:30 p.m., she would prepare dad’s afternoon snack: a PBJ sandwich with the crusts cut off; two slices of cheese; a bottle of milk or tomato juice; a banana; and Twinkies. There was a definite method, and if you tried to make it to help her out, she would still watch to make sure you did it right. (Believe me — she corrected me every. single. time.) She would then wheel herself over to dad in her wheelchair and check in on him. Dad may have acted like he didn’t need that mothering – but I know he sure felt the love of his momma every day of his life.
Ruth 1:16: “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.’”
When dad passed away, Grandma told me she was ready to move to Hoopeston, Illinois, to be with me, Craig, and our kids. We were her family – along with Willy and Tracie – and she was ready to be with us. I’ll never forget that drive up to Hoopeston. She asked, “Where am I going, again?” as we drove. But the location didn’t matter. She was with her family.
Oh, how we loved having her close for these last 2 ½ years. She was able to attend grandparent days and middle school basketball games for her great grandkids. We were able to just “swing by” whenever we wanted pre-COVID, and having a snack or a meal at grandma’s table became the norm. I am SO very thankful that my children got to know their great grandma so well – they made memories that neither they nor grandma would ever forget.
I won’t lie. I felt some guilt bringing her up to a new town, only for her to be separated from us for nearly a year in 2020. Yes, there were tough moments. But that reunion? Well, I’ll never forget it. And once Autumn Fields was open again, she would give me until 4:15 to walk through those doors to see her, knowing my contracted time teaching at the school ended at 3:50. But at 4:15? She would call, asking if I was coming to see her. And she would be waiting for me, right inside the front door of the lobby, usually with some crackers or cookies she had saved from lunch,for me to take home to the kids. She was always giving. And man, I’m going to miss those 4:15 visits every day.
1 Corinthians 13: “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails.”
Grandma wasn’t one to say “I love you” to me and Willy. But every single time we said, “I love you,” she responded with, “I do you, too.” We said it every conversation. And she always responded the same. It was her thing. Oh, how Willy and I cherished it. Without a doubt, we knew she loved us with all she had.
Grandma, we are going to miss you terribly. I’m so thankful for the almost 44 years I had you in my life. We know exactly where you are – and it’s more beautiful than anything this earth could provide. We also know we will see you again. I love you. And I can absolutely hear you saying it too: “I do you, too.”