My dear Gran, Hazell Frow, went home to be with Jesus last night. She was 94, had lived a full and active life, but had struggled physically after a fall earlier this year. When I saw her for the last time in June she said she was ready to go and was looking forward to heaven.
One of the things I loved about Gran was her honesty. She was nothing if not candid. She told it like she saw it. When I was about 20, and experimenting with long hair, she let me know in no uncertain terms that she was not impressed with the experiment. "What's the long term plan for your hair, Alan?" She was completely right. It didn't look good at all. I think Gran began the Frow tradition of 'clearing the air' which has made for the telling of some inconvenient truth over the years, but I'm grateful to her for that legacy.
I also admired Gran's buoyant, matter-of-fact approach to life. She was thoughtful and generous, but completely unsentimental. She knew how to move on from dissapointment and pain in practical ways. One of her favorite sayings was, "at any rate.." It was a philosophical kind of "oh well, let's not dwell on that," sort of saying that set us all up to look ahead and keep walking. She was not one to indulge in self-pity or regretful melancholy. Her faith in Jesus fortified and propelled her in visible ways.
Knowing it was the last time that I would see her in June this year, I prepared a few 'big life questions' for Gran. I asked them at the dinner table in front of the whole family. Essentially, her secret to a happy life was true to form, given with candid brevity. "Your Grandad and I loved eachother so much but he insisted that I enjoy life after he died. So I listened. I travelled a lot, I got involved in serving my church and had an active social life." Her only regret was not visiting Alaska.
When talking about how to build a happy marriage, she had only two pieces of advice. "We had breakfast together every morning," and then with a twinkle in her eye, "I know it's not meant to be said, but we had a really good sex life." Unforgettable wisdom.
My favorite thing of all about Gran was her Skype calls. They were always brief. In fact Rynelle and I would have a secret competition to see how long we could keep her on the line, because she tended to end them so abruptly after hearing how our family was. So we'd keep firing questions at her so as not to give her space to say, "At any rate, I should go now..." The calls were often at the strangest of times, because Gran didn't really understand time zones, or otherwise just didn't feel the need to adhere to them. For some reason she often skyped me during staff meetings. It was a running joke amongst my staff. "It's Gran!" I would exclaim, and they would always respond with a joyful, "Hi Gran!" We would pass the laptop around so she could say hello to the staff, and we would all have a quick chat. It was a joyful interruption, and I suspect, a powerful application of a strongly held team value. "Have a clear mission but be interruptible."
After all, the mission is about people. Be interruptible like the Good Samaritan. Be interruptible like Jesus and the woman with the issue of blood. Like Paul and the prophetic drama by Agabus. After all, the interruptions of people are often the interruptions of God.
The last Skype conversation I had with Gran was not during staff meeting. It was 11pm at home. I was tired, about to head for bed, and I almost didn't accept the call. I am glad I did. Gran was in an uncommonly chatty mood. I cannot repeat what she said, but in her own unsentimental way, she pronounced a sort of 'Gran's blessing' on me. For once it was me who had no words and wanted to end the conversation abruptly in awkward gratitude. But I treasure those words.
Gran, I am so glad that you are home with Jesus. But I will miss your uncomplicated honesty, your straight forward bouyancy, and your staff meeting interruptions. At any rate.