When I was little, my Opa ("grandpa" in Dutch) would sit me by him at his garden and my job was to pick out the rocks. When I pulled them out I would announce "Rocky, rocky." From that time on, he called me his Little Rocky-Rocky. While he loved all of his grandchildren with his whole heart, I loved having those special memories that were only mine.

During her life, Lauren has made me think a lot of my Opa. Whenever she is outside, Lauren always has a rock clutched in one (or more) of her hands. Many of those rocks find their way into our house as well. I have found rocks on her change table, in her toy box, on the floor, in our bed (what?!), in the bathtub, and on the couch. Take a peek at her left hand. Half of the time you can't even tell if she has a rock in her hand because it doesn't stop her from doing anything.

My Opa fought a battle against Parkinson's Disease. Before I got pregnant, he had a stroke which forced him to be hospitalized for the remainder of his life. By the time I was pregnant, something I had wanted for so long but had been told was next to impossible, he had a hard time speaking. When I went to visit him to tell him that I was going to have a baby, he was able to speak clearly enough to predict that I would have a boy and that either way, the baby would be adorable. It meant so much to me that I could still share such exciting news with him.

By the time that Lauren was born, the Parkinson's had progressed so far that we were unsure how much he was able to take in. We would talk to him but we didn't know if he understood us or knew that we were there. I brought Lauren in to visit him when she was a few weeks old. I was so proud to show her to him. He might not have been able to show it, but I'm sure that his heart was still bursting with love for his tiny great granddaughter.

One year ago today, when my Opa was leaving this world, our whole extended family was with him. Lauren was also with us and at that point, the song that I would sing over and over to her to get her to sleep was Jesus Loves Me. In the midst of the sadness and being with my Opa as he went home to heaven, we sang Jesus Loves Me to him. His faith and his family were the two most important thing in his life. I was always amazed that as he got sick and his speech because slurred, as soon as he started to pray, his words came loud and clear and with authority. I could not have had a better spiritual role model and I hope that I can pass that down to Lauren. That would be the best gift that I can give to her.

It was a hard summer to have my Opa pass away, but then it became too much to bear when Lauren went into the hospital at the end of July. My Oma (grandma) came to visit us at the hospital in those first few days. At that point, Lauren was on the full heart bypass machine, her heart wasn't beating, she was fully sedated and medically paralyzed. To check that she wasn't having seizures (due to the bypass) underneath all that medication, they placed monitors on her head to measure her brain activity. Matt and I were touching her and speaking to her and every time that she would feel us or hear us, her brain activity would respond. It was so strong that they asked us to leave for five minutes so that they could get a true reading. We went to the waiting room and my Oma was there with my Aunt and Uncle. During the year and a half that my Opa was hospitalized, she visited him almost every day. One day she told me that even though he couldn't respond, she could still touch him and hold him and one day she wouldn't be able to do that. After seeing Lauren's brain activity when she was unable to respond, all I could think was that every minute that my Oma or one of us was with my Opa, it made a difference to him. He might not have been able to say it, but he knew that we were there and, more importantly, he knew that we loved him.

My Opa and Oma have been, and continue to be a strong example of the faith that I aspire to. Every night before bed, they prayed for each and every one of their grandkids, the Bible was always read out loud in their house and there was constant recognition that each and every day is a gift from God. What an important way to live life. This year, my Oma has been a constant prayer warrior for Lauren and has helped me to keep my faith strong. Lauren may not have been able to experience all of the love that my Opa had for her, but she gets showered with love from my Oma.

1 comment:

  1. What a loving tribute to your Opa and Oma. How fortunate you are/were to have them as part of your life.


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