Saturday, September 30, 2006


We returned home from Bay City on Monday, where we had stayed for 5 days. We had a lovely Memorial for Grandma with a full church and full hearts. It's funny how I seem to miss her more and more. Since I was not there when she passed I think it'll come upon me more slowly... . Probably the coolest part of the service was at the very beginning when they played the video clip from Gaither's "Heaven" DVD - a piece by Wintley Phipps called "Go Down, Death." It was profound and beautiful and perfect. If you get a chance to listen to it, please do.

The kids are steadily readjusting to being back home. A wise woman said, "It will take you as many days as you were gone to readjust to being home." By that count it should be today.

I took lots of pics. (Mom with Levi, Dad, Kat - my little sis - and her husband Dave, Stef - my big sis - and me) It helps capture things while my heart and head seem strangely empty...

Matt was my hero. He drove to Michigan with us Thursday, turned around after the service on Saturday and came back to Chicago, arrived in time for a visitation at another funeral home, preached twice Sunday, officiated another funeral, drove back to Michigan, arrived at 2 a.m.. We left at 9 a.m. for home. That man drove 24 hours in a matter of 5 days. God bless him. I do love him.

After all that driving we decided to make the move on a new minivan. It's perfect, I feel like we executed the decision and deal with great wisdom. The best part is it's red! Candy apple red or Inferno red... I guess it depends on my mood.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


This morning shortly after 8 a.m. my grandma went Home.

And even as I cry for myself and my family, I celebrate that there is hope beyond all this. Jesus is absolutely worthy of my praise.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Of course, Grandma has been heavy on my heart and mind today. My little sister, Kat, and her husband are there now, planning to leave in the morning for Pittsburgh. We have been texting throughout the day: heart rate way up, blood pressure way down. The end nears.

At a subconscious level I have always had a heart for immigrants. I don't think I've begun to piece it together until recently that I feel a strange connectedness with those who have come here from other countries because of my family history. I have no doubt that the many stories I heard at my grandmother's knee have come forward to shape my world view. My husband and I have discussed immigration policy, the right to immigrate vs. the reality of immigration, exploitation, discrimination, humanity vs. constituency, and so on. The county I live in is 33% Latino. I suspect that illegal immigration issues may apply to many families, but I am unwilling to treat every non-English speaking person like they don't belong here.

I delight to the very center of my soul when I'm at work and I'm surrounded by people all speaking different languages: Spanish, African, Russian, Arabic, Gypsy, Italian, Indian, Chinese, and the list goes on. I feel in balance when I am only a representative of the American English-speaking culture. We are so much more than that as a whole country. Each story being special, each blend unique and precious.

My grandma tells many stories about the family that she used to keep house for: the Christians (name, not faith). They were a rich, rich family living in Owosso post-depression. My grandma was a very young girl when she went to work for them in order to supplement the family income. I don't know if her service to them was a part of the immigration agreement that I mentioned in my previous post. Nonetheless, she gave at least ten years of her life to them as a housekeeper and servant. One of her "while I cleaned the house" stories involved perfume. Now, you have to know Grandma, she's always smelled good, with a particular habit of using liberal amounts of Estee Lauder perfume. She took such personal pride in her smell that the cashiers at the local grocery market said they always knew when Frances came into the store because they could smell that beautiful perfume. Grandma had never been exposed to perfume as a young, poor immigrant from Czechoslovakia, so when she was cleaning Mr. Christian's bedroom and found this handsome bottle of wonderful smelling cologne she unabashedly helped herself. "I splashed it everywhere", she would laugh, "but for some reason I didn't think that anyone else could smell me. I thought it was a secret." She realized, after time, that one of the reasons the kids at school would occasionally keep their distance was that the smell was so over-powering! Grandma was always able to pull one over on you if you weren't watching, but Mr. Christian, who was quite a pistol himself, let her in on his little secret. One day he whispered to her, "Kid, I don't mind you using the cologne, but will you let us know when we're running out?" Grandma would always giggle at that point.

Flash forward to today: The kids and I were burning daylight before Daddy came home from work. I decided to take them to the discount store on the corner to buy a few more toy cars, which we need like another hole in the head. I located the nearest family-sized cart, and as pulled up to load the kids I noticed a young Latino woman working at starting her car to no avail. After I had secured the kids I went to her window. "Do you want me to call someone?" "No, no," she smiled. We went in and came out a few minutes later only to find them still attempting to get the car started. The young boy approached me for a jump, which I did without any result. Omar, the boy, probably about 11, was going back and forth between his mother and me translating. It began to rain. "Can I take you anywhere?" Translation. "Yes, please. Can you take us home?" "Sure," and I opened the back door of her car to find two more children, a baby in a car seat and a 6 year-old little girl with long black hair and brown eyes. I rearranged the seating in the van, and I asked Omar (the only English-speaking family member) what his little sister's name was. "She is America." Ah. America, daughter of hope. Of course. And as I reached in to pull her out and load her into my van, there was an overpowering smell of perfume. "Oh, America, you smell so GOOD!" Her brother laughed and told me she had been playing with the perfume samples in the store. (Grandma, how could I not remember you in looking at this little girl?) We piled all eight of us in my seven-passenger van and headed home. I was watching in the rear-view mirror as America leaned all the way over to my daughter, Liberty, sitting on the other end of the seat. She softly took ahold of her hair, feeling it, running her fingers through it. I couldn't help but smile. Yes, little one, we are a little different, aren't we? America was babbling in Spanish and Liberty was responding in her 2 year-old English. In that moment my heart was so FULL...

We left them in their driveway. But even as I drove away I could smell the perfume from America that had rubbed off on my clothes, both literally and figuratively.

Monday, September 11, 2006


We just arrived home from a "suicide visit" to East Michigan (12 hours of traveling in a thirty hour period). My grandma, who seemed to be improving shortly after my last post, has taken an irreversible turn downward. Hospice. Hospital bed. Nothing to eat since Wednesday, barely drinking. All along I felt that I was okay with letting Grandma go from a distance. Friday as I was out running errands I felt this pinch in my gut. I needed to go home to say goodbye. I hesitated bringing it up to Matt, I didn't really know how we would execute this, but within minutes of me sharing it, he had come up with a plan. My husband is my hero. He works hard, loves well, sacrifices willingly, and engages fully. No post seems to be adequate to capture my utter admiration and adoration for him.

We bolted for my childhood home after Matt returned from church. Arrived about 9 o'clock EST, which is WAY, WAY past my kids' bedtime. There were several meltdowns, but once they got to Grandma and Grandpa's they were fantastic.

My grandma is a first generation immigrant from Czechoslovakia. She came in 1916 on a ship with her mother, Frances Kathryn Ledvinka. They left under threat of death during dangerous days. She came to Ellis Island. She was one of the nameless faces that you see in the pictures.

Through a series of events she found herself in Canada trying to farm in Saskatchewan. It was a hopeless situation. Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa re-entered the US by indenturing themselves to wealthy land owners to work their fields as a means of passage. Upon arrival to Owosso, Michigan, my great-grandfater was diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer. He died a painful, tragic death, leaving behind his wife, who spoke no English, and his two little girls. You cannot imagine, you cannot imagine the stories she's shared with me over the years. Perhaps I will share them with you over time... . You must not think of Grandma in soft, fluffy terms. She has always been proud of her nickname as the "Battleship of the Fleet." She was a tenatious, scrappy woman who has had to fight for almost everything in life. Tough, yes, but good? Oh, yes.

What you must know is that my grandma was the first one in my father's line to become a Christian. She began hanging around with the local minister's daughter, and part of their time together involved going to church. My grandma began to listen, heard, and received the message of Christ's salvation into her young heart. She dedicated her life to following the Lord, and has always been quick to recount the ways He saved not only her soul, but her life here on earth. When no one was for the "dumb Hunky," she was convinced the God was for her. When she was humiliated, victimized, shunned, God stood by her. When they had nothing, no food, no money, no hope - when Great Grandmother sat her two little daughters on the table and said sadly that she was sorry but since there was nothing left she would have to kill them now, rather than see them starve to death - how in that very moment a kind hobo knocked at the door, looking to rent a room for which he would pay a proper amount. God saved her time and time again. He gave her dignity and hope... which she gave to others... Her mother was a stoic, tough woman, who drilled her daughter about her whereabouts, so Grandma would have to recount the sermons for her, word for word. Great-Grandma became more and more interested. Grandma was convinced that if her mother found the Lord it would be awkward, she was sure she would shout and cry - and when Great-Grandma found out there was a way to be saved here on earth and in eternity she did shout with tears of joy.

So with great joy and bittersweet sadness I took a short watch with my grandma. I sat in the chair at her beside in which my mother has spent countless hours. I looked at the pictures of the old ships on the wall, ships that have reminded Grandma of her voyage here for as long as I can remember. Her breathing was labored, erratic at times. Her eyes were closed, her body was quiet. She would open her eyes and smile and little when I would say, "Grandma, it's me, Heidi. I'm here." I told her I loved her. I told her thank you for finding God and for giving me a godly legacy, how it has made my life so much better. I told her that Heaven awaits her, that she will see her mother again. But mostly I sang. My grandma has always been fond of my voice (this is the same woman who taught me the saying "Every mother crow thinks her baby is the blackest."). So I found an old, old hymnal and sang. One Day, Abide With Me, My Jesus I Love Thee, When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder, What a Friend We Have In Jesus, many more... but the one that really grabbed me was this little hymn:

Pass me not oh gentle Savior, hear my humble cry
While on others Thou art calling, do not pass me by

Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry
While on others Thou art calling, do not pass me by

Let me at a throne of mercy, find a sweet relief
Kneeling there in deep contrition, help my unbelief

Trusting only in Thy merit, would I see Thy face
Heal my wounded, broken spirit, saved me by Thy grace

Thou the spring of all my comfort, more than life to me
Whom have I on earth beside Thee, whom in heaven but Thee?

Indeed, Grandma, who is there on earth who has loved you half as well as God loves you? What hope is there in the Heaven other than that of the reality of your Savior, your Champion, Jesus Christ? Do not wait for me. I will find you there.

Love, Heidi