My last living grandmother died last week. She was five days from her 93rd birthday, and it was a mercy God took her home at last. The past several years of her life can hardly be called so.
I write that by way of introduction to my thoughts, not to spark sympathetic comments, because truly she is now perfectly happy and was previously grievously ill. Death, for her as for all God’s own, was a blessing.Not, however, for some she left behind, particularly my aunt who cared for her day and night these past several years. They were constant companions, and my single aunt put her career on hold to tend her deteriorating and nearly blind and immobile mother. Nowadays we put such people in nursing homes. My aunt was grandma’s nursing home. And now she is alone.
I hope you feel an echo of the sadness I do in writing that sentence. A good deal of that sadness arises because we live so far from family that when things like this happen we can do little to restore comfort and joy. Phone calls are not the same as bringing the grandkids or grand-nieces and -nephews out for a peaceful picnic, or baking bread together, or sitting on the porch holding hands.
After grandma died, my brother and I discussed how this sadness forms one end of a tension between it and having decided that where we are is the best place we can be right now. The problem is that the best currently available to us is not perfect. It seems that, right now, only grandma has found the perfect place. Until I join her, there will always be tension and sadness.
That is again prelude to Nathaniel’s and my thoughts about the sort of life we want for ourselves and, especially, children as we prepared to buy a house (closing this week!). The first great question was: Where? In Wisconsin near my parents? In Montana near his? In Ohio near a pack of friends, or somewhere between Wisconsin and Montana? None of these options seemed perfect, or even good. We went with the least bad option (which is also how we handled marriage; long story, and no it doesn’t involve being already pregnant).
In the end, our central criteria for choosing a place to live–since my job allows me to work from anywhere with an internet connection–was that it have a good church nearby. That was the biggest barrier to living in Wisconsin. Being two days’ drive or $1,500 in airplane tickets away from the rest of the world was the biggest barrier to living in Montana. We chose to stay here because here we have a vibrant church, and our most blessed gift in life will be shepherding our little ones to eternal life to the best of our abilities.
If I lose everything else in life, the one thing I want is at the end to know that my children and family, like my grandmother, will join me on a new and perfect Earth. A good church can’t ensure that, we know. But it can offer so many things most likely to cultivate the good seed–true teaching, true practice, a community of similarly minded families where our children can find godly friends and possibly husbands and wives. To us, the rest of life’s tensions are worth bearing to this end.