My Four Big Whys

September and October of this year have been challenging for my entire family. My Dad went through two intensive back surgeries and my grandmother (his Mom) passed. Today’s Yogi Tea message stated “You must know that you can swim through every change of tide.” It is true. I can.

So can you. For me, the reasons why can be found in the eulogy I read at my Grandma’s funeral. You can endure anyhow if you know the why.

I have four big whys.

Grandma’s Eulogy

My husband Jesse and I were recently discussing how all laughter is borne in some way from pain. (This is what you do when you are raising an almost three year old…) Maybe the pain is mere embarrassment or remembering a rough incident past that time has helped to bring healing and humor. Even the punch line to all jokes is an angled view at a situation where some pain is experienced.

My grandma loved to laugh. Many pictures in the funeral's slide show capture her huge smiles and outright guffaws. I loved her billows of laughter that made your every experience with her so buoyant.

Today, we celebrate her extraordinary life and legacy by remembering so much of what makes Marilyn dear. There will be smiles and laughter as we recall the precious time spent with her. But the collorary pain is also great because the loss on this side is immense.

Not only are we missing her laughter and full-living approach, but we have offered up to heaven a great prayer warrior. And we all need great prayer warriors! I need a great prayer warrior. So selfishly, I’m wishing for more time with Grandma. I want to show her my daughter growing up, going to the potty on her own and learning about music.

What allows me to smile and laugh through this situation of pain is also something my Grandma provided: a poem she cross-stitched for me when I was one year old. It now hangs in my bathroom and I review its tenants every day. It reads: 

Wendy Brown is my name
America my nation
Florida is my dwelling place
And Christ is my salvation

This poem has helped me through this past month of mourning because it speaks to all the aspects she would pray for, for everyone in her life.

“Wendy Brown is my name” speaks to identity.

We all struggle with this from time to time and in some of my most difficult times with identity, she was praying me through. The whole onslaught of teenage angst, struggling to find the right man, raising a child as a working mom…Grandma has always been praying for me to find myself in God. And it is no small source of pride that I am able to claim the Brown name.

When I got married, I dropped my middle name to keep the “Brown,” as there was no way I was EVER going to let that bedrock of my identity go.

"America, my nation” speaks to loyalty.

Grandma was all about commitment. Thoughtfully making one and keeping it. Sticking by the side of loved ones. Honoring God above all else. She was a true friend – always eager to listen. That was one of her best traits.

She would make you feel so special by letting you speak and actively listening. She would share and ease the burden of your pain in this way, and then she would pray for and with you. She used to frequently say “This too, shall pass.” And always a loyal woman of her word – it would. But not before she would help you to feel better about whatever it was that had been ailing you. And when she left your presence, she never really left because you knew she would continue to pray for you.

"Florida is my dwelling place” speaks to family.

This was a big deal for Grandma. I heard, “First God, then family” all growing up. She and Grandpa took me and Steve on many family vacations and day trips. To Lake Seminole around the corner and Lake Junalaska several states away. We would go fishing and take picnics. They would hide Easter Eggs in the yard for us to find.

She taught me to read music and play piano and how to cross-stitch. They took me regularly to visit the library at an early age, and now following a good lead, I work as a law librarian. She and Grandpa used to attend all the football games at my high school; even the away games, in the rain, to see me cheer. Most students are lucky to have any family in the bleachers. I had my parents and grandparents sitting under umbrellas getting soaked because family is so important.

Florida is no longer my dwelling place, but it will always be a source and reminder of family. Grandma has impacted for the good every area of my life, and instilled a great love for family.

Finally, her cross-stitch ends with the most important line of all:  Christ is my salvation. This speaks to eternity.

Grandma and Grandpa both did everything based on their belief in Jesus Christ as Savior. They raised their boys to believe the same, and they in turn raised us to follow Jesus first. Above all else, eternity is Grandma’s greatest legacy. Her laughter, her firm stance as a prayer warrior, her listening ear, her friendship, are all qualities that I will never forget. But it is her steadfast day in and out walk with Christ that has had the greatest effect here on earth and in heaven.

I know that I will get to see her again when I pass. And in the meantime, her dedication to an eternity with Christ has helped me circle back to my true and fullest identity. It’s not just “Wendy Brown is my name”, It’s Wendy Brown Maines, daughter and co-heir of Christ, proud granddaughter of Marilyn Brown and hopeful prayer warrior in the making.

She has shaped who I am in all ways, and I will miss her more than I can express. And someday soon I hope to laugh as she would at the ridiculous amount of tears I’ve shed at her passing. Especially since I know that this separation is not permanent.

One hymn we sing in church says: Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
                                                         Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.

Sometimes songs of loudest praise come in the form of laughter cross-stitched together with tears.  We were given a great treasure in Marilyn Brown. 94 years of amazing love. She is now with Grandpa and with Jesus, and for us here missing her, it is bittersweet.

But today, for all of the blessings God has given us through her, let’s sing songs of loudest praise.
I love you, Grandma.
What are YOUR big whys?

Stephanie Greene