Today my family gathered to celebrate the life of my Grammy, Wilma Vanden Eykel, who passed away on the evening of Friday, May 3. The funeral was a beautiful and moving experience.
Anyone who knew her knows that she had a way of seeing the good in nearly everyone she met, and was able to brighten almost every situation she encountered. The daughter of a Dutch-Reformed pastor, she was a woman of profound faith and not easily shaken. As we mourned the loss of my grandfather almost a decade ago, she remarked to me, “Of course I’m sad … I wouldn’t be a person if I wasn’t. It’s always hard to say goodbye. But I know that this isn’t goodbye forever … it’s goodbye until the resurrection!”
In matters relating to faith, Grammy spoke with a resolute certainty that I’ve yet to encounter in anyone else. The first “theological” conversation I ever had was with her. I can’t remember how old I was … maybe eight? I asked my mom what happens to us when we go to heaven, and she said, “We had better call your Grammy.” We did, and I posed my question. Grammy replied, “We go to be with God!” Not satisfied with such a vague answer, I asked, “But what do we DO when we get there?” She repeated, “That’s what we do … we go to be with God.” I remember expressing concern about being bored (I was hoping that she would say something about playing or driving cars), and she said, “Trust me, you won’t be bored … God wouldn’t let that happen.” We then proceeded to talk about whether or not we would have wings (can’t remember what we decided).
I remember listening to her play hymns on her organ and being at least somewhat embarrassed when she sang too loud in church (she didn’t actually sing too loud — I was just easily embarrassed). I remember hearing about the El Camino she used to have (she loved that car), and about how she used to spin her wheels in the neighbor’s driveway (seriously). I remember how she adored her husband, her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchilren, and her dogs (not necessarily in that order), and I remember that her stories (some true, some fictional, some a combination of the two) were always lively and entertaining. I remember that every time I visited her she would be reading something new and would be eager to tell me about it, and that she was always interested in what I was studying.
The picture at the start of this post is of her and my daughter, Jane. It was taken just over two months ago, while we were in Dallas celebrating my other grandmother’s birthday. I am sad that Jane will not have the opportunity to know Grammy, but I am grateful that she got to meet her, even if it was only for a short time.
And now we say goodbye, but not forever.