Giraffes In Heaven – The Sudden Passing of My Grandmother

((Written while I was en route to a family gathering due to the sudden passing of my grandmother.))

A day ago, my grandmother passed away, suddenly, on Sunday morning. I hadn’t even gotten out of bed when I got the text (3 am writing binges and all). Even now, it still hasn’t quite sunk in yet, although it comes through in bits and trickles.

Even writing this post hasn’t gone so well. Guess I’m not ready to use the past tense. Never knew that grammar could cause that kind of hurt.

She’d had kids young, and grandkids, so it’d always seemed like she’d be around. I knew she wouldn’t be. But she was only in her early seventies, and I’m thirty this May. She was only really starting to feel the years more.

But the thing is, my grandmother wasn’t the sort to dwell on those things. She always talked about, when she died, she wanted to get cremated and shot up to the sky in fireworks.

Still feels weird to be writing this. But to try and make things a little lighter right now, I figure I’d share some of the reasons she was worth all those fireworks and sparklers. Cause I can say for sure today that she helped make me some of the best parts of myself and did the same for a lot of other people. The way she lived her life was a powerful witness and impact to those around her.


My grandma was one of the most creative women I’ve ever known. She had this second trailer called the greenhouse, and it was always this magical place, with all kinds of ceramics to paint and even her own kiln to fire them in. I have one of her paintings from when she started learning how to oil paint. Just when I saw her last September, she mentioned how she was doing acrylics. She did cross-stitch and crochet and sewing—taught me how to sew, although it was my own fault that didn’t turn out so well. She always did crafts and things with us and other kids at church groups and was always so patient, even when things really didn’t turn out so well and we asked five hundred questions.


Gram wasn’t a pushover. She had soft spots for people and as she got older, those got bigger and bigger, but she still laid down the law. When I stayed with them when I was younger, I remember sitting at the kitchen table staring at a pile of cooked spinach—which I hated then with a passion. I don’t remember getting them down, but I must have, because I’m not still at that table. She didn’t come from much and had a hard life, and I was always impressed with how much she did. She never gave up, and she had a gruff surface at times, but inside was a good heart and a lot of compassion.


She always helped out in the church. I remember helping her clean the church once a week. She did crafts, she was in charge of youth activities and VBS, she did flowers for people (and for my wedding), she sang, she did meals. Her faith was this sure thing in life, and while she was far from perfect, that inspired me more, because I saw that you didn’t have to be some Sunday morning best to go into the Lord’s house. You could come just as you were and that was okay, because it wasn’t about perfect. As a teen who went through a lot of rough-around-the-edges times myself, it helped to know that wasn’t any kind of exclusion.


This came out with the faith. My Gram and Pappy took in so many people over the years. They took in us for periods of time, they took in my cousins and my aunts. Didn’t matter that for most of the time I knew them they had a single-wide trailer on the side of a hill. Didn’t matter what the situation was or how rough. Their place was this constant, safe space in my childhood. And there was never any fuss about it. It’s just what you did. What I try to do now with everyone now. For a kid who always felt like a misfit, there was a home. It’s one reason that’s so much a part of me now.


Gram knew way more about databases than I ever will. She went back to school and got a degree in data entry and medical billing and things, using more parts of MS Office and stuff than I even know exist. She never stopped working, never stopped wanting to learn and figure out things to help others. Before she passed, she had just completed her fifth semester of Leadership Training School. She was one of those people who showed me that hard work and prayer could make things happen, and one of the examples I had, giving me the guts to do all kinds of things and not give up on them, or myself. No matter how young or how old. She’s one reason I firmly, 100% believe in the potential of everyone, all of y’all readers, and why I want to spend time making sure people understand how much value they have.


Gram could be the biggest kid. She loved to travel and fly on airplanes. I remember going to amusement parks with her and her handing out money for tokens to play all the games in the arcade. She was great at getting tickets. She went to Disney, she went to Hershey Park, she went on all these trips with youth groups to different places. She went to ice skating shows. We watched scifi. I remember watching her play computer games in the 90s on her desktop. She loved going to zoos and seeing the animals, especially the giraffes.

She really loved giraffes.

Grammy and Pappy

Here’s to you, Gram. Hope you’re having a party up there with Jesus. I’ll see you again one day. Love ya bunches.

All right, gotta stop now. Tears don’t mix with keyboards.

What about y’all out there? If you want, go ahead in the comments and share about those people in your life who’ve inspired you. I’d really love to know. In sharing stories, we’re all just a bit more vulnerable and a bit stronger.

10 thoughts on “Giraffes In Heaven – The Sudden Passing of My Grandmother

  1. Thank you , Janeen, for writing this blog. It meant so much to read your thoughts. It’s like bring given a word picture of your heart. I’ve been having the family read it. We all cry, but it’s good for us. I love you!!

    Liked by 1 person

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