I Wrote this for Gma McM’s Memorial Service

Grandma McMillan thought I had the most beautiful teeth. She told me all the time. In these past few years of her life when her short term memory left her, she exclaimed over my pearly whites about ten times per visit, each time with as much enthusiasm as the first as if she had just in that moment discovered the fact. She also gushed over my handsome sons: Did the boys love me? Did they behave? They have grown so much! Do they fight? They are very handsome. 

Although Grandma eventually had no memory of who Sebastien and Oren and I were, she knew she should know who we were and still welcomed us with a happy smile and open arms whenever we visited. Though Grandma had no memory, she was blessed with general contentment. She didn’t struggle with extreme anxiety like my other grandma, Grandma Hemphill, did in her last years. The last time I visited Grandma McM, I read some of the Psalms to her from her dilapidated Bible. In between each Psalm Grandma would stop me with genuine pleasure and joy on her face, pointing at me with her age-crooked finger,  and say, “You have grown spiritually, I can tell!” Though Grandma had no memory of my name, I really do think she knew me in that moment. She always was a bit of a clairvoyant when it came to Holy Spirit things. 

Grandma didn’t often show anger or frustration. She was always so gentle and sweet. Was she the perfect Mother? The perfect grandmother?  There is one memory that I love telling people about Grandma. In fact, I told it to some friends at dinner the night before she died. One year when she and Grandpa lived at The Home on the fifth floor, I decided to learn Russian at the university where I worked. At first I was so excited to try out my new language skills with her. We would sit in her living room and begin a very simple conversation. But every time I tried to say anything past “Здра́вствуйте, меня зовут Jeni,” Grandma would say, “No, Jeni! You must move your mouth more! You can’t get away with mumbling when you speak Russian!” And she would finish every sentence for me. We didn’t end up having very many complete conversations in Russian. It was more fruitful to write her letters. But this is one of my favorite memories of Grandma because it reminds me that she was a normal, flawed — and very Slavic—  human being after all.