Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Remembering when I was 10 - I was spending the night with Grandmother and Grandfather. I had a nightmare and knew I couldn't go back to sleep.  I don't think I had ever been in Grandmother and Grandfather's room before, so I tip-toed in.  It was all new territory for me.  The room was cozy, and the dresser built into the wall was really tall.  I slowly moved over to Grandmother's side of the bed and looked at her sleeping while I contemplated how to wake her and if it was really worth it.  I said, "Grandmother?" out-loud of a couple of times, and she didn't wake up, so I gently touched her arm."  She immediately woke up and scared me half to death.  I explained the situation.  She said, "Okay, go get back in bed."  I did, wondering why I put forth so much effort to go and get her if she was just going to tell me to go get back in bed.  Five minutes later, she came in my room, quietly crawled into the pull-out sofa bed with me and for the rest of the night (or at least it seemed to be), she stayed there with me.  She gently moved her foot back and forth under the sheet every so slightly the whole time.

Remembering when it was a week before I left for my first missions trip to Trinidad (I was 14).  I was at Grandmother's house.  My cousin Jill was there, since she was the manager for the Apartments my Grandfather owned.  Grandmother gave me a small Bible.  After I opened it, she said, "Did you read the verse inside?"  I said, 'Um, I don't see one..."  She said, "Oh, I must have forgotten to write it.  Jill, you write it, so she'll be able to read it."  Jill said, "Okay, I'll look it up, which one."  Grandmother said, "You don't need to look it up, I'll tell it to you...and I like the King James Version, it says, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth..." I still have that Bible, and 2 Timothy 2:15 has become a life-verse for me.

Remembering many Thanksgivings, all 30-40+ of us Watts, gathered at ONE table stretched between two rooms... my cousin Roberta and I always stuck right in the doorway between the two rooms... every year strategizing how to get our cousin's, Jaret and Daniel's, seats next year.  Their seats were across from us, but set up in such a way they had no one passing them.  Somehow Bertie and I must have been too busy playing every year to realize Daniel and Jaret were already in their seats long before the meal started, so there was never any way for us to get them!  Or something like that.  I think one year we did actually make it into their seats, only to be told by Jaret and Daniel that we couldn't change the tradition now, since they had "ALWAYS" sat there and everything...hmm...

Remembering Grandmother's Christmas tree... and the little porcelain doll ornaments with their legs dangling beneath them by cords... I thought those were the coolest.  Then the massive exchange of presents, all of us little cousins giving the aunts and uncles homemade ornaments... Grandmother and Grandfather's gift to all of us being the annual family reunion that would happen the following summer.

Remembering when it was my 16th birthday, and Grandmother and Grandfather were "occupying" me while my parents got the house ready for a surprise party.  I remember watching grandfather silently use a straight edge, and his #2 pencils to lightly draw grey lines on huge pieces of paper... the intricacies of architectural work that he was so gifted at.  I remember later that night at my home, opening a present from Grandmother and Grandfather.  It was a blanket with horses on it - that I still have.  I didn't realize until much later that there was a reason they weren't actually able to be at my party... Grandmother wasn't feeling well.  My party took place about a month before she went to Heaven.

Remembering Christmas day, 1998.  We went to visit Grandmother in the hospital... her first question when I arrived in the room was, "Tell me what you got for Christmas..." - she knew I was getting a guitar, and wanted to hear all about it.  Her second question was, "Did you get all the support you need for your trip to S. Asia?"  I was leaving in a couple weeks for my first trip to S. Asia- a trip that would change my life, and even in the midst of dying, her concern was if I was provided for and taken care of.

Remembering two nights before she died, I stayed with Grandmother all night in the hospital.  I slept in her room in a brown lazy-boy type chair that wasn't so comfortable.  Before we went to sleep, Grandmother asked me to read Psalm 116:7 to her.  "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you."  She asked me to read it over and over, and then she said, "Be at rest once more, O my soul," over and over...Years later, I read the rest of that verse... "Be at rest once more, O My soul, for the Lord has been good to you.  For you, O Lord have delivered by soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 116:7-9.

Two days later, I remember singing hymns with my cousins and aunts and uncles in the hospital room, watching Grandmother meet Jesus.  Leaving the hospital room in tears... Aunt Bonnie said, "I just wish Andrew and Laura could have gotten to know her more..." I said, "I wish my kids would have had the opportunity to know her..."

Remembering when I went to the grave site with Grandfather every year on the anniversary of Grandmother's death for many years after she died.  Then I moved to S. Asia, and couldn't be there, but I called and we talked about it.  And we went whenever I was home each year after that.  Remembering how for the first several years there wasn't a tombstone there, and we always had to look around and just guess where she might be.  It was a little comical, but neither of us laughed.  Since it was Dec 28th, it was always frigid cold outside, and we only stayed a few minutes.  He or I would share a memory of Grandmother and then one of us would pray.

Remembering when it was last year, November, a couple of days before my wedding...I took Grandfather for breakfast at IHop on Main Street in Newark.  Then I asked him, "Did you want to go to Grandmother's grave?"  His reply: "That would be nice."  So we did.  That day combined with my wedding day just later that week are the last wonderful memories I have of Grandfather.  He wrapped me in Grandmother's fur coat as I left my wedding reception.  I did see him when we returned from our honeymoon, but it was in the hospital, and then later in his home, but by then he was already slipping away from life on earth.

Little does Grandfather know that one of my biggest dreams in life was for my husband to have known him.  I literally used to day-dream about how God would provide a husband for me and used to pray that it would happen before Grandfather died, or somehow that they could know each other.   And God answered that prayer, and allowed Jason and me to get married before Grandfather died.  I consider that an incredibly unique gift and blessing from the Lord.

Remembering last year around this day, when my sister Natalie sent a text saying, "Come now... Grandfather is dying... I don't know what to do..." Being in Florida, feeling worlds away from my family, not knowing what to do.  Finally booking a flight and meeting my Aunt Roberta and Aunt Bonnie at the Philadelphia airport.  My cousin David picked us up in his car and "flew" us to 6 Annabelle street where we made it before Grandfather died.  He wasn't alert, but we invested the next 2 days in worship, hymns and stories of a long life lived for God's glory.  Those moments are preciously cemented into my mind.

Remembering when the Watts family gathered together, all 129+ of us at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina this past summer... it was perhaps the hundredth watts family reunion, but it was the first one without Grandmother AND Grandfather.  The littlest of the Watts family running here and there, not much realizing Grandfather wasn't sitting there under the tarp tent, in his beach chair with his black socks pulled up to his knees.  The older members of the Watts family looking over the sand dune at the family... the legacy built by God's grace through Grandmother and Grandfather... and they missed them.  They missed Grandfather.  And they missed Grandmother.  They missed them terribly.

Remembering this year already, one year almost since the day Grandfather went to be with Jesus.  Too many hard memories accompany this Christmas season.  Grandmother died Dec 28, 1998, and Grandfather died Dec 29, 2013.

Surely a death at Christmas is the worst time.

Yet, maybe it is the best time.

The lyrics of Christmas carols remind us of the sovereign plan of God from the beginning of time to send His son to save us.  The lights on the tree and homes in our neighborhood remind us of Jesus, the Light of the World that was born that night.  The together-ness that we have with those still here reminds us that we are not alone and that we are still alive here for a purpose.

These things don't reduce the missing and the longing for those not here, but they can redeem it, as we, by His grace, choose to focus on His faithfulness to us in all things.

Today, and this week in particular, I want to remember God's faithfulness.
    His faithfulness to us by creating this world and giving us life, at this unique moment in history, in our own particular families and locations, for His greatest glory and our good.
    His faithfulness through redeeming our sinful lives by the life and death, resurrection, ascension and future-return of His Son, Jesus.
    His faithfulness to our family, especially through the legacy of Grandmother and Grandfather.  He gives us what we need and so much more.

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