I am the baby of my entire family. On my dad’s side, I am separated from my closest cousin by 6 years. When I was younger this meant a lot of missing out. I missed out on slumber parties, big kid games, and memories that were made years before I was even thought of. But most frustrating of all to my young heart was missing out on the Indy 500 for eight long years.
During these memorial day weekend Sundays the entire family would pack coolers full of water and sandwiches and drive down to Indianapolis for the greatest spectacle in racing, while I was left in Ft. Wayne with Grandma.
However, Grandma was well aware of something that my young mind could not yet understand: no matter how long she lived, she and I would have less time to spend together than she had with all of my cousins and siblings. There would be fewer chapters in my life she would witness, fewer important events she would attend, and possibly, the most painful, fewer important people to me that she would meet. It is just an unfortunate fact the rings true for any baby of the family. She understood this and went out of her way to make the days spent together precious.
Looking back I am so thankful for my youth and these days caused by it. I’m thankful for the Indy 500 Sundays spent eating ice cream for breakfast in my church clothes with Grandma. I’m thankful for the haven I found in her home during my first and loneliest year of college, and the cozy weekends I spent by her fireplace reading books and solving sudoku and word puzzles. I am thankful for the day that I, at the time a naive eight-year-old girl, sat in the kitchen, had a meaningful conversation, held my grandmother’s hand, and asked Jesus Christ to enter my heart.
Grandma got to her final destination this past Saturday, the evening before Easter. After a long three years of losing her slowly to Alzheimer’s, she was called home in a beautiful and heartbreaking finality.
The loss has left many who had the privilege of knowing her completely numb. It was a hurt everyone saw coming, and at times even longed for during these three long years. We’ve seen her in pain and confusion, and we understood that the loss for us was total freedom for her from her earthly body and mangled mind. But the finality still stings. For the first time in the life of so many, a world exists without the living breath of Phillis Jean Van Winkle Timm.
But the finality has brought to the surface so many memories, as death tends to do. This disease covered over many of these memories for so long, attempting to replace them. But in my Grandma’s freedom we have also been freed to remember the life she lived and the people she touched with this life.
I am a strong believer that if you are lucky enough to have the blood of one of God’s most faithful servants running through your veins, you have an incredible honor and responsibility to carry on the legacy. Her legacy is widespread with numerous qualities worth carrying on to distant generations. She was kind, calm, well read, a lover of cats (as all great women in history tend to be), relational, a listener, and overflowing with love.
It gets overwhelming to choose what qualities to carry on, what stories to implement deeply into my mind. However, the more I think about her the more I remember her relationships. I remember the kindness I witnessed her show to her friends, the mothering nature she showed to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and the intense partnership she created through her love for my grandpa. These relationships are her legacy and we all carry her on by the mere fact that we were loved by her, but perhaps we carry her on by forming our own relationships and choosing to love these people just as deeply as she loved us.
I have been the witness of multiple friendships over fifty years old, simply by spending time with my grandparents and their friends. I have had the honor to attend a Bob Evans breakfast with Georgi Eick, and participate in a deep prayer with Bob Yawberg. I’ve had the opportunity to watch my grandma interact with lifelong friends, and I have had the privilege of hearing her recall the stories of friends who had already passed on, friends she is now reunited with. Even in her dementia, there was a beauty in her friendships as her mind would bring her back to a place of youth, where to her the stories were still young and relevant to that very day. Her interactions with people were deep and full of concern. She would listen intently with no motivation to speak or be heard, but instead, to just hear what her friends had to say, and only offer words if needed.
I hope to carry this legacy on to my own friendships. I hope to become a better listener, someone who does not feel any need to be heard when the conversation requires that I hear. I hope to become someone who pours into those around me and develops relationships that withstand the test of time, illness, and even dementia.
Grandma’s family was everything to her. As a mother, stories tell that she was tough but was also an advocate of grace. As a grandmother, she was all grace and intentionality. Even with the entire house crammed with people, she found a way to spend quality time alone with each and every grandchild. She shared stories of her own parents and the admiration she had for them, and it was unbelievably obvious where much of her own spirit developed.
As I look toward my future, and the family I plan to make in this future, I hope to carry her tough love, her passion, and her dedication to this family unit with me. If Lord willing, I am blessed to have my own children one day, I hope I instill in them the faith, values, and adoration I witness in my father, my aunt, and my uncle. But most of all, I hope I can find a way to love my family with the intentionality and grace I was lucky enough receive from her for over 23 years.
It is Phyllis and George. That’s all it has been since they were in middle school. Their dynamic rivals any Nicholas Sparks novel or declaration of love with secret conditions that those of my generation tend to glorify. They are real. They are each other’s partner in life and best friend. One of Grandma’s only fears about death was the idea that in Heaven she would no longer be George Timm’s wife. However, even in her absence, it is impossible to consider a world, even a heaven, where George and Phyllis Timm are anything besides a single unit.
On August 4, 2018, I have the immense privilege of entering into a marriage with a man who loves me so well. This is an event I knew my grandma would be unable to attend due to her health, but now, I am sure that she will have the best seat in the house, along with my other two deceased grandparents and Andrew’s grandfather. As I enter this union, I have an incredible model of marriage to look toward, a privilege that so many my age are denied. I grew up witnessing complete codependency is the freest of forms. With this model designed over 67 beautiful years as my guide, I hope to create an unshakeable bond throughout the years to come. I hope to forever value my husband as my partner and my best friend. I hope to develop a beautiful sense of codependency, a word so negatively and mistakenly connotated by culture, on this man that chose me over every other human in the world.
My Grandma’s legacy is a long one, one made up of qualities and wisdom developed over years of learning and circumstance. It is an honor to be Phyllis Timm’s granddaughter, and a privilege to carry on her legacy until the day that I cross that road to see her again.
Rest Easy, Grams. You were, and continue to be, so loved.
One thought on “Grams”
What a fantastic testament to Phyllis – her life, faith and love. Thanks for sharing. I knew Phyllis, George & the family when they lived in Toronto & I live there for a year & a half. I feel privileged to have been in Ft Wayne & visit with them before she developed Alzheimer’s. She was in pain, but Jean brought me to their home, so I could spend a few minutes visiting with her. It was a blessing to be able to visit with the Phyllis I knew & loved many years ago. Blessings and prayers in this time of sadness, yet celebration of life and as grow in faith and love. As you continue to remember your precious grandmother may her example inspire you to answer God’s call to serve and share his love throughout your life.