To Tina With Love

My grams was not one to tell stories to a crowd, she let her writing paint those pictures for you. Story telling was reserved for my Grandpa to wide eyed grandchildren who wouldn’t know if the amazing tales he told were laden in fiction or extravagantly webbed with truth. However, a story to be told is the story of my Grams, how God worked in her life and she wove His story through all of ours.

Sinaloa, so very fondly known as Tina.

If you did not know Tina you might have know her by her emblazoned red hair which shamed any Arizona sunset. If not known for her hair, then her infectious shrilling laughter. A gasping yell that trumpeted joy above any of the noisiest family gathering, party goers, and playing children. The sound of her laugh was unmistakable, you knew the ecstasy was hers in any crowded room, and you could feel the vibration of delight in her voice. If not known for her hair, her joyous laugh, then she was known for her spiritual gifts; time, the Lord’s story, and above all, her gift of love. Her love was colossal despite her petite stature.

As the eldest grandchild, selfishly I would like to think she loved me most. Apologies to my siblings and cousins, it’s a fault of being the oldest and having been blessed with the greatest amount of memories and to have been gifted the most amount of time with her. Grandma was and is one of the most magical and precious people. Despite having her earthly flaws, the most perfect thing she knew how to do was love and to be a grandmother. She was always in competition with Grandpa for our attention, but knew there was never any contest.

He may have hung and roped the moon, but she put the shine in the stars. Grandma was simple but abounding with class and grace. From her southern inspired cooking, to her flawless ability to dress a table fit for the Rockefeller’s. From dying her hair in the kitchen sink wearing an old flannel shirt, to adorning the most elegant mink stole around her broad shouldered petite frame. She was poised but never afraid to be who God made her to be in this life. Her heart always yearned for the outdoors, yet her fashion style reflected Fifth Avenue.

In 1977 a newlywed couple gifted Tina a simple book of inspirational verses of how God moves in our lives. The dedication at the beginning of the book echoed of generations, of love, of time.

“Vance and I prayed long and hard for each and every one of our x-mas presents. The Lord blessed us with the most perfect present of all…The Gift of love and LIFE.
Merry Christmas Grandma!
Thank you for showing Christ to us. He will always be welcome in our home and our hearts. I love you, Sandy, Vance & question mark.”

I was the question mark.

40 years after my mother gifted Tina with being a grandmother, I was and am thankful for her gifts of time, love, and her greatest gift, the gift of loving and knowing Christ. Grandma always knew me best, maybe because we were both oldest children. Maybe because we were both so headstrong, stubborn, strong willed and thought life should be done our way. Or maybe because we carried a heavy burden of mercy, encouragement, leadership and stewardship with and for the Lord, she would remind me that we both have/had walked similar paths. Despite my self-inflated idea that she knew me best, the simple fact remains, she always took the time to get to know EACH and every one of her grandchildren, whether they knew it or not.

When I was six we became instant pen pals. You could find me being swallowed by the overstuffed leather desk chair in Grandpa’s office at the house on 7th place. I would play boss, leaving memo’s for each of them and doing her filing, whether she asked me to or not. She would always unplug Grandpa’s office phone so I wouldn’t get too carried away in my managerial tasks. While going about my work I would break away, as any easily distracted child would, to leave her grandiose letters and drawings. From then I found time to write her more frequently as I found she wrote me back. I was given those letters a few Christmas’ ago. My first letter to her was in 1985.

Christmas of ’85 I wrote to her of my very grown up decision to accept Christ as my Lord and savior, I was submersed in baptism January 4, 1986 and that coming Christmas she gifted me my first bible. One that I used until recently. Sitting in church one Saturday night I decided I needed a woman’s Bible. Not that toting my Disciple Youth Bible wasn’t awesome, but being in my late 30s called for something a bit more grown up. (My children use my same Bible for Sunday school.) I wrote her in June of 1987 when my parents broke the news of their divorce, and in the same letter wrote of the joys of my uncle’s impending wedding.

I wrote her again shortly after Easter of ’88 when my youngest brother was born and I wanted to visit that summer. I wrote her again the following summer after my youngest sister was born and when I took up oil painting because I wanted her to showcase my paintings like her DeGrazia’s. I wrote her every year, especially on her birthday. Sometimes I would write her once, sometimes more, and as I aged, sometimes less, then sometimes more if time permitted. Later, we were both so abundantly blessed to have email.

Email became our new letters, though I made an effort at least a half dozen times a year to send her a hand written letter. Often our correspondence included hand written letters from my children – they too about the same age as I when I began to write her. I knew the handwritten letters carried so much more weight and exhibited the same devotion of time she has granted me through the years.

My emails became more grown up but still airing the voice of a little girl sharing tales to her grandmother. I always wrote to her of my firsts. Writing to her of my high school graduation, then of the amazing man for whom I was to marry; my first child, my first miscarriage, my first daughter (and her twin brother), she and grandpa watched on live television as I was the first to graduate college. Finally, I was able to share with her my video, taken only moments after the event, of my first ADULT decision to dedicate my life to Christ. Grams became a bit of my spiritual sextant as I entered later years of adulthood, guiding me through my troubled seas through prayer and thanksgiving, reminding me again of our similar paths and life experiences. She was always the one I could call, write or email for guidance, hear her words and she would confirm my feelings for what God was telling to be true.

“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because Greater is He who is in you then he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

My Grandma was not from this world.

I struggled for days after her passing to find my words for her. As a fellow writer and artistic expressionist through words, my language felt devoid and shallow. I thought I would never be able to tell a tale as hers. Colored with rich emotion, painted with the depth of being in the moment, and woven with insight. So as my Aunt Vicia said, just as my Grams would have told me herself, ‘pray about it.’

“Let our speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that we know how to answer every man” Col 4:6

So while we mourn the loss of her earthly life, I am filled with such a tremendous joy for her eternal life, her memories, of a woman who shared an amazing lesson of His story with me. She taught me grace beyond being a lady. She mentored me about my sharp tongue that I learn to never apologize for my words. She gave unconditional love. I learned – upon accepting Christ and becoming a mother myself – the power of unconditional love, and that nothing, not even death, separates us from love.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

Amen.

Karie Herring

Karie Herring