When I received a call from my younger sister early on a Tuesday morning in late November, I had a feeling that something was going on. The feeling grew as she began to ask me if I had heard from my mom or my brother or anyone else in the family. Then she proceeded to inform me that my grandmother on my mother’s side of the family had passed away early that morning.
Nella Dean "Indy" Whitten
It was November 29, 2011. If she had stayed alive until December 8, she would have celebrated her 89th birthday. Her death did not come as a shock. She had been struggling with Alzheimer’s for over a decade and was slowly deteriorating in both mental and physical capabilities. However, her soul remained the same. She was that vibrant lady who loved people and wanted them to know how much God loved them too. Her love for God and people sent her overseas as a missionary with her husband to places like Argentina, Spain and the equatorial islands off the coast of Africa. Even in retirement, she continued to reach out to people with the love of Christ. Even as her memories began to fade and she no longer remembered things or recognized people, she continued to seek out those who needed a little extra attention.
Stephen and I decided that we would attend her funeral, since there was less than eight hours driving distance between Lake Jackson, Texas and Jackson, Mississippi. As I made my plans to visit, I felt a tugging in my heart to write a poem in memory of her. As I weighed the pros and cons of taking on this creative endeavor, I began to remember all the birthdays that she would send me a personal birthday card that she had made herself, complete with her own poem. Then, I knew I had to do it.
Once I told my mom about it, she suggested at once that I read it at the funeral. So, without further ado, here is the poem I read for on December 2, 2011 at Nella Dean “Indy” Whitten’s funeral.
Lost and Found Memories
By Cristina Meier
I can see her now walking as she once was,
an excited girl figure on the edge of the shore
She’s young now and walks so lightly
Having recently entered the land of legend and lore
Her hair is vibrant red, tumbling down her back
Blowing and reflecting the sunrise before her
Her eyes are dancing, full of laughter and light,
Her smile is a radiance of joy, steady and sure
She picks up a shell lying close to her feet
It’s one of many on the sands of vast memories
Scooping up a handful, she takes a moment and
Sighing she whispers, “These are my memories.”
Joyfully she fills the basket beside her,
digging her toes deep into the warm, moist sand.
She stops periodically to stare at each shell
turning them over gently in the palm of her hand.
Some of them bring smiles and periodic giggles
Some bring a sigh and an occasional tear
But each memory is a treasure to her
Each moment…each hour; each day…each year.
“Oh, yes, I remember now,” she says,
Each empty space filled to the last strand
Like long-lost treasures slowly found
Forever mysteries she can now understand
And she finds that she is not alone here
Looking over at the person walking her way
Jumping up she runs to meet him
She’s never met a stranger in her day.
She pauses for a brief moment, looking up
And the man smiles down at her.
His arms stretch out to share a greeting;
A gesture to quickly welcome her.
She looks carefully down at the strong hands
Each bearing the scar of an old Roman nail.
The bruises each tell their own story
Grasping them eagerly, she knows of their tale.
“Do you remember me, child?” he asks.
“Yes, Lord,” she says, “I do.”
“For your love has been a part of me
And part of everything that I knew.”
“Welcome, home, my daughter!”
His voice rings loud and clear,
And that’s how the story should end
Without shame, free of pain and fear.
Hand-in-hand with her Savior
She skips along at his side.
In her free hand hangs her basket
Collected memories gleaming inside.
Together they pause at the edge of the shore;
Together they lift up the basket to the sea.
Tossing shells out to the oncoming waves
Sending them back to where they’re meant to be.
For nothing is lost that has now been found.
Her treasures are far greater than we can know.
She has found them all in love everlasting
Within the arms of Him who loves her so.
© By Cristina Meier