Editor’s Note: Sabrina Portner, Missioner who recently finished Formation and will soon be going to Bolivia to serve for two years, reflects on the love that has bloomed from her Grandmother’s life and death.
I have been greatly blessed by my time of Formation with FMS. I say this even though during the three short months I was away from home, two of my great aunts passed away, followed by their younger sister Joan, my grandma.
Before I left for Formation in August, Grandma was still living on her own, keeping busy taking care of her older sisters. A few weeks into Formation, she wasn’t feeling one hundred percent. After many doctors appointments, they determined she had stage-four cancer. She didn’t want to know how long she had left to live. Nothing has made this selfless, love-filled woman more strong than her faith in Jesus Christ. She was ready to meet him face to face at anytime (sooner rather than later).
So I was left in limbo, unsure whether to fly home to visit Grandma or wait until she passed and for the funeral, when the whole family would be together. My heart ached as my family, especially my parents, aunt, and uncle, were put under much stress taking care of my great-aunts who were sick, my grandma in hospice, and the ever time-consuming dairy farm. I just wanted to be home to help out in any way I could, but I simply couldn’t leave Formation.
During the second to last week of Formation, Grandma left this life in her sleep with my dad by her side. I wanted to be home badly. Thankfully, God blessed me with the most supportive Casa community and FMS staff I could ask for. I flew home the Sunday after Commissioning Mass.
My parents asked me to read the first reading at her funeral. Finding it hard to hold back tears while reading, I returned to my pew filled with relief that I was able to read aloud clearly. Then, I settled in to listen to my older sister, Boston, read the second reading. St. Paul beautifully described how I believe Grandma lived her life.
None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.
For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Romans 14:7-9
Grandma lived for the Lord. This love for Jesus overflowed into the way she served those around her. Though, until I heard this reading, I was struggling to understand why God decided to call her home so suddenly. Why now?
She lived her life for Jesus, therefore she would also die for Him. Jesus loved her so much that it was time for her to be forever with Him in Heaven. St. Paul’s words didn’t help me better understand why Grandma is gone, but they reassured me it’s okay to not understand. This reading filled me with love for Jesus and a longing to meet Him face to face in eternity one day. Sometimes we must stop trying to understand the mystery but rather, sit in awe of our wondrous Savior. God’s love is so immense I don’t think my human heart can contain it. However, if I let go of some of my desire to understand, there might be more room for that love. Just as the poem for the theme of Advent this year states, Had Mary been filled with reason there’d have been no room for the child.
Now, I have dedicated my time on mission in Bolivia to my Grandma Joan. Not only was she my confirmation sponsor but also an all-time example of a humble faithful servant of God. I never heard her complain once, not even when I stuck my feet in her face as a little girl while she read me stories. She is my model for going on mission and putting others before myself. Now that she has passed, I am closer to her than I ever was while she was alive. While I don’t think it has hit me yet that she is truly gone from this earth, I know she will be with me every step of the way forward.
Reflection question: What can you let go of to make more room for Jesus’ love?