My Grandma Gave Me a Machine Gun

Grandma L. 1924-2013
Every year on Christmas Eve as a child, we would go to my Grandma L’s house for a gift exchange and finger food.  Between my two sets of grandparents, when it came to receiving gifts, Grandma L. was totally unpredictable and a huge success.  While Grandma F. gave her hand-crafted crocheted booties, capes and purses (which I treasure to this day), my Grandma L. gave my first portable radio and a toy machine gun.  Yes, a gun.  My mother was mortified, and I was puzzled. 

Did she know me? Maybe she did.  Not that I like guns – I hate them.  But I prized that silly toy because I liked playing GI Joe with my brother, and I finally had my own gun, and when I pushed the trigger, it made cooler sounds than his.  I liked it that she didn’t stereotype me or put me in a mold of what a sweet little girl should be or have.

My Grandma L. came to my birthday parties and graduations and my out-of-state wedding.  But it seemed we were from two different worlds.  We never really knew what to say to each other.  She never really knew me. And I never really knew her.

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2013 was to get to know my Grandma L., my last living grandparent.  Just going to her house to visit seemed awkward, especially since her dementia had gotten worse. I needed a reason to be there, so I asked my Aunt Sal if there was anything I could do to help take care of her.  She insisted that she didn’t need my help but would call when she did.

Visiting her in the hospital was easier, less awkward.  When she was there with a kidney infection, I prayed with her. I think I scared her.  I didn’t really know what she believed about God.  She didn’t go to church. I didn’t pray with her because I thought she was dying.  I wanted God to be near, to ease her pain, and bring her comfort.

She was in the hospital again a few months later, this time with a cancer diagnosis.  At 89 years old, she decided she just wanted to go home and not endure any treatments.  Again, I offered my assistance through Aunt Sal. 

The day after Thanksgiving, my mom and I were visiting with Grandma L. I don’t know why I had a hard time being more courageous to share the most important thing in the world to me, but the door just never seemed to swing open.

Until we were leaving.  “If only you could get me a…..”, she mumbled as we said our good-byes and headed to the door.  

My mom and I looked at each other. Was it worth asking her to repeat it or just continue on out the door?  I turned, leaned toward her lying in her bed, and asked her what it was she wanted.  “Get me a shotgun, so that I can end all this."
Me, my daughter, my mother, & my Grandma L

Grandma L. spent her life taking care of people who were ill and dependent on others for their basic needs, and now, it was her turn to be cared for, and the feeling of being a burden to others was overwhelming.  But with her words, the door finally swung open for me, and the words poured out, words of God’s love for her, His purpose and mysterious plan in her suffering.

Last Friday morning, I felt the pressing desire to go see my Grandma L., to read my Bible to her, to talk with her and encourage her.  Perhaps I would go that evening, or later in the weekend.  But that afternoon, I found out that she was at the hospice house for care because she wasn’t doing well.  My decision was set – I put my Bible in my purse and I courageously went to see her that night with every intention to talk about all the things that were never said.

As I sat with her, she would not wake up.  Two of my aunts were there and said she had not woken up in a couple days.  I decided not to be deterred, that perhaps even through her labored breathing, she could hear.  What passages do you read to someone who may be near death?  I opened my Bible to the latter half of Romans 8, held her hand, and read God’s words to her.  Then I turned to Psalm 23.  When I finally looked up and away from my Grandma L.’s face, Aunt Dee was still present, and tears were streaming from my Aunt Sal’s eyes.

When the nurse entered the room to turn my Grandma L. to her other side, she said that the end of this life was very near for her.  My mom was stuck in a snowstorm in the Ozark mountains, so I stayed to be her eyes and ears, wanting to be there until she took her last breath.  I stroked my Grandma L.’s hair, told her I loved her, told her Jesus loved her and was waiting for her with His arms open wide if she would just believe and go to Him.  

Grandma L. passed away at 3:05 am that night.  God gave me a vision, a vision of her arising and going to Jesus, and Jesus embracing her in His arms. 



  1. Hi Paula! Oh my. This post really touched me. You decided not to be put off, and read to your Grandma anyway. That is faith, my sister. And they do say that hearing is the last sense to go, so I bet she heard you too.
    Sometimes it's really hard to get to know people, even our own relatives. But your Grandma made her presence known through her presents and presence at all your special times. And there you were at her most special time...going to see the Lord.

    I am so happy that you had that vision too. She is at peace. And I hope that you are getting there too.
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. It couldn't have been easy for you.

    1. Thank you for your compassionate words and encouragement, Ceil. God bless you!!

  2. This brought tears to my eyes more than once. I skimmed once and had to go back and read slowly. I understand that unwelcome awkwardness that just doesn't seem to free the tongue. I am so glad that the moment came with that open door. I am so glad that you were able to be there with her at the end. And I am SO VERY glad that you were given that gift of a vision of her going home to Jesus.

    1. Thank you Jenn! Thank you for listening and understanding and being glad for me. God bless you!