“To give you some history about my grandmother, Clarellen Solloway Mitchell, was born on March 27, 1930, in South Bend, Indiana. My grandmother got married to Paul Mitchell in 1949 in South Bend. Paul worked on a feed mill and my grandmother stayed at home with their 3 children. Unfortunately, Paul passed away unexpectedly in a car accident in 1957. Crazy enough, my grandmother went on to marry Paul’s brother (her previous brother in-law) in 1959. People would always find this so strange, but my grandma would always remind us that this is ‘biblically correct.’ George and Clarellen had 2 more children, one of which was my mother. George was a farmer and my grandma spent her time taking care of the farm workers, while raising her 5 children. She and George were married for 30 years, but George also passed away unexpectedly after being hit by a train in his truck on a foggy night.
My grandmother was now a widow twice and had 5 children to now raise on her own. Clarellen had experienced so much loss in her life, but always pulled herself up by her bootstraps and stayed the most joyful, selfless human I’ve ever met. She went on to raise her 5 beautiful children, all of whom have turned out to be nothing short of incredible. My grandmother then went on to work at an elementary school and at Hamilton Grove in food service, which happened to be the same assisted living place she passed away at later on.
With all of that being said, my grandmother also experienced health problems throughout her life. While I was growing up, my grandma always had heart problems on and off, having multiple open-heart surgeries. She would always recover beautifully and quickly, which is something I was always so impressed by. The fact that she lived to be 88 after encountering so many trials and tribulations shows how strong she truly was.
My grandmother and I have always had a great relationship. We never lived extremely close to each other, but we have always made it a point to stay a big part of each other’s lives. I remember my grandma coming to visit for weeks at a time when I was younger, and wanting to sleep with her, although she would snore so loudly all night long! I didn’t care, because it was extra time I would get to spend by her side. We went on vacations together, and talked on the phone during the spans of time we were apart. I would keep her updated on both the positives and negatives happening in my life, and she would pray for me, stand by my side, and encourage me all along the way. Growing up, my favorite part about going to visit was our trip to the Dollar General. She would give me $3 dollars to spend on anything I wanted, and I was always so excited to get something there because it was from her!
She was my hero, and she was someone I always looked up to and wanted to be exactly like. I just found it so admirable that even after losing 2 husbands and undergoing so many health problems, that she continued to have so much joy in the Lord. She would always tell me, ‘Kellie, the joy of the Lord is my strength.’ Her relationship and love for the Lord was something I always strived to mimic. She held prayer groups at her house each week up until her passing. She would pray for each and every one of our family members, and thank God for each and every success we all encountered. She was our prayer warrior.
In high school, I remember my grandmother talking to me on the phone one night and telling me that she had told the Lord and herself that she just wanted to be able to see me get married one day. I am the second to youngest grandchild, so she had seen many of her grandchildren get married. Secretly, this made me want to push away finding a boyfriend, if it meant I got to keep my grandma longer. I would’ve never told her this! She would remind me of this goal she had set for herself each time we talked on the phone. I didn’t want to let her down, but I also wanted to keep her forever.
Well, my grandmother was getting older and so was I. I was in a pretty serious relationship with my boyfriend at the time and I was about to graduate from college. The day before graduation, I got engaged! The first thing I had to do was call my grandmother and share the exciting news. She cried tears of joy for me and it was such a special moment.
As the engagement continued, I wanted my grandma to be a part of my day, but she lived so far away in Indiana. We set up a time for my grandmother to come visit and I counted down the days so she could share the experience of wedding dress shopping with my mom and me. Of course, things didn’t work out for her to be there for the ‘actual’ dress moment, but her being there that day holds such a special place in my heart.
My grandma continued to count down the days until my wedding and was just so excited for our big day. I remember praying that my grandma would stay healthy enough to be able to attend, and she did the same. I was so honored to be able to have her share that day with me. She was absolutely glowing that day with happiness, and I knew she had been praying for my relationship and that our day would be perfect. She was there for whatever we needed that day, and I loved seeing how proud she was of me.
After the ceremony, my grandmother, mother, and I took a picture of all of our hands together. We just thought it would be neat! Little did my mom and I know, that this picture would come to mean the world to us.
Well 2 years passed and my grandma’s health started to decline. She was in and out of assisted living at this point and had congestive heart failure. She finally seemed to recover and was sent to live back at home. We were all so excited for her to be back in the comfort of her own home. My grandmother never gave up, and never let anything stop her. She could never miss a Sunday at church. This particular Sunday, her blouse was wrinkled, so she had to head to the basement to get her iron. The doctor had told her not to use the stairs, but it was important to her to look her best at church. This sent her back into assisted living with congestive heart failure again. From here, I remember talking to her on the phone and just knowing she didn’t sound as strong as she had. That was a hard moment for me to take in, because my grandma had always been the strongest person I’ve known.
A few days later, at 5:00 a.m., my phone was buzzing. I turned over in bed and saw my mom was calling. At that moment, I knew exactly what it was. I sobbed and sobbed selfishly because I knew how bad I missed her. After a few hours of trying to be consoled, I realized how much happier my grandma was, now that she was back with her husbands and dancing in Heaven with the Lord. This is something she had always talked about and dreamed of and it makes me smile when I think about how happy I know she is now. Of course, I still think of her every day, but our generational hands picture is something I cherish so greatly now. I look at this picture so often, and just seeing her hand makes it feel like she is here holding mine. Some days are easier than others, but I find myself constantly listening to old voicemails just to hear her voice again.
Three weeks passed, and I randomly shared a Facebook post about a chance to win a free painting class with a friend at a place called Pine and Pigment in our area. Those 3 weeks had been really hard, but I found out that I won the Facebook contest and invited my mom. My mom and I had talked every day on the phone about how much we missed my grandma, and decided to use this opportunity to honor her life.
Flashback to about 6 years ago, my grandmother gave me the most special gift. My grandmother had a beautiful necklace that had an angel holding a mustard seed. She wore it all the time, but passed it along to me. This necklace was a reminder that faith as small as a mustard seed, can truly move mountains. Although this may not be an expensive or brand-new gift, it is the most precious thing I’ve ever received. I decided to use this Bible verse of Matthew 17:20 on my painting to honor her life.
My mother decided to use another special hymn that reminded us of my grandmother. At her funeral, we sang, ‘It Is Well With My Soul,’ and we could literally feel her presence in the room as this was one of her favorite hymns. We now both have these pieces hanging in our houses as a constant reminder of how much she loved us, but also how much the Lord loves us.
My grandmother may not physically be here anymore, but I always feel like she is here watching over me. To be honest, I feel like she is closer to me now than ever before. She’s my perfect angel and I cannot wait to see her again someday in Heaven. Until then, I know she will be dancing with my grandpa and the Lord.”
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