A month ago, I sat in church at my grandma's funeral, Jason on one side, my dear friend Megan on the other. A month ago, in that church filled with family and friends, I was trying to keep some kind of composure because I would be singing at the funeral.
Four days before she passed away, right after hearing me sing at my Grandma Stout's funeral, Grandma Larson asked me to sing "His Eye is On the Sparrow" at her funeral. Her request was inspired not only by hearing me sing that Monday and many times before, but also because she had heard that Grandma Stout had written in her Bible, underneath the hymn title "Meet Me There": This is the song I want sung at my funeral.
Grandma told my aunt Jane, I want Stephanie to sing "His Eye is on the Sparrow" at my funeral.
When I heard her request--only a few hours after I had received the awful phone call from my dad--I knew that I had to do it, no matter what, no matter how hard it would be. And it would be hard. As sure as I knew anything, I knew singing at my grandma's funeral was going to be one of the hardest things I had ever done.
I had intended to spend the month of November writing about my grandma, writing about the loss of both of my grandmas, but particularly Grandma Larson who lived next door to me and whose life was inextricably threaded into mine. I wanted to write about her surviving breast cancer twice, how she loved to travel, how she passed along her love of jewelry--especially diamonds--to me. I wanted to capture everything--her favorite color was purple, her chocolate chip cookies were amazing, her faith in Jesus was inspiring.
She loved to shop.
She loved her four children, her ten grandchildren, her 17 great-grandchildren, and her 1 great-great-grandchild.
She played the piano.
She hated weeds and loved flowers.
Yesterday would have been 71 years since she had married my grandpa.
She liked to drink hot tea.
She got a manicure and a pedicure every two weeks.
I had planned on writing about all this during November, but I couldn't do it. It was just too emotionally difficult to sit at the computer every night and type, the tears springing immediately to my eyes as soon as my left index finger hit the letter g on the keyboard. The void was still too much to dwell on it night after night. The stories are still in my head, and eventually I will tell them. Maybe not here, but somewhere.
The writing I did do, however, allowed me some freedom to lose my composure. This writing, tonight, allows me to lose some composure. When I rehearsed the song for the funeral, I was keenly aware that I would not allow myself to lose my composure. I couldn't. Singing at my grandma's funeral was more than just getting up in front of people and singing. I've done that hundreds of times.
Singing at my grandma's funeral was the one thing I wanted to do to show people how much I loved my grandma, that even in my darkest hour I still believed His eye is on the sparrow.
Forty days ago, I lost my grandma. Thirty-two days ago I sat through her funeral.
In Joan Didion's book The Year of Magical Thinking, she writes in the very last sentence, "No eye is on the sparrow."
I loved that book, and it helped give voice to a lot of my grief, but Joan Didion was wrong. I don't believe that no eye is on the sparrow. If I had believed it I never would have been able to sing at my grandma's funeral. If I had believed it I never would have found any measure of comfort in the past month.
It's not just that I believe His eye is on the sparrow, I know it. Unequivocally. Unashamedly. Known.
Asking me to sing at her funeral was my grandma's final gift for me, and in a way, a gift to everyone who came to her funeral. She knew that one day she would slip into eternity, and what she wanted me to know beyond a shadow of a doubt--to believe it so deeply I could sing it in my greatest grief--is that His eye is on the sparrow.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know, I know, I know He watches over me.