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Healed Wounds {Grandma’s Funeral & My Trip to My Ohio Hometown}

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Early in the morning on Wednesday, September 26, 2019, my grandmother finally passed into glory. I say finally because we expected her to pass away over a year ago. I wrote this eulogistic post last March as my way of saying goodbye to her. This post is not meant to be about her death or her funeral or even her legacy. But all of that is and will be intertwined with everything I’m about to say, which is why I am starting this post this way.

In the days immediately following her passing, I did my best from North Carolina to help my mom (in Illinois) finalize the details for my grandmother’s funeral (in Ohio). I spent nearly a full day creating collages, selecting funeral flowers, creating spreadsheets, selecting and copying music, and contacting cousins and other extended family members. I had known long in advance many of the details, but now it was time to enact those plans.

There were a few hymns my grandmother wanted that I couldn’t find. Not because they didn’t exist, but because a few years ago I packed up several boxes of songbooks, hymnals, and sheet music and dropped them off at Goodwill as a way of angrily purging my life from fundamentalism. This was the first time I regretted that decision.

I traveled alone, and my drive up was uneventful. About an hour outside of my final destination, I met with a friend I hadn’t seen since we both left the same Christian school at the end of 2002. We had reconnected on Facebook at the end of 2016, when I sent her this message:

I don’t know if you remember me. I’m hoping this is you, formerly {name}? I have searched for you so many times. I think I finally found you!

It turns out that we had a lot in common, so reconnecting via Facebook – and then in person – was very sweet. I think this is what started the flood of memories and nostalgia that overpowered me the entire duration of my stay in Ohio.

The first evening there was spent reconnecting with family members as they trickled in from out of town, one after the other. My parents and grandpa, two brothers, one nephew, two uncles, a few cousins, and on and on it went.

The next morning, we went through Grandma’s things in the hotel lobby, while the “grownups” talked with the officiating pastor about the service plans. Grandma had set out pearls for me, and I helped myself to a pair of pearl earrings and a few pictures to go with it.

Then, I and my brother (and his wife and son and my mom), headed over to the church to practice. It wasn’t where the funeral was to be held, but it was a reliable place with a piano that we all knew. It was the church we had attended for six years. They were six formative years though, so it felt like a lot longer than that. It felt like home.

Grace Church of Mentor Ohio

Too many memories to name swirled through my mind as my fingers touched the familiar piano where I had first played a church solo and where I had Saturday lessons for years and years and years. Okay, not that many. My mind ran like my feet used to run through the aisles during choir practice while my dad hung out in the sound booth that he built with his own hands…or over the fellowship hall floor that used to be wrapped in plastic wrap once a year for the Minuteman evangelistic WAR meetings while my mom prepped 300 some-odd hotdogs for hungry, sweaty teenagers.

I was left alone as the rest of them ran across the street to the church offices to copy the hymns I needed for the funeral that I couldn’t find at home. I picked up Hymns Modern and Ancient off the piano and was surprised to find the strangest mix of songs that I never knew existed. Talk about worlds colliding! I didn’t know that Ron Hamilton and the Gettys ran in the same circles, but in this hymnal, they did. I opted to skip over “Almighty, Unchangeable God” and “Bow the Knee”. I found myself tinkering through the songs we sang at MY church, like “There is a Higher Throne” and “Grace Unmeasured”.

“There is a higher throne
Than all this world has known,
Where faithful ones from ev’ry tongue
Will one day come.

And there we’ll find our home,
Our life before the throne;
We’ll honor Him in perfect song
Where we belong.
He’ll wipe each tear-stained eye
As thirst and hunger die.
The Lamb becomes our Shepherd King;
We’ll reign with Him.

Hear heaven’s voices sing;
Their thund’rous anthem rings
Through em’rald courts and sapphire skies.
Their praises rise.
All glory, wisdom, pow’r,
Strength, thanks, and honor are
To God our King, who reigns on high

There is a Higher Throne

Grace unending all my days
You’ll give me strength to run this race
And when my years on earth are through
The praise will all belong to You

Grace will lead me to heaven
Where I’ll see Your face
And never cease
To thank You for Your grace

-Grace Unmeasured

My grandma loved to sing. I talked about that in my eulogy – but I wasn’t the only one who brought it up. So the lyrics just reminded me of where Grandma is and what she’s doing:  “We’ll honor Him in perfect song…Where we belong…Hear heaven’s voices sing; Their thund’rous anthem rings…”

I decided to add these two songs to my funeral prelude music.

By the time we finished practicing our music and eating lunch, and catching up with my old babysitter who was working there at the time, we had almost no time before we had to rush to the funeral home for the viewing.

From 4PM til about 7:30PM the stream of people flowed in and out of the funeral home. An uncle of mine estimated there were over 200 people. I saw many people from our old church – where my grandparents had attended in the latter years of their life. Some I expected. Others I was shocked in the best way to see.

The morning of Grandma’s funeral, I decided that hotel coffee simply wasn’t going to cut it, so I left early to hit a Starbucks on the way. Instead of taking the highway, I let Mentor Avenue guide my path to the funeral. I had just enough time to stop by Garfield Park. It was really this decision that set off a course of events which has led me to writing this post.

I wanted to go by Garfield Park because that’s where we always had pool passes for the summer. As a mama who now takes her own babies to the pool all summer long, I wanted to see what it looked like from a mom’s perspective. I wasn’t surprised to see that it was smaller than I remembered – as is everything from my childhood. What DID surprise me, though, was a Little Free Library box by the entrance to the pool.

Garfield Park Mentor Ohio

I have not yet had a chance to write a blog post about this on my own blog, but you can read about my love affair with Little Free Library on a guest-post for one of our local blogs, Triad Moms on Main, here. If you are unfamiliar with how LFL works, it’s basically a network of “book boxes” where the public patrons can “leave a book, take a book.” I regularly make outings with the boys of visiting our local Little Free Libraries. So, once again – worlds colliding here. I got super duper excited and snapped a picture to send to the boys. I then moseyed my way down the path to the white house where I used to go to preschool. There was a barre class about to start. I poked my head into the room and got a few strange looks, and then just turned and walked away.

I decided that I needed to find out where the other LFL boxes were! But now it was time to focus on the funeral.

I ended up where I’m happiest, tucked in a corner behind a piano. Right where I belong. I played the hymns my grandma had loved and requested, and a few others than I added in. I added background music to a few of Grandma’s journal entries which were read by her closest friends. I accompanied my music-pastor-brother while he sang the old hymn, “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus,” and while he played “When We All Get to Heaven” on the trumpet.

Davis Babcock Funeral Home

Before my eulogy, I handed the Majesty Hymnal that I had ended up just borrowing from our old church to my uncle, who had tearfully requested the lyrics to “I Saw Jesus in You” for his eulogy. At the end of the hour-and-a-half-long funeral service, I added “I Saw Jesus in You” to my postlude.

Davis Babcock Funeral Home

It wasn’t until I got to the side of my grandma’s grave that my tears began to flow. I think it was more of an emotional release than it was sheer sadness. I regained my composure while the officiating pastor gave the final words. Then it was time for the final hymn, “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.” Tears aside, this hymn is probably on my running list of trigger-inducing hymns-I-wouldn’t-care-if-I-never-heard-again. As my music-pastor-Brother began to lead – full composure in tact – I decided not to sing, but prayed he would make it through without crying. But then, directly behind me I heard my atheist-agnostic-ish brother and my pagan-Wiccan brother start to sing. Gosh, well if they can sing it then I have to! 

And just like that, Grandma’s funeral was over. Everyone began to disperse. I gave last hugs to my kindergarten and first grade teachers. I chatted briefly with my old assistant pastor’s wife. Then we gathered for a catered meal. Olive Garden felt like heaven at that point, just sayin… 

We walked back across the street to the funeral home to pick up the flowers and photos. I gave my mom a hug and then skedaddled. I was family-ed out. I walked a block over to a quaint downtown area where another long-time (ex-fundy) friend had recently opened up a boutique. I plopped down exhaustively there next to her and chatted for another hour or so.

I had originally planned to go ice skating at a public skate session there in town from 4-5:30, but as the clock neared 4 I knew I just didn’t have it in me. Instead, I pulled up the list of Little Free Libraries I had made and decided, once again, to take a more scenic route back to my hotel. It had begun to pour, but I didn’t much mind. I’m crazy like that.

Overlook Beach Park Mentor-on-the-Lake

I visited library after library, and was led through town past landmark after landmark. The park I used to go to as a little girl where I took Ezra back to when he was 8 months old and he swung on the swing with my grandma. One house we lived in for a year. The last house my grandparents owned.

My maxi skirt and dress top were soaked and I was beginning to get cold, but just one more…just one more…

I ended up in the parking lot of another church we attended for six years (from when I was a baby until I was about six) and Christian school I attended for kindergarten and first grade. Again, the flood of memories kept whirling. The field day that coincided with a solar eclipse. The trumpet the pastor used to play at the beginning of VBS. The under-duckies on the swings. The basketball games. The smell of the classrooms. The stinky sleeping bags piled on the sidewalk after a long week of camp.

Bible Community Church Mentor Christian School

Bible Community Church Mentor Christian School

I finally had weaved my way back to the hotel, where I showered, changed, and decided to head right back out. There were more libraries to visit and more reminiscing to do. Another old house to drive by and a library to visit.

I walked into the library I went to as a child and was really confused. This was the one place that looked completely unfamiliar. I had remembered walking down the ramp to the children’s section in the basement but the sign said that the children’s section was on the second floor. I climbed the stairs and the perky librarian asked, “Can I help you find something?” I just kind of laughed and explained to her that I remembered things quite differently. She made me feel a lot less crazy when she told me that the library I remembered had been torn down, but that she had heard about that ramp!

Phew, I may have been traipsing all over town in a downpour when I could have been soaking up alone time in my hotel room watching gymnastics, but I hadn’t completely lost my mind! I took this as my hint to call it a night.

I laid in bed that night knowing that I needed to hit the road early in the morning. But what if…

The next thing I knew, I was Googling the Christian school I attended from 3rd grade to 9th. I saw that there were three staff members from “back in my day” that were still on staff, including my 8th grade Bible teacher (who was now the principal). As I drifted off to sleep, I formulated a plan – if I woke up in time, that is.

Sure enough, my internal body clock woke me up at 6:20 – per mom life. I had laid out a pink t-shirt and black leggings to wear on the way home, but I decided to re-wear the skirt that I wore to the viewing.

That’s when I knew I have healed.

Because I didn’t think, “What will they think of me if I show up in pants?” 

But instead thought, “It really is the least I can do to show respect and gratitude to people who have poured into my life.”

This is the moment everything up til this moment formed into this realization of healing. Because not once during the last few days had I been triggered. Not one hymn. Not one shudder induced by a smell or a sight. No anger. No pain. No regret. Just genuine gratitude and bittersweet joy for my family, for my grandma’s prayers, for the good old hymns, for each and every last memory.

I hit the road in my maxi skirt driving the same roads my mom drove us for a year – 42 miles each way – that first year at our Christian school before we relocated specifically to be closer to said school. My heart raced as I pulled up at 7:56 AM. ON TIME (for once in my life). I was shocked to find the doors closed and the lights off. It’s a Thursday morning in October, so I wasn’t really sure what was going on.

Heritage Christian School Brooklyn, Ohio Cleveland

I drove around to the church (not a church we attended but the church that ran the school) and found a lone human being to chat with. She found out that the school was closed because faculty and staff were away at a teacher’s conference. We stood there in the doorway of the fellowship hall of the church. I told her this was the room I was in when I found out about 9/11 during a chapel service.

Heritage Christian School Brooklyn, Ohio Cleveland Baptist Church

I walked her through the rundown of all of my teachers, and she told me where each one was now.

As she walked me out to my vehicle, she apologized again for the school being closed. I shrugged it off. I told her that I guess I just wanted to let them know that I’m thankful, most especially for the long Scripture passages they made us memorize each year. John 14. Psalm 139. John 3. Philippians 2.

I told her this story:

The other day, my son pulled a Scripture verse out of the jar at the YMCA and read it to me. I told him, “I think that’s Psalm 1!” He looked at me incredulously. Ever an over-achiever, I bragged to him that I had the entire chapter of Psalm 1 memorized. He had to help me in a few spots as I moved from verse to verse, but I had all of the individual verses memorized. It was a moment. And I owed that to them.

At this point, there was only one place left to visit – one I hadn’t planned on – but hey, go big or go home, right?

I drove to yet another house we lived in and took some selfies at the waterfall at the creek behind our house.

Seven Hills Ohio

My last stop (aside from the Little Free Libraries I was still tracking down!) was the last church I attended in Ohio. These wounds are fresher, which is why I hadn’t planned on coming. I wasn’t sure if I felt relieved or disappointed when I pulled up and the parking lot was empty.

Broadview Heights Baptist Church Ohio

It looked like there was a hallway light on, which didn’t make any sense. I got out of my car and tried the door, assuming it would be locked. To my surprise, it opened.

The church office was locked and no one was in sight. I wandered down the hallways thinking I’d find some lone soul in a classroom or nursery room somewhere. Some lone soul never appeared.

For about 15 minutes I wandered around and peeked in every nook and cranny of the place.

Broadview Heights Baptist Church Ohio

Broadview Heights Baptist Church Ohio

I read missionary prayer letters and looked and pictures on bulletin boards of people I used to know. I laughed when I saw young girls STILL wearing culottes made from the same old pattern everyone was using when I was there. Then I took a deep breath and left.


Yesterday, I re-potted the plants from the planter I had brought home from Grandma’s funeral. I gave up on houseplants a few years back as part of a step toward some serious self-care, but something about this whole experience made me want to start again.

For all her faults (which were many), Grandma poured a lot of love and prayers into my life. When I ordered the flowers representing the great-grandkids for her funeral, I specifically asked for plants that would live on. (Partially, because I’m an entitled millennial who thinks that spending money on funeral flowers which are just going to die is really dumb, but I digress.) I knew that I wanted to bring something home from the funeral – something that would live on and honor my grandmother’s memory.

It’s just a plant, but as it sits in the room where we do most of our homeschooling, it represents the promise I made to my grandma in my eulogy:

I can assure you that I will see you again in heaven. I can assure you that “not all who wander are lost.” I can assure you that the legacy of faith that you passed onto my mom who passed it on to me will pass on to my children as well.


I called my mom during the midst of this last morning of memories and told her, “I feel really silly. I don’t even really know what I’m doing…”

She replied, “You’re healing.”

I’ve thought a lot about those words. But I think it would be more accurate to say that all of this – the viewing, the funeral, the hugs from long-lost friends, the library boxes, the old houses and old schools and old churches – it showed me how much I have already healed. 

For nearly a decade, one of my favorite songs has been Heal the Wound by Point of Grace:

I used to wish that I could rewrite history
I used to dream that each mistake could be erased
Then I could just pretend
I never knew the me back then

I used to pray that You would take this shame away
Hide all the evidence of who I’ve been
But it’s the memory of the place You brought me from
That keeps me on my knees and even though I’m free

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart, take the pieces of this heart
And heal the wound but leave the scar

I have not lived a life that boasts of anything
I don’t take pride in what I bring
But I’ll build an altar with the rubble that You’ve found me in
And every stone will sing of what You can redeem

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart, take the pieces of this heart
And heal the wound but leave the scar

Don’t let me forget
Everything You’ve done for me
Don’t let me forget
The beauty in the suffering

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart, take the pieces of this heart
Heal the wound but leave the scar

So, I guess this trip was me realizing that the wound is healed. Yes. There are still scars. Deep scars. Some scars that are fresher than others. Some scars deeper than others. Many more recent wounds still need healing.

But healing has happened.

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  • tonycutty

    You tell a great story, Aprille. And you manage to build in some really profound insights at the same time. So glad you have found your healing 🙂

  • Mom

    As I read this I could not help but walk memory lane with you. And yes there is healing… for all of us who have walked this path. Each in our own way. And we are free to go forward. But I think we no longer want to run from our past and leave it all behind. We take it with us, the good, the sweet, and the healing scars. We go forward a more complete person… because we can and because through everything God was walking beside us holding our hands, drying our tears and leading us to all that the future holds.

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