Our Keepsake Journal is Here! 🎉

My last living grandparent passed away in October, and I’ve been thinking a lot about life after grandparents.

My grandfather was 87-years-old when he died of cancer. Before that, he was married to my grandmother for 61 years and lived a long and happy life with his two daughters, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. He was a man of faith, and I know he is in a better place.

His death wasn’t especially tragic. He grew old and passed away, as humans do. And, yet, it still hurts. I even feel like I need to qualify this essay with an, “I know some people my age have lost parents, siblings, and spouses. I know I’m lucky to have known all four of my grandparents and to have had them in my life for so long” clause. Indeed, I am lucky. But I’m still hurting, and as a result, I’ve been meditating on some of the ways my life has changed since losing Granddaddy Bray:

  • Intellectually I know that life is fragile and that anyone can pass away at any time. But, emotionally, I’m now feeling a little terrified that the perceived buffer between my parents and death has been removed. It felt like as long as I had a living grandparent, my parents were “safe,” and of course I was too. (I know this idea is totally illogical, but hearts can be like that.) With no grandparents, I’ve had to really come to grips with the idea of losing my parents and of facing my own death someday. I think it’s impossible to really brace yourself for such a thing, but I have started thinking about it more, which leads to my next point:
  • This loss has served as a reminder to be more eternally focused. Our current bodies are broken shells in a fallen world. This life is but “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). What will matter a year, a decade, a century, or a millennium from now? Am I living as if the Most Important Things are the most important things? Could anyone else tell that from the outside? I think I’ve got some work surrendering to do.
  • As I said, my grandparents were married for 61 years. Happily married. It was really something to witness. My grandmother passed away about 5 years ago, and my grandfather was by her side every step of the way. They were such a pair that now that Granddaddy is gone, Ma seems more gone. Her death seems more final because as long as he was here, a part of her was, too. I miss them both tremendously.
  • Because both of my Bray grandparents are gone, my mom and aunt will eventually sell my grandparents’ house. When I walked through the house after the funeral, I thought to myself, “I was really happy here.” I thought of all the Thursday nights spent eating turkey stew, the Saturday lunches with Ma’s signature grilled cheese sandwiches, and the Sunday dinners of fried chicken or roast beef, rice and gravy, acre peas, and rolls. (We’re Southerners; we eat a lot.) Selling the house will be the end of a long and happy era for our family. I’m grateful to have had it, but I’m devastated that it’s over.
  • I’m inspired to refocus on relationships. People matter more than daily tasks, accomplishments, what I’m wearing, or who’s posting what on social media. In fact, according to one account, I’m likely in “the tail end” of my relationship with my parents – having already spent over 90% of the time that I will ever spend with them. How sobering is that? On the same note, it feels like my three year old was just born, but I’m already more than half-way through her stay-at-home years. I’ll blink and she’ll be twelve. I hope I look back and feel that I lived in the present moment with her as much as possible and enjoyed what parts I could.


Even though this life is constantly slipping away, I will try not to grasp my time on earth with a clenched fist. I will aim to let it flow freely through my open, uplifted hands and feel the beauty of it as it passes. I believe that people are created in the image of God and that our souls are eternal, which makes our interactions with each other far and away more important than just about anything else. There’s no better time to check in, laugh, high-five, or say ‘I love you.’ There is only now. Go call your mom.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Leah Baacke

Leah is a mom, librarian, and blogger living and writing in the Tampa Bay, FL, area. Visit her blog, The Open Book Mama, for her hilarious musings on motherhood, reading recommendations for you and your kids, and more!

The Hardest Prayer I Ever Prayed

In: Cancer, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Bald-headed little girl in hospital bed with her mama, color photo

Trigger warning: Child loss I had a plan for summertime fun with my children. We had just returned from a week-long road trip to the Grand Canyon. I intentionally planned to fill the rest of the summer with activities that would chase away boredom. Craft supplies had been purchased, day trips had been planned, and we were just beginning a week of Vacation Bible School. Excitement was in the air! Yet a tiny nagging fear kept resurfacing: Was there something wrong with my 2-year-old? Ever since she turned two back in the fall, she had become fussy. Our healthy, happy...

Keep Reading

Cancer Taught Me to Open My Hand

In: Cancer, Faith, Motherhood
Woman in cancer treatment holding a young child's hand

When I thought I was going to die, grief blinded me. Not really for myself. I’ve had a pretty good run. Reflecting on my life, it’s easy for me to see that my stroll into adulthood was leisurely. In college, I studied literature, a luxurious indulgence. Even as a naive 20-year-old, I understood the extravagance of being able to sit under a tree and read, albeit in sweltering Missouri heat. I studied the world’s literary masterpieces while sweat trickled down my back, mosquitoes nipped at hard-to-reach places, and the MBA students on campus wondered what I was doing. But those...

Keep Reading

“Wear It Anyway, You Never Know When You’ll Get Another Chance.”

In: Cancer, Friendship, Living
Two women holding up dresses, color photo

“It’s way too fancy,” I told my husband. “I’d be overdressed.” My new outfit was a beauty—white and lacy, perfect for a summer cocktail party, but too much for a school function on a Tuesday evening. In the back of my head, though, I heard my friend’s voice. Wear it anyway. You never know when you’ll get another chance. The last time I saw Shalean, I was bloated from chemo drugs, and both of us wondered if it would be the last time we’d see each other. My prognosis was bad: triple negative breast cancer, already spread to my lymph...

Keep Reading

This Is How to Show Up for a Friend Who Has Cancer

In: Cancer, Friendship, Living
Bald woman during cancer treatments and same woman in remission, color photo

One moment I was wrestling with my toddler and rocking my 3-month-old to sleep, and the next I was staring blankly at the doctor who just told me I had stage four cancer that had metastasized from my uterus to my left lung and spleen. “Well, I didn’t see that coming,” I smiled at the young doctor who had clearly never given this kind of news to anyone before. I looked over at my husband’s shell-shocked face as he rocked our baby back and forth in the baby carrier because I was still nursing, and we knew we’d be at...

Keep Reading

I Never Wanted to Be a Hospital Mom

In: Cancer, Motherhood
Toddler standing with IV pole, black-and-white photo

Life as a hospital mom is not a life for just anyone. You have no other choice, there is no get-out-free card you can just put down and say, “Nope, Lord, I do not want this, take it back.” My heart hurts 99 percent of the time. My heart hurts for my child and the pain he is suffering. A necessary evil to keep him on the side of Heaven’s gates.  My heart hurts from the unknown of each day. Will he eat? Will he thrive today? What utter chaos will be thrown our way today? Will there be vomit...

Keep Reading

Cancer Is Weird

In: Cancer, Living
Woman smiling, color photo

Cancer is weird. For 3.5 years I looked into the mirror and didn’t recognize the person looking at me.  First, it was scared eyes. My eyes had lost the look in them that made me feel invincible. I had learned I wasn’t.  A week or so later, I saw the cut on my chest for my port. Then it was a bald head. Then a bald, steroid filled, and puffed up faced person looking at me. RELATED: This is What Cancer Looks Like Sometimes it was a teary-eyed, defeated person. Someone who had been up all night in pain.  I...

Keep Reading

Please Don’t Let My Baby Die

In: Cancer, Motherhood
Toddler boy lying in hospital bed, color photo

I wasn’t made for this.  I am not strong enough. Lord, where are you taking me? Why does this joyful time, filled with our last baby’s firsts, have to be this way? Why did the doctors look at me that way? They know what’s coming, and deep down inside, so do I. The inevitable word that is about to come out of their mouths.  The C-word.  Cancer. It’s life-changing.  Almost as if it were a car accident. Believe me, I know about that. To be the reason behind a grown man hanging onto a thread. Completely unintentional. I just needed...

Keep Reading

The Art of Showing Up

In: Cancer, Kids
Dad hugging young son

As a father of four boys, you may imagine that life is hectic from time to time for me.  While it truly is, in fact, quite crazy sometimes, it isn’t always because of the reasons you might think.  I have four boys, ages 11, 4, 3, and almost 2, and that certainly makes for an interesting daily living experience for my wife and me.  We do our best to remain patient and lean on God’s strength and peace to fill us on the days that seem overly daunting and occasionally even downright impossible, but we are human.  Therefore, we fail...

Keep Reading

No One Prepares You for When Your Husband Has Cancer

In: Baby, Cancer, Marriage
Family sitting by window

No one ever prepares you for the moment you hear your spouse has cancer.   More so, no one prepares for you to hear this when you have a 5-month-old at home. “Mom, they said the tumor is cancerous, and they need to enucleate his eye on Thursday,” I say quietly into the phone as I pump in a dirty bathroom stall at the eye hospital.   Whir. Whir. Whir. Whir. Gosh, I hate pumping.  Today is my first day being away from my daughter. My mom is watching her while I made the trip to the eye hospital with...

Keep Reading

l Will Never Stop Missing My Sister

In: Cancer, Grief, Loss
Woman in red shirt

It might be 16 years too late to properly depict the depressive senses that engulfed my whole being when I lost my only sister Aurora to colon cancer in 2006. Painful flashbacks continue to fill my everyday life at the most inopportune moments that  writing about it might somehow alleviate my grief. I remember getting that random phone call from her one sunny day in September 2006 and how guilt automatically hit me. It had been a while since I last saw her. “It’s positive,” she said. Backed with years of joking around and playing tricks on her since childhood,...

Keep Reading