We will miss you, Grandma Laura

October 3, 1922 – January 28, 2011

Last Friday morning I received a call from my mom. It was eight in the morning. I knew something was wrong since she never calls me before I go to work. She told me that my grandma Laura had a stroke the evening before and was in the hospital on life support. She wasn’t supposed to make it. Shock hit me. My grandma was 88, but her overall health was fine. Grandma Laura was one of the few people her age that didn’t have to use a wheelchair or walker to get around (except for long distances like the zoo – see below). We all thought she would live to be 100.

Tyler and I made the decision to drive to Wichita that morning to see her and to be with my family. We knew she wasn’t responsive and there wasn’t much we could do, but we wanted to be there. It was hard to be at the hospital seeing my grandma with tubes and IV’s encircling her body. She didn’t look like herself. My dad, mom, and two of my younger brothers were also at the hospital. All of the doctors said my grandma had a 0% chance of surviving. She had had a hemorrhagic stroke that caused extensive brain damage.

The chaplain on call read a short passage from scripture and prayed with our family. Shortly afterwords, she was taken off of life support and passed away peacefully.

I remember my grandma as flamboyant when I was younger. She would make hats out of milk cartons and hoard anything she could in order to find a second purpose for it (she grew up during the Great Depression). When my family would drive by her house after church on Sundays, she would meet us out in her front yard usually with her accordion in tote. Grandma Laura would play a song or two before we left.

About ten or so years ago she moved in with my family for almost a year since she had reached the point where it wasn’t safe for her to live on her own. That was one of the hardest years for my family.

Grandma Laura moved in to an assisted living residence after living with my family. She loved it there. My dad would pick her up almost weekly and go wash his car with her just to spend a little time with her.

I was also special to Grandma Laura. She told me many, many times that when my parents couldn’t get pregnant that she prayed to God that He would give them a baby and He answered her prayer because He gave them me. My first name ‘Lauren’ was purposefully chosen since it is a derivative of ‘Laura’. Since my grandma knew how to play more than 21 different instruments and revered music, she was so proud that I took piano lessons for as long as I did. I was able to see Grandma Laura several times a year when Tyler and I were back in Wichita visiting, but we also corresponded through letters.

Grandma Laura had an off-beat sense of humor. The first time she met Tyler (we were engaged) she shook his hand and said, “Do you know why I have such a firm handshake? One time I had to milk 18 cows!” She then proceeded to tell him, “Never get a divorce. On your wedding day, you will make your vows ‘for better or for worse’. If you ever do anything to hurt her or if you leave her, you come find me at the Waterfront (the assisted living building she was staying at) and I will KICK YOUR BUTT”! I tried to warn Tyler that my grandma is eccentric, but I don’t think he understood what I meant until that moment. Tyler didn’t know what to think of her at first. After learning about grandma’s quirks and tell-it-how-it-is attitude, he soon began to understand her. It also helped that grandma began to tell Tyler how handsome he was.

I think the hardest part for me is the feeling that life changes whether or not you want it to. Growing up, you think that your family and friends are somehow immune to danger and death. Suddenly your world is shaken when people you know and love die. It’s not just someone else’s’ family member or friend – it’s yours.

If you met my grandma even for a brief moment, one thing you would quickly find out is her love for Jesus. I know one day those of us who have also put our faith and trust in Jesus will all meet again. And that gives me a reason to smile. My grandma once said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do in heaven. I’m allergic to gold – and all of the streets are made of gold!”

“I Welcome Death”
by Laura Rachel Hanneman Wilbeck

Thank you God, with my last breath
In Jesus name, I welcome death.
Only you know exactly when that will be!
Thank you God with my last breath,
In Jesus name, I welcome death.
We will miss you, grandma.

This is the only picture of just Tyler and I with Grandma. It was taken over Easter weekend.

It was a tradition to take grandma to the zoo with us on Father’s Day. She loved to look at the animals. Tyler pushed Grandma while we were at the zoo.
Grandma Laura had five sons. My dad is the second youngest.
One of the few family pictures we have with Grandma.

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