As your family and friends celebrate this, your very first birthday, with cake, ice cream and gifts, I am fairly confident that you will possess no memory at all of the event, but the rest of us will celebrate for you and enjoy our time together in what may turn out to the most well attended birthday party you will ever have.
Like that first birthday party, it will be several years before you are able to appreciate this birthday message. As my birthday gift to you I wanted to give you something different, something that, when you read this in the future, will help connect you to a portion of your family’s history, a legacy of sorts. In addition, before any more time has passed, I want to go on the record as being the first person to introduce you to your grandmother Adah Elizabeth (Libby) Gilley.
You see Elizabeth, your grandmother had a very bad disease, called cancer. The best doctors and the best medicines could not stop it’s progress, but from the moment we found out from your mom and dad that you were on the way, until the cancer confused her brain, your grandmother prayed everyday for your health, your safety, your future mate and, most importantly, she prayed for your salvation.
After your grandmother Libby had gone through 5 years of surgeries, biopsies, chemotherapy, radiation and tests, her doctor sat us down in February of 2014 and explained that the cancer had returned with a vengeance, they told us that every traditional type of chemotherapy in which they tried had failed and now they were out of options. But even after hearing the worst news of her life, you were on your grandmother’s mind. She looked at her doctor and said, “OK, Dr. Schlabach, I know that I don’t have a lot of time but do have one request, you see, I’m going to be a grandmother in June and more than anything else, I want to hold that little girl, so…. can you get me to June?”
As you can tell, your grandmother was really looking forward to meeting you and she did everything humanly possible to hang around long enough so she could hold you, love on you and “put little kisses all over head”. You see, your grandmother had this thing, she loved to kiss the heads of new-born babies, always leaving a telltale path of red lipstick on every little bald-headed baby she could get her hands on, and believe me, your spiky jet black hair would have been a real treat for her to kiss and cuddle.
By the time you are able to read and comprehend this birthday greeting, friends and family will have spent some time telling you stories about your grandmother and after hearing some of those stories you will surely become convinced that we must all suffer from selective memory, remembering (and even exaggerating) your grandmother’s good attributes, while conveniently forgetting the bad; but, at least in this case, it would be difficult to exaggerate your grandmother’s kind and humble spirit. That is just one of the many reasons that I have decided to write down as much as I can about your grandmother while the details can be verified by others to give you an accurate representation of this very special lady.
Your grandmother Libby gave a lot of thought to the perfect name that she hoped you and all of her grandchildren would call her, but she never settled on one, partly because she knew that most young children in the process of learning to speak, often make up their own names anyway. With that background I think I may have solved the naming problem by condensing “Grandmother Libby” into a simple, child-like, two-syllable word “Gibby”.
Gibby was a very practical person, she realized that the cancer was eventually going to destroy her earthly body and she made the decision to spend her remaining time at home with friends and family, so on February 21,2014, Gibby said some tearful goodbyes to her medical team and (with their blessing) returned to our home with Hospice Care and although she never gave up fighting, she knew her short term and long term future.
So Elizabeth (and here is the sad part) despite the prayers of family, friends and many, many churches, you two just missed seeing each other on this earth, because on March 25, one month after telling her doctors goodbye, Gibby said goodbye to the rest of us and received her heavenly rewards, of which,I am confident were many.
By the time you are able to read and comprehend this letter, others may have already talked with you about the “legacy” that your Gibby left in this world such as the many children she taught and the countless lives she influenced. In addition they may tell you that the organization that your mom and dad helped launch, Libby’s Living Legacy, became a true phenomenon in our little community as an outpouring of love from friends collectively raised over $80,000 to build a playground to honor your Gibby. But Elizabeth, always remember that neither the beloved teacher nor the playground, are your grandmother’s real legacy; because if it were possible to sit across from Gibby today she would tell you that the legacy that she most wanted was for her boys, their wives and all of her grandchildren to seek and maintain a personal relationship with Christ, that will be Libby’s Living Legacy and all other accomplishments pale in comparison.
When you are older I hope you, your siblings and your cousins take the time to read the stories about your grandmother and attempt to understand just how much Gibby loved and prayed for all of you. In an effort to help you know as much as possible about your Gibby, I have tried to accurately portray her personality, her spirit and the love that she demonstrated for others in stories written within libbyslivinglegacy.com.
Happy Birthday, Elizabeth
I Love You,