This morning at church, we sang "How Great Thou Art" -- not a song we sing often.
About two lines into the song, Katie had tears in her eyes and grasped me. She whispered that she felt didn't feel well but didn't know why.
I placed my left arm around her shoulder, and we continued to sing.
When the hymn was finished, all was well.
I suspect why she became emotional during the song. The hymn was one of Gramma Kathryn's favorites.
Somehow, I believe, Kathryn's spirit has some sway with dear Katie.
Column from February 2010:
When Steve and I named our daughter after my maternal grandmother, we had no idea how fitting the gesture would be.
Just days before Gramma passed away, a sonogram showed that our second child was a girl. And then we started calling her Baby Katie - short for Kathryn.
I wasn't able to tell Gramma Kathryn about our expected girl, and even if I had, she wouldn't have really understood. She was in the final stages of Alzheimer's disease - cruel and merciful at the same time.
Five months later, little Kathryn was born. Ever since, she's shown signs that she's a kindred spirit with the elder Kathryn.
How to describe them both? Effusive. Eccentric. Opinionated. Confident. Poetic.
Gramma loved brightly colored, comfortable clothes. Ditto for Katie. Gramma was warm natured, refusing heavy blankets and eschewing hot weather. Her great granddaughter is the same. They share an appreciation for natural beauty and tiny details.
Gramma wrote poetry for years - first rhyming and then nonrhyming. She was published in multiple journals and was active in her town's poetry circle.
Katie, though not yet 5, often speaks with an innate lyrical quality.
"I have many hearts," she once mused. "Red for love and yellow for sunshine."
This week I gave her a green cup of juice and her brother a yellow cup.
"Why did you give me the green?" she asked.
"Because it's the color of grass and trees," I answered.
"Why not yellow, the color of the sun and bees?" was her quick reply.
Gramma welcomed philosophical discussions, just like Katie. Granted, Katie has a lot to philosophize about. Her sweet daddy was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was 2 and a half. He died not long after she turned 4.
When my aunt drove away last Friday after a weeklong visit, Katie waved big from the driveway and hollered, "I'm going to miss you as much as Daddy lived!"
She talks about our substantial loss daily. This weekend was especially poignant. She created a Valentine's card for Steve and talked and sang about him even more than usual.
"Valentine's Day is all about sharing and caring and loving," she said. "And what's most important is that Daddy is in heaven and still loves us."
She has big thoughts about souls. Her current theory is that just before people die, their spirits move out and get ready to move into a baby. When she weaves these ideas, mixing her fanciful thoughts with our faith's theology, I just listen, careful to not get in the way.
Next week Gramma's poetry group is going to honor her and other dead poets with a memorial reading. My aunt has suggested that they include "I Shall Return," a favorite Kathryn Thomas creation.
Should I not chance
to pass this way again
hold tight to every shred
of beauty here,
hide them away
to bring to light
some future year.
of stone and strength
rise from canyon floors
like ageless ghosts
against the sky.
Far below where squirrel
and chipmunk play
a river winds
and liquid eyes
reflect this day.
O could that I recall
these things I see
as does that stream, with
equal depth and clarity.
I'll bury deep within
each wondrous thing
then I'll know forever
my soul shall sing.
Rereading Gramma's words this week brought me great comfort and gave me a new way to describe how the elder Kathryn is entwined with the younger - their souls sing together.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.