Last week, I flew to Monterey, Calif., (my home for decades before I moved to Las Vegas) to attend a funeral for a woman I knew mostly through her son.

I met Gary a lifetime ago. I was a rookie Young Life leader and he was a tall, skinny high school kid with a big grin and an Afro the size of Texas. Little did we know we’d be friends long after his ‘fro had gone gray.

Gary became a teacher like his mother. My oldest gave him fits in his first pre-kindergarten class. My kids grew up believing (we never corrected them) that Gary was their godfather.

We taught Sunday school together. He and my late husband were prayer partners. I could tell you lots of stories about him. Suffice it to say, after all these years, I still think of Gary as my kid brother.

So when he called last week to tell me he’d lost his mom just before her 90th birthday, I started packing. She had devoted her life to her family, to teaching, to her church and her community. She had left a beautiful mark on the world. I wanted to pay my respects.

The service was lovely, both a celebration of her life and a tribute to the God she served.

It gave me a chance to hug the necks of friends I hadn’t hugged in ages. Why do we wait for a funeral to tell someone “I love you” when we feel it every day?

One of those necks belonged to Joyce. Years ago, before I moved away, Joyce and I spent hours together, solving the problems of the world. Now, we seldom talk at all. No wonder the world is in such a state.

I was so happy to see her. We sat together near the front of a packed church, hoping Gary and his family could sense the love we sent them across the pews.

The next morning, Joyce emailed me to pick up where we had left off after the service.

What do old friends talk about when they finally reconnect? Mostly, we talked about our grandchildren. We had both been deeply touched at the service by the love Gary’s grown children showed for their grandmother. His two boys told great stories about her. And his daughter wrote a poem that was sure to make her the envy of every grandma in heaven.

Joyce and I, like a lot of grandparents, live far from our grandchildren. We see them as often as we can, try to make the best of it, and pray somehow, by the grace of God, it’s enough.

But it’s not the same as living close enough to pick the kids up from school and cheer for them at all their games and be there, day or night, if they need you.

We’d like to be that kind of grandparent. But we’re not.

Neither was my dad’s mother. She lived on a farm miles away from me. I spent only a few weeks with her each year. Yet she was one of the most important people in my life.

Why? Whenever I was with her, she made me feel special.

She spent time with me, just the two of us. We went for walks on the mountain, waded in the creek, caught lightning bugs, picked berries and gathered eggs. I dried the dishes that she washed, and held the dustpan for her broom. She taught me how to whistle and crochet and paint sunsets on stones. To love books and birds and biscuits and the Bible. She read to me, talked to me and heard every word I said or did not say.

She made me feel safe and wanted and good. Every time she looked at me, her face lit up like Christmas. She was a part-time grandma, but God picked her out just for me. And she was more than enough.

I hope to do the things she did, in one way or another, for my grandbabes. I’m not good at everything, but I learned from the best. I’m a whiz at lighting up when I look at them.

I’ll bet Joyce lights up at hers, too. Maybe someday our grands will write poems about us.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.