How like God to plan ahead for me…. When He led me to choose Fresh Joy as my word of the year He knew I would experience it in full measures when the calendar was still brand new.
Weeping may last through the night,And for all the verses I could have chosen for joy.... For this to be the first one to pop in my head- the one that I would label as my theme verse for the year.... God did that too.
but JOY comes with the morning.
~ Psalm 30:5b
Eighty-four years, 7 months and 6 days after coming into the world, my grandmother was gathered up in the arms of Jesus.
Her health had been in decline for months and so this ending was no surprise, in fact it is exactly what we wanted for her….For her to have the ultimate healing…. For her to be home free.
I was there.
I didn’t plan on it.
And yet God did.
It was not an experience I would have chosen had I known, but it is one I am grateful for God bestowing upon me. Funny how some of life’s best and hardest experiences come to us that way….
I am grateful to have come there for her and for my parents.
My mother, who I have watched pour herself out with selfless love for weeks, months and years… to be given a glimpse of such love and devotion…. I sat there in a cold metal chair looking on as my mama knelt next to Gramma’s bed, as she held her hand and stroked her cheek and spoke softly and sweetly to her and I thought….
Of Ruth. Of her devotion to her mother-in-law that went past duty and obligation and straight to being obedient to God’s heart.
I sat there in the quiet and I saw the Bible come alive before me.
My mama took a warm wash cloth and began to bathe Gramma’s arm and arthritis gnarled hand as I knelt on the opposite side and held Gramma’s other hand…
As I held and watched and thought of how my mama did this for me when I was a child.
How she did this for her mother as she slowly slipped away.
And all the other ways big and small my mother has stepped in and offered help quietly and subtly.
Then she held the wash cloth out to me and said, “You can wash her other arm.”
Dare I try to put it to words here what a humbling experience that was?
I didn’t stoop to wash her feet.
But I knelt and washed her hand.
That gnarled hand ravaged by arthritis that use to play the piano and organ.
That hand that rolled out the dough and canned the apples that made the blue-ribbon best, most moist and delicious apple slices on the planet.… the recipe that many of us have attempted but none have made quite to the bursting taste of Gram’s.
I washed between each finger and I whispered, “You’ll play the organ again in heaven, Gramma. Your hands will be beautiful, your body will be whole not broken. You’ll walk and laugh….”
In time, my father came…. Striding into the room with that walk that only a father has…. And with his heart visible in his eyes.
Again I sat in the cold metal chair and looked on….
Looked on as he spoke soft words…. As he stroked her hair…. And held her hand.
He sat in a metal chair like mine next to her bed and for a time it was just the three of us in that little space. Us three in a diagonal…. Her in the bed, him holding her hand and me with a front row seat to such moments…. A seat I wouldn’t have voluntarily taken and yet was overwhelmingly compelled to stay in.
The nurse said, “Talk to her. She can hear you. The hearing is the last thing to go.”
And wouldn’t you know it…. I didn’t know what to say.
My heart wanted to sing hymns and I hummed softly and slightly off-key but I couldn’t make the words form farther than that. I hummed….
Jesus Draw Me Close
The Wonderful Cross
And the tears rolled and the chair still seemed cold as I sat in it.
I asked for a bible and after much searching, Mama slipped a white Gideon Bible in my hands.
I knelt by her side, Dad still in the chair, my cousin on the other side holding Gramma’s hand, mama beside me and I opened to the Psalms….
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers….
“I always think of Grampa when I read that one, Gramma,” I whisper. “And now I’ll read one of my favorites…. Psalm 63….
Oh God, you are my God,
Earnestly I seek you;
My soul thirst for you,
My body longs for you,
In a dry and weary land
Where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
And beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
My lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
And in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
With singing lips my mouth will praise you.
Oh my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help.
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
Your right hand upholds me….
Read 91,” mama whispers.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge
and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
…. He will cover you with his feathers,
And under his wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart,
You will not fear the terror of night….
If you make the Most High your dwelling---
even the LORD, who is my refuge---
then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
They will lift you up in their hands,
So that you will not strike your foot against a stone….
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With Long life will I satisfy him
And show him my salvation.
In a small tiny space in a room in a nursing home…. God resided.
Time held no meaning but rushed all too quickly.
“Be quiet and just hold her hand.”
It was time.
I held her hand.
Mama held her hand.
Dad rested a hand on her arm and stroked her hair.
Moments, mere moments…. In the quiet of that still small space where God resided….
Gramma no longer did.
I participated but part of me just watched the moments like a play being acted out in front of me….
Dad saying, “She’s home….”
Mama crying and holding her close.
Me still holding her hand.
I didn’t know that I would be there for the ending….
Which is in reality a New Beginning….
I remember thinking…. I didn’t think I would cry this much.
I rocked back on my heels and I thought…. Here it is the Fresh Joy I spoke of only days ago…. Sorrow for the night.
But joy comes with the morning.
I spoke with a dear friend later that evening—this dear friend is also a hospice volunteer and as I spoke and tried to tell her how I felt, how it was….
She said what was in my heart, “It’s like an act of worship.”
Oh, yes. It is exactly like that.
Like I said…. God was there.
God with us….
How could it not be worship?
He who makes beauty from our messes and restores and makes all things new….