Daily Archives: 5:53 pm

She was ready.

***I totally planned on doing the {W}rite of Passage challenge today.  But Lydia, Asa & I went with Carter and his class to go Christmas caroling at a local nursing home this afternoon, and this is what you get instead.  A story not about my elementary school lunch, but a story about my grandmother, my Mama Jo.***

As I cross the threshold, the hot and stagnant air blasts into my face.  My eyes burn a little and I tear up, though I’m not sure if they are actual tears or from the heat.

The smell.

The smell rushes my senses and takes my breath away.

Stale.                  Heavy.

Frail.                    Old.

An odd mixture of comfort and fear colliding like hot and cold air, forming a tornado of emotions within me.

I have a friend who just turned eighty-eight
and she just shared with me that she’s afraid of dying.
It was easy to have faith when she was thirty-four,
but now her friends are dying and death is at her door.

She lost her husband after sixty years,
and as he slipped away she still had things to say.
Death can be so inconvenient.
You try to live and love.
It comes and interrupts.

I still pick up the phone to call her sometimes.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.

In my dreams, the sound of her voice is clear.  The fine lines of her face are as they were.  But right now, right this very moment as I close my eyes, I can’t picture her clearly.  Her voice slips from my memory.

But one thing stands out above the rest.  One thing I remember with perfect clarity: her hands.  Knotted and twisted with the pains of arthritis.  Skin loose and soft.  Wrinkled and tender.  The slow, calculated, very specific movements.  As she held my hand, her index finger slowly moving up and down, rubbing the crook between my thumb and pointer finger.
Up.        And down.
Up.             And down.
Up.                Down.
Up.                     Down.

Many a night I’d spent in her bed.  After my grandfather died, she welcomed the company.  “Nights are the hardest”, she would tell me.  At the time I didn’t get it.  At night you’re sleeping…why would that be hard?  But now, as I’ve gotten older, I get it.  My demons chase me at night, and there is a definite comfort of having someone there beside me.  Someone who isn’t doing anything, but makes it better just by being there.  There is a certain wonderfulness of just being that you don’t understand until you’ve matured a little.  I’m hoping that I perfect the just being as I continue to grow up.


Early that spring morning, I arrived at the hospital to tell her goodbye.  I couldn’t miss another day of work.  “I’ll be back this weekend”, I planned on saying to her, not knowing if she would hear or understand me, but needing to say it none-the-less.

Walking in, there was a lot going on.  I’m pretty sure I was buzzed into the ICU by mistake.  There were doctors and nurses crowded in her room.  One doctor took me aside: “You’re her granddaughter, right?  We were about to call your dad.  Things aren’t going too well.”  He talked of DNR orders, comfort measures, and the phrase “not a whole lot of time” was mentioned more than once.  I only remember snippets of that day.  But those snippets are clear, fresh in my mind.


Breathe.  I had to actually remind myself to breathe.  Cliched, I know, but it all seemed so surreal.


It’s the first time I remember seeing my dad cry.  Both of his parents now gone.  I can’t, don’t want to begin to imagine.


And as I lay in the bed, curled up beside her.  Holding her hands and wishing that I’d thought to wash them.  They stink.  That would have bothered her.  She was always so careful to wash all the nooks and crannies, and to dry them well.  But now, ten years out, I’m glad for the acrid smell.  Specific to that day, that moment.


A group of us, far more than should have been allowed in an ICU room, gathered around her bed.  The hand of God upon us all, comforting like a heavy winter quilt.

Singing, slowly and quietly at first.
I heard an old, old story…
I don’t even remember how it started.
How a Savior came from glory.
I remember seeing Karen’s shoes.  She had on great shoes.
How he gave his life on Calvary to save a wretch like me.
I’m so glad my aunt got here.
I heard about his groaning of his precious blood’s atoning.
The first one here.  I was the first one here.
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory.
The nurses asked me so many questions.
Oh, Victory in Jesus.
Chaos around me, but an odd calm within.
My Savior forever.
I responded to them, my voice empty but steady.
He sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood.
His voice, the doctor’s voice.  Certain.  Sure.  Practiced.
He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him.
A chorus of voices, strong and assured as we ended the song.
He plunged me to Victory beneath the cleansing flood.


She was ready.

I was ready.

I thought I was ready.

But today, as I watched my children interact with the seniors at the nursing home, I ached for her.  She never met them, my three little people.  They never met her.  She never heard them laugh or cry or giggle.   She never saw them rip into a present or sing a Christmas carol.  But they know of her.  They know the stories.  They know her name.  And she is more a part of them than they will ever know.

*Lyrics  from Sara Groves’ “What Do I Know”.