Entering Heaven

I may try in the next days to share why I’ve not been blogging lately! All good things. But for now, I am remembering 4 years ago this week when my grandmother “MaMa” died. All of my other grandparents had died when I was young, and she was the only one to live so long. As she aged, she had what seemed like Alzheimer’s (though I don’t know that it was diagnosed that way).

MaMa was from south Mississippi, and we grew up visiting her every summer. My sister and I often rode the Greyhound bus from Memphis, and she would give my mom a much needed break. I’m sure losing her son (my dad) when he was 27 in a car wreck was something she never got over, but not something she spoke of.

So 4 years ago, I was in Memphis when I learned that she had had a stroke and wasn’t expected to live much longer. I wanted to try to go down to Mississippi and see her, but wasn’t sure if I would make it in time, didn’t think she would be conscious, and didn’t know about leaving my kids to travel alone. But if I could have the opportunity, I wanted to talk to her about Jesus and heaven. She had always been quiet about her faith, so I somehow wished I could encourage her in these things at this time.

When I did decide to go, I got in the car, still unsure of the decision, and began praying about what I was doing because I didn’t have any clear answers, but was just feeling led. After praying, I turned on the radio, and this was the song that was just starting. It said,

“Let it be said of us, While we walked among the living,
Let it be said of us, By the ones we leave behind,
Let it be said of us, That we lived to be a blessing for life.
Let it be said of us, That we gave to reach the dying,
Let it be said of us, By the fruit we leave behind
Let it be said of us, That our legacy is blessing for life.
This day You set life, you set death right before us, This day
Every blessing and curse is a choice now, And we will choose to be a blessing for life.
Let it be said of us, That our hearts belonged to Jesus
Let it be said of us, That we spoke the words of life,
Let it be said of us That our heritage is blessing for life
For your Kingdom, for our children, For the sake of every nation.”

The words as they played were so perfect – go and be a blessing to the dying (my grandmother) and choose a legacy of blessing.

When I arrived at the hospital around noon, my aunt and uncle were there. (My dad was 1 of 3 children — he had had a brother and sister.) When I saw MaMa, she never opened her eyes, and she seemed gone already. I began to wonder why I had come all this way.

I went outside to call my mom, and I was telling her how gross this hospital was and how I knew the Lord did not call me to be “comfortable,” but to obey, but this was hard to be there all day, just sitting and waiting for death. As I was talking, I noticed a car sitting out in front of me waiting, and I peered through the side window and noticed that this lady’s t-shirt said, “Believe in Miracles.” Like a poster board for me, how weird, I’m standing there, second guessing what the Lord would do, and when I saw that, I wondered if that was a reminder!

We found out that my grandmother might live another week or so, even as sick as she was, so everyone made plans to leave that next morning and come back when it was over. I spent the night at my aunt’s house and just prayed that God would guide my steps, even when I didn’t know the ones to take.

At my aunt’s house the next morning, she had a bracelet on her shelf that said, “Expect a Miracle.” Even though I was convinced MaMa would never have another wakeful moment and my faith was failing, there was just a small thread of belief and wondering about those reminders and saying to myself, “keep standing.” But overall, I was ready to go to Memphis and forget about it!

Everyone started getting ready for the day, and I had about decided to drive back to Memphis without stopping by the hospital. My cousin told me I should just run by and say good-bye to her mom (my aunt), and somehow, my sister ended up coming with me.

When we arrived, my aunt had gone home to shower, but my grandmother’s one eye that was not paralyzed was open! I knew this was my time to talk to her. I asked my uncle if I could go over and talk with her or did he or my sister want to. My uncle said they had had times like that earlier in the week, and for me to go ahead, if she could even hear me.

I went over and began talking as though she could hear, see, and understand. I began to quote Scripture, everything I could think of from Psalm 23 to things about heaven. I told her that she didn’t have to be afraid and that Jesus would take her to heaven if she had trusted in Him. As I talked to her, she got her other paralyzed eye open, and she squeezed my hand. Her hand went from being gripped tight to loose in mine, and her forehead and brow began to move and furrow. I can only believe she heard and understood.

My sister would periodically come over and say a word or two about childhood memories and how she loved her. My uncle went in and out of the room. When I would ask him if he wanted to talk, he would say “no” and wanted me to keep talking to her.

Everything about those moments seemed sacred to me. Had my aunt been there, I wouldn’t have had the courage to speak so boldly to my grandmother because I would have been intimidated. God put the right people there at that right moment.

Finally, the nurse came in and said they were going to give her a bath and we should leave for a few minutes. As we exited the room, the thought came so clearly, “say anything else because this may be her last conscious moment.” I leaned down close in her ear and whispered, “I love you.” With that, I followed my uncle and sister out of the room. It seemed within seconds of getting out of the room that the light above the door began flashing on and off. People started running in and out, but didn’t say anything to us. We waited on what we thought was the bath, but also had a funny feeling. My aunt arrived, and we waited.

They finally came out and said she was gone. She had died the moment after we left the room. We all went back in, and there we stood, my aunt, my uncle, and my sister and me (representing my father). We hugged and cried. She was truly gone; there was no life there.

What a blessing to be the one to stand beside her and walk her as far as a human could walk, to say Scripture and pray and say the last words of “I love you.” God gave me everything I asked for and more, even though I didn’t deserve it. I praise Him for that, for these memories this week, for the many other ways He acted that I wouldn’t even have time to detail here. He was so gracious and merciful and revealed His presence so clearly. Thank you, Lord!

Leaving a Legacy

This morning I was showing the children my Bible with my name engraved on it from when I was 7 years old. My grandfather gave it to me at Christmas 1976. I showed them the three verses he wrote in the front of the Bible that he wanted me to know: Proverbs 22:1, Jeremiah 33:3, and II Timothy 2:15. That Bible was and still is an absolute treasure to me, and I’ve carried those verses in my heart throughout my lifetime.

What we didn’t know when my grandfather gave me the Bible was that he would be dead only 3 months later, found dead in his home after having a cardiac arrest at age 64.

My grandfather was one of the most kind, gentle, tenderhearted men I have ever known. I remember him vividly and so many experiences with him. I remember the jokes we would tell, the food we would eat (hominy and peanut butter/bacon sandwiches were among our favorites), his garage full of children’s classic books (he was a distributor), his yard and the sandbox, his car, his neck with the creases in the back, his candy box, the dolls he gave me, him letting me fry bacon by myself, and him treating the bubbling blister from the boiling grease that slapped my hand!

Since my own father had died in a car wreck when I was a baby, my grandfather was such a gift from the Lord to stand in the gap. Rarely in life do you have someone who you can know loved you with complete and unconditional love. He was the sweetest man… I don’t have one single memory of him every being mad or unhappy. He never yelled at us. He was compassionate and loving to his core. He loved God, and he loved people, and people loved him.

I’m thankful the Lord gave me 7 years with him, and I’m thankful he gave me that Bible when he did before it was too late. I’m thankful for letters I have from him so I can know what he thought and prayed for me. As I see those prayers come to fruition, I see the power of prayer, even though it may not be realized for many years.

I was married on his birth date, and my son is named after him. I would think that he has likely had the biggest impact on my life as he was present during such critical young years, providing acceptance and love, a picture to me of God’s unconditional love.

Surely he had his weaknesses, but they were unknown to me. In my eyes, he was perfect, and I have not even one single memory to conclude otherwise.

So I praise the Lord for this godly man and his legacy. I know that things that have happened in my life may be the very result of his prayers for me during those early years. What a blessing and encouragement to pray for these things in the lives of my children as well.