Grammy. She had the beauty of a French aristocrat and the strength of the Grecian pillar. My mom once said the reason I was so rotten to Grammy was because I thought I couldn't hurt her. Although I did see her as somewhat indestructible, my condition as a dirty rotten, selfish sinner was the root cause of the problem. Still, if there was one song I thought described my to a tee. It was “I Am Woman.” She hated love songs that portrayed women as miserable without men. This twice- widowed woman often expressed perplexity as to why she who never wanted let alone needed any men got two while my more sensitive, sentimental, needy mother was unhappily divorced and still single.
Years later, Grammy was 92. Dementia had assaulted her mind. Her body wasn't quite what it used to be. Still, she seemed miles away from death's door. There was no reason to doubt that she'd live to be 93.
It was November 2, 2008. She'd been in the hospital two days. She was back at the nursing home. My aunt and uncle drove me there. They warned me. But nothing could truly prepare me for what I saw as I drove my wheelchair into her room. This woman who a friend had once declared that even with dementia she could still monopolize a conversation could barely manage one sentence. As I held her hand, she laid, silent, helpless, and weak. Not the woman I grew up with.
I was OK. As OK as someone can be who an emotional to truck had just hit truck. The Lord in His mercy had given me teaching about joy and satisfaction in Him. I knew I needed the joy but I didn't know how to get it. I prayed to the Lord and thought he was leading me to call someone who did. I called my cousin, Pastor Mike Osborne. He wasn't home. Then I realized I needed to talk to God. I asked Him how to get joy. The Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart that I needed to read my Bible, praise God in spoken word and song and pray about the situation.
By the time God's Spirit impressed upon my heart to move on to other prayers, He had given me the assurance that with Him I could handle anything. I couldn't wait to see her the next day even if there was no change in her condition. Over the next few days, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me to tell many people that God was the only way to deal with pain without paying for it later. Everything else has a price and was only a temporary fix. Beyond all that, God was there when no one else was on the line.
The next few weeks were like a yo-yo. But by the grace and faithfulness of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, His joy remained steadfast in me as long as I focused on Him. In addition, the Lord enabled me to enjoy her company whether she was alert and smiling or (as she was for most of this journey asleep and barely aware of my presence) unless I was asked to let her sleep, I'd wake her up and sing songs and read the Scripture to her. By God's grace, this often gave her peace and pleasure. However, God gave me so much of Himself that I was able to enjoy her company just holding her hand and saying nothing. That's hard for me to do. But God made the burden light—so light He enabled me to keep up with my college work even though my teachers had given me generous extensions.
Any time my focus would wonder, the Holy Spirit would graciously lead me to search for a song on my computer or put one in my head. When I sang praise God lovingly came to me as promised in Psalm 22:3. And His joy returned to me. What a God to use things He deserved anyway to change my mood for the better. He gave me such joy and strength. I told people “I could watch her die if the Lord so willed." If someone had asked me even a few months Grammy's if I wanted to be there when her time came, I would’ve said no. In fact, I usually volunteered that answer because I thought seeing her die would destroy me.
December 10, 2008. Several family members and myself were gathered around her nursing home bed. After several hours of watching her labored breathing, I began to sing amazing grace as my uncle talked with her and said a prayer that was part of her upbringing. My family interrupted me. We all peered at her and knew she was dying. When she died, the Holy Spirit put a song in my head that I had only heard a few times before. In fact, I only knew one line "Rock of Ages clef for me let me hide myself in thee" I cried a few tears and then said, "I can't believe it"
Thinking I might be in denial about Grammy's death, my uncle said, " You'd better believe it.”
What I couldn't believe was the strength and peace I felt after watching Grammy die.
Some people might think I was simply escaping reality. I wasn't escaping reality but to God's strength to face reality. The day after she died, I asked my cousin Patricia to pray that people would see God's strength in me instead of human strength
After all, “We come from a long line of tough-minded women," I explained.
Knowing my grandmother, her own mother, and our other two great aunts, she agreed.
Months later, the Lord comforted the daughter of Grammy's best friend by testifying through me of the peace and joy He gave me before during and after this difficult journey. By God's grace, I was still escaping to strength and “mounting up on wings like eagles." (Isaiah 40:31.). And even on days when I was merely walking and running, Jesus was still strengthening me (see Isaiah 40: 30-31).
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