Teach Us to Number our Days
by Vashti Hing
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It was January 01, 1980; I left my grandmother in her bedroom reading her Bible. My grandmother’s name was Marie Cadogan, known as Sister Marie.
I entered the kitchen to prepare lunch. The clock struck 11.00 a.m. I stood in front of the stove wondering what to prepare. Our lunchtime was 12 noon. I decided on fried fish with green plantains, and spinach as a side dish.
I took out four pieces of seasoned fish from the refrigerator, placed them in the pan with oil to fry, and turned on the stove. I was frying the fish when I heard my grandmother’s voice.
“Roseline, come girl--I want to talk with you now!”
My God, what is going on, I just left her. “Hold on grandmother, I’m coming just now,” I shouted from the kitchen. “I can’t leave the fish frying on the stove.”
“Hurry then, I have to talk to you.”
I turned off the stove, and went to her room. When she saw me, she smiled.
“Sit down girl,” she said.
I sat next to her on the bed. She looked at me. Her eyes were shining with the wisdom of the aged. And her hair, long and gray, was beautifully combed in fine braids.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“I need you to get pen and paper to write what I have to tell you.”
“I have a good memory, Grandmother.”
“Girl, you hear what I say?”
“O.K…” I looked over to the dresser where the pen and paper was and reached over and grabbed it. “I’m ready now,” I said.
She placed her Bible on the night table and glared at me.
“When I die,” she said sternly, “I want you to take my body to Bastianie Funeral Home.”
“Grandmother, please…you are not going to die now. You have a long time to live.”
“Girl, do as I say,” she shouted at me.
“O.K., go ahead,” I said, laughing.
“You got to be serious, girl…everything is a laugh for you. I want the service at the funeral home, not in church.”
“Hear me! The church is for the living and not the dead.”
“But Grandmother, what you think Rev. Goodrich will say?”
“I speak to him already.”
“Rosaline, I love the book of Psalms, and you know it.”
“Yes, I know---you read Psalms for everything. But what does this have to do with Psalms?”
“I read Psalms 90 this morning, and what I am thinking about now is verse 12: teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. I feel that I am leaving you soon, so I want everything to be in order. You’re a big girl now—almost thirty.”
“Please grandmother, don’t talk like that.”
“This conversation is important to me. We two live together, and you must know what I want after I die,” she said.
I wrote down the instructions and, when I was finished, I placed the paper in an old Bible and hid it in my dresser drawer.
That evening as I sat on my bed, my mind went back to when I was twelve years old. I had just come from school and was sitting at the table eating a snack.
“I have something to tell you,” my grandmother said, as she walked to the table.
“Is it something bad, Grandmother?” I asked, looking at her puzzled.
“No, something about me you must know.”
I stopped eating and listened to her.
She said, “When I was about fifty years old, I was very sick. The doctors told your grandfather that I don’t have long to live. He must prepare for my funeral. He didn’t want me to die, so he looked for help at the church.”
My grandmother told me that my grandfather visited Bishop Barker, the Pastor of Good Shepherd Church, Georgetown, Guyana, because he had a healing ministry. Pastor Barker came that same day to see my grandmother. Her face had turned to the wall; it was a sign of death in our culture.
The Pastor held her hand and said, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, I give it to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
My grandmother said that she stood up and walked around her bed three times, and that night when she was resting, a voice said to her, “Your time has not yet come.”
She opened her eyes and looked around the room, but no one was there. She fell into a peaceful sleep and woke up in the morning feeling well. She said that Jesus healed her, and she became a Christian.
“When I became a Christian,” she said, “the first book in the Bible I read was the Psalms, and Psalms 90 rest on my heart ever since. It gave me the courage to seek the will of God for my life. When you came to live with me and your grandfather after your mother died, we believed it was the will of God.”
She paused and bent over as if she wanted to hug me, but changed her mind. “Roseline, you’re a special child,” she added.
I reached out and hugged her and said, “Grandmother, you’re good to me.”
She smiled and held me tight.
Slowly I released myself from her embrace and said, “Grandmother, I love you.”
Tears were dropping from her eyes as she said goodnight and walked back to her bedroom. My eyes followed her until she was out of sight.
I jumped from reminiscing as my bedroom door opened. I looked up, and my grandmother stood there watching me. This is unusual, I said to myself.
“I came to say goodnight,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes and left.
My grandmother died that same year. She was eighty-three years old. The night before she died, she came to my bedroom door and said goodnight with the twinkle in her eyes.
The morning after her funeral, I sat at the dining table and I felt her presence. I said, “Grandmother.” Immediately I felt joy, and Psalms 90 came to mind.
I got up and looked around. Then I said, “Goodbye, Grandmother. Psalms 90 was true to you. You lived it, because you believed it
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