Her hand cradled in mine was palely translucent, like a memory of a hand once full of life and grasping adventure. Her once plump and jolly figure had drained away to a shell of a being that was barely recognizable. I leaned closer in my chair, wanting her to know I was there, hoping that she felt my love.
“Grandma,” I nearly yelled; her hearing aid had been missing for weeks. As I got no response, I closed my eyes. The memory of the clasped hand, the hospital bed, and the beeping of monitors was insistent in my mind. I struggled with the painful knowledge that this hospital bed with its crisp white sheets would be the last. Each night I faced the unbearable task of leaving, knowing that I had to get home to my husband and daughter. “Lord, Father,” I prayed, “Please allow one more night so that someone can be here when the time comes.”
With tears welling in my eyes, I came back to the present. The memory so clearly and intimately remembered had occurred fourteen years before. That was my grandfather. Today was my grandmother.
“Charles,” she called, “Charles…” Her brother Charles had died tragically at the age of sixteen in a lumber yard accident. Her father had never been the same after that. I’m sure no one in the family was ever quite the same. I suspect my grandmother determined at that point to always live life to the fullest.
She once told me of a time when her other brother was to travel to Maryland on a motorbike. When he asked her if she would like to go along, she readily answered “yes.” I remember this story mostly because of her tag line ending—“my middle name was always ‘GO’!”
Holding her hand, I could almost hear her saying that. She was going. Calling out to long dead friends and relatives, she was more in the next world than in this world. I started humming “Amazing Grace.” Emotionally drained, I could only sing it very quietly. I knew that it was more for me than for her. Without her hearing aid, she would hear none of it. Tears choked my throat and took the song away.
“That was a hymn,” she said.
My head snapped up. “Yes, grandma.”
For one moment, she was in this realm. She fell back into a sleep that was more than a sleep, a dormant period where the soul is transforming into its heavenly being. I continued holding her hand. I was her last visitor of the day. My mother and uncle had already spent a good portion of the day with her and would not return until morning.
The time had come for me to go. I could put it off no longer. Kissing her cheek with a final “love you,” I walked the long hallway of the nursing home to the exit.
Traffic sped around me as I drove home. I was able to keep attention to the road even as tears streamed down, and I prayed the most sincere prayer I have ever prayed in all my forty-two years.
“God, I know that when my grandfather was dying, I would pray as I left him for you to let him live through the night. Lord, I now know how incredibly selfish that request was. Lord, when it is your will, take my grandmother. I know that she’ll be longing to be with you.”
Wiping the tears away, I made my only request. “God, just let me know when it happens. Send me some sign.”
That night, snuggled in the sofa, with my head propped on my hand, I floated in and out of the edge of sleep. My girls were in the room with me, tuned into a television show. I stayed because I wanted to spend some time with them. Frankly, I was too tired to get up and go to bed anyway.
In my half-sleep, a strong vision came to me. It was a prism of colors… so beautiful. Like a dream, the details of the vision faded quickly from my memory. However, the sense of my grandmother came through strong and clear. It startled me into alertness. “I wonder…” Even though the thought was fully formulating in my head, I had no chance to voice it completely before the phone rang.
Getting up to get the phone, I knew.
As I picked up the phone, I was certain.
The sound of my mom’s voice confirmed the news.
What a wonderful gift God had given me, a chance to bask in the glow of my grandmother’s being. The heavenly form was so unfamiliar to me that I could not retain the memory of the vision. Yet, her heavenly spirit was so familiar to me, I know without a doubt that God heard my prayer…. and answered.