Have you ever had a person in your life that gave you a reason to wake up in the morning? A special person that you thought literally chased the gray skies away. My grandmother was a unique part of my life like that. She was my kindred spirit, my soul mate. Gram was what you would call the heart of the family. It seemed that she tied us all together with her unconditional love and her spreading of God’s. If you were to look up a virtuous woman or a Proverb’s Woman in God’s dictionary, you would see Gram’s picture under the description. She taught us all so much, but not as much as she taught us the day she changed her address.
I was supposed to be on my way back to North Carolina from Pennsylvania. I was visiting Gram in the hospital. She was in the hospital for two weeks. We all had just found out that she had lung cancer. The family was devastated and emotionally exhausted. The evening before, when I was saying my goodbyes to Gram, she mentioned to me to take care of my family. I told her that I would promise to take care of my family if she promised to get better. She nodded and winked at me in agreement. I walked out of her hospital room with a knot in my stomach and a knowledge that that promise might just have to be broken.
That next morning, at 4:30, my father’s phone rang, and my heart sank. I knew that it was the hospital. The next thing I hear is my dad running down the steps to my bedroom.
“Shelley, Gram isn’t doing well. Her lungs are filling up with fluid; she has pneumonia. They’re calling us in.”
I was in panic mode. My youngest son was with me; I couldn’t take him. I told my dad that I would call my mom at 6 a.m. to see if she could call off work and watch my son. When my father left, I automatically began to pray. When I opened my eyes I looked at my son sleeping peacefully and thought, ‘Gram is never going to see him grow up’. I knew right then that this was the day she was going to leave us.
When everything was in order and I was able to get to the hospital, I noticed that my family was not quite facing what was coming. I knew then that God was putting me on task force. I had lost my other grandmother the same way, to cancer. When it comes to these things, experience and faith are good things to have. And those are two things I definitely have. I confess I did have a hard time at first; I had anger because of how everyone was approaching it; not like me. Something I had to acknowledge and work on later. I had to get out my emotions before taking on what God had sent me to do. I quietly walked down to the sanctuary room, closed the door and just let God have it. No, not a “WHY?” but a “HELP! I can’t do this alone.” I cried my little heart out until it hurt. Literally.
When I came back I was ready. I talked to my family and told them how to look for the signs of when the time is coming closer of a person passing away. And that we need to let her know that it is okay to go; that we need to say our goodbyes to Gram. And tell her what we feel about her.
It didn’t go over well. I just don’t think they wanted to hear it from the youngest. Or they just weren’t ready to hear it. But it wasn’t too much longer before the head nurse told them the exact same thing. So, they did start taking turns. Little by little we started to go in small groups. Then Gram called all of us in together. She wanted us circled around her. The nurse gave her last morphine shot; the one that we all hear of. And Gram started her travel.
We all stood there, circled around Gram’s hospital bed watching her breath. Her chest slowly going up and down with seconds in between that seemed like minutes. At first we would sob every time we thought it was her last breath. And then she would inhale with a gasp, as if she was playing a trick on us. That was so much like her. I told everyone we need to talk to her. It was still silent. I then began to tell her how much she meant to us. A wonderful mother; a stupendous grandmother, she did an outstanding job raising all of us, we will do just fine while she watches over us. I went on and on. Each time her breaths becoming farther and farther apart.
“If you need a cheerleader, I’ll be your cheerleader Gram!” I said with determination.
I started to tell her that if she saw Papa or Jesus to follow them; take their hand. Go! We’ll be just fine here!
Then I got this strange sensation, that warm feeling from my toes to the top of my head. Like I was going to throw up if I didn’t react quickly.
“Can we please hold hands, I have to pray!”
I never had seen my family jump to hold hands together that fast in all my life. We are all different denominations. Not that that ever came between us, but it never brought us together spiritually either. My family has always been quiet about prayer or anything else, other than my cousin and my uncle and me. And I’m pretty much teased about being the “Big Mouthed Baptist.”
I began to pray. I don’t remember what I prayed, all I know is we were in agreement and God was with us. Everything was so anointed. And just as I took a breath to finish my prayer, my stepmother went into the Lord’s Prayer and my whole family chimed in. I had to open one eye just to make sure I wasn’t the one who fled to heaven. It was amazing. My Gram, on her deathbed, was still being the heart of our family. She was bringing us together on the most important plain you can ever get.
Just as I closed with prayer, it wasn’t a minute or two later, she went to glory.
We all were in agreement that if someone in that room didn’t believe in God, they do now. The power of prayer is amazing. It took my Gram to heaven peacefully; it brought us together, not only in agreement but also in Him. We wouldn’t have experienced that if Gram hadn’t raised us to put things in God’s hands or to trust Him.