My 91 year old Grandma was admitted into hospice care last week. I used to be close to her but in the past year with a new marriage, new kids, new house, and combining two families I have regrettably not been able to see her or my 92 year old Grandpa. She was the Grandma who always had a sweet, tender spirit and every Christmas she would have all of the grandchildren over to decorate Christmas cookies. She was the wife of a pastor and the mother of four boys and whenever we were at her house she had a lot of love and time to give as she would sit for hours playing blocks or reading stories for time seemed to stand still at her house when the grandchildren came over for a visit.
The four oldest kids, Ryan, and I all headed to the nursing home one Saturday morning. I was a little nervous about her not remembering that Jason had passed away and thinking that she might get mixed up with the new faces, but she didn’t, she lit up at the sight of all six of us and seeing the kids brought her true joy. However, the sight of her was shocking to me. The last time I had seen her she looked like an old woman but she still had some fat on her bones, a witty mind, and a quick comeback for most of my Grandpa’s comments. This time, she resembled something all too familiar to me, a person ending their journey here on earth. My late husband was a personal trainer, tennis player, and a gym owner but in his final weeks he resembled something more like a 91 year old man. He lost his muscle tone, couldn’t walk or bathe without assistance and his mind couldn’t comprehend the simplest things that it had done even just a year prior. She, like him, is down to skin and bones, she’s no longer eating, the one thing that she is determined to control, her mind is leaving her and it frustrates her to no end, she repeats herself constantly and she seems to be aware that she is doing it and it annoys her that she can’t control it. As the conversation began flowing, a glimmer of light seemed to come through as the charges in her mind and in her spirit began to ignite once again. I am always honored to be in the presence of someone who is on the verge of leaving this life and entering eternity. When it was my late husband, I racked his brain in the final days to somehow get a glimpse of what he was seeing beyond my comprehension or feeling, or how the Lord was preparing him to leave his earthly body. He gave me glimpses of eternity that I will forever hold in my heart. He saw beyond this world and he saw my life beyond him and it gave him an incredible amount of comfort when he finally decided to depart. I have complete faith that dying is not scary for those who have the hope of eternal life. I saw a peace in him and I see a peace in her. The Lord is working on her spirit and in her mind as she accepts what we all must accept at some point in our lives. No one gets out of here alive; we all must face death squarely in the face at some moment in our short existences here on earth, and we will either face it with the full confidence of where or hope lies or it will be a frightening experience if we do not have that confidence in our hearts. The dying also seem to have a wisdom that the rest of us don’t possess. I asked her what she knew at 91 that she wished she had known at 35 and she responded with a smile, “that I didn’t know it all.” Ironic that she would give me that message:-) On the way home Ryan and I talked a bit about whether or not visits help someone who wishes life to end because with our visit seemed to come a renewed sense of hope, something to live for, and whether or not that’s something that should be done for someone who is ready to cross over. My belief is that loneliness is the worst feeling in the world. She and her husband no longer share a room and as she petioned him to stay with her a little bit longer, I saw an all too familiar wall go up in his mind as he firmly decided that he wanted to return to his own room. I believe that he is preparing himself to live without her, distancing himself in order to reduce the pain of her leaving him after many, many years of marriage. As we went back and forth over this dilemma, I decided that if it were me, I would want to know that my life meant something to those whose lives I inhabited for 91 years, I would want to know that people cared enough to tend to my loneliness, and I would want to know that my friends and family would be there comforting me as I was ushered into my eternal home. Even if it prolonged my life a little bit, I would not want to be lonely in my final moments. And so it was decided, as long as we are able, we will continue to visit her and continue to bring hope and joy to her life and continue to feed her lonely days with some love with the hope that the same will be done for us someday when it’s our turn to step beyond the veil and into eternal life.
Just keep livin!!