“Did the doctors give you a potential timeline for how long it would take for her to pass?” I asked my mom, trying hard to steady my voice.
“No, baby. We are in God’s waiting room now, and as much as I’d like to have control, it’s all up to Him. He will do everything in His perfect timing.”
God’s waiting room. Hmmm. I’ve spent lots of time in God’s hallways, wishing for this or that door to open, but I’ve only spent a few times in God’s waiting room.
Waiting rooms are interesting places. They are places of tears and exhaustion, places of reminiscing about good times and remembering that, despite any differences we have, at the end of the day, family comes together. Waiting rooms are desperation; they are rollercoasters of steadiness and then unexpected free-falls. Waiting rooms are places of surrender– places where it doesn’t matter our background or our history or our societal status or position. They are level ground for all. They are the places where we come to terms with how we see God and trust that He is good even when we don’t understand.
I’ve watched my grandmother’s downward spiral for two months, and yesterday the doctors removed the ventilator. It’s excruciating to watch her try to breathe, especially knowing that her efforts will ultimately be fruitless. She is so weak, and her body tells the tale of death, but I want you to understand that I am not afraid of her dying; I am afraid of her living.
You see, the woman lying in that bed is only nominally my grandmother. My Memaw was not labored breathing, paper-thin skin, and weakness. She was warmth and strength and an open seat at her table with the best pecan pie you’ve ever tasted. She was undivided attention and belly-laughs, practical advice, and dominoes. She was fried eggs and bacon and biscuits and gravy, and she was radiant with the glow and pride of her family. We were her life, and she was ours. If you ever met her, she treasured you. She remembered you and held you in her heart, and if she saw you again, she’d be sure to let you know it. She loved people more than anyone I’ve ever known and used to say that she either should’ve been a nurse or owned a cafe. There was a safety about talking to her. Even as an adult, I’ve laid my head in her lap many times as she stroked my hair and reassured me that everything would be okay.
My grandmother was strength. She was born during the hardest year of the Great Depression, and she knew the value of contentment, family, and working hard. She never desired wealth– she desired a godly legacy and the simple things, like having her family sit with her at church or come over to spend time with her. We loved hearing stories about her childhood, how she even lived in a tent at one point, and laughed because her sisters couldn’t get along in such a confined space. She told us about the first time she met our grandfather– how he wanted to take her home from the cafe, but her brother wouldn’t allow it because Poppaw was too old for her. Years later, they met again, and the rest is history. She told us of how she cared for her mother until her dying day and did the same for my grandfather after being married for almost 60 years. When I asked her how she kept going after he passed away, she would gaze off and tell me that life has to keep moving forward. I think that’s why her favorite hymn was “One Day at a Time.”
I know that some of you might wonder why I’m writing this while Memaw is still with us. I suppose we all process things differently, but I don’t want to remember my grandmother on her deathbed, and I don’t think she’d want me to remember her that way. In fact, if she could speak, she would probably tell me to bring my curling iron up there to do her hair since so many people are dropping in to say goodbye. So I guess I’m full-circle in this post– back to the not being afraid of death part.
You see, death is a gift when you know Jesus as Lord and Savior. It is not an ending; it is a beginning. It is a promise of eternity in perfect peace. It’s walking into the arms of Jesus. It’s finishing the race. It is perfection. And while I can’t imagine a better banqueting table than the one my grandmother could set, I know that it will pale in comparison to the one that Jesus has set for her.
The other night I dreamed that I was in an elevator. Behind me, a voice said, “Going Up!” As soon as I heard it, I knew who it was. I turned and saw my grandfather standing there with Memaw. I looked at him, confused, when the elevator doors didn’t close. He said, “No baby. We are going up, but you have to stay here.”
I know it was just a dream, but I think it was a reminder that the Lord has a place prepared for her. And I can just imagine Memaw and Poppaw, together again, dancing like David to the glory of the Lord.
Maybe they’ll even teach him the Jitterbug.