Sunday, February 1, 2009

She's gone

I had hardly finished my post Friday night when my sister called and said "She's gone."

Now comes the time when life goes on without her.

It's easy to mourn, isn't it? Easy to feel sad about losing someone. It's easy to miss her.

I couldn't sleep Friday night. I couldn't watch TV. Nothing seemed to settle my mind. I read the Bible for a while, remembering a night when I had picked up the Bible to read to her, just a few weeks ago.

She was unsettled that night. Most of the family was with my aunt at a hospital in Charlottesville, VA. My grandma just couldn't rest. She was up and down, worried about my aunt, worried about her own health, struggling with her physical pain. Nothing seemed to comfort her.

I saw her Bible on her nightstand and asked if she wanted me to read some to her. She said I could if I wanted to.

I didn't do a great job. I couldn't find anything to comfort her. I tried Psalms, but nothing seemed to be soothing. I knew it was just my ignorance, but I just couldn't find the right passage. Still I read some, hoping just the familiarity of the King James version would help her.

I really don't know if it did. I guess I was naive to think it would be some magic pill that would take away her pain and worry. I just read a few verses and put it down. She said it helped, but I think she just said that to make me feel better. I remember feeling sad that I couldn't take her misery away from her.

So Friday night was my turn to feel unsettled and a little miserable. I was sad that she died in that hospital. Sad that I didn't see her, couldn't kiss her one last time. I was worried about my family, my parents and siblings. I was thinking about making another trip to WV, another trip to that cemetery, another funeral to get through.

I looked up some scripture online. I picked up my husband's Bible and read. I couldn't find the right passage and it reminded me of that night I had failed her, so I put it down and picked up a book I had been reading all week, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.

I read about Corrie, but thought about my grandma. I hoped someone remembered to tell her I loved her, but realized that didn't really matter. I thought about my conversation with my sister.

"She's gone," she said.

"Did you get to see her?" I asked.

"Yeah, but I think she was gone before I got here."

"How did she look?"

"I don't know. She looked okay."

Why did I want to know how she looked? It hadn't even occurred to me to ask, really. It just came out. As I read The Hiding Place I wondered why that had mattered to me at that moment. I wondered why God couldn't help me feel settled about it. I knew she was in heaven. Why was it so hard to accept that she was rejoicing and peaceful and happy?

I was at the place in the book where Corrie finds out Betsie has died. She's standing in the window, hardly able to believe it's her sister the nurses are carrying away. She walks because she doesn't know what to do. She wants to go to the washroom window where she knows the nurses will carry Betsie, but she's afraid. She doesn't want to see her beautiful sister dead on that floor in a row with other discarded people.

I turned around to see Mien running after me. "Corrie, I've looked for you everywhere! Oh, Corrie, come!"
She seized my arm and drew me toward the back of the hospital.
When I saw where she was headed I wrenched my arm free. "I know Mien. I know already."
She didn't seem to hear. She seized me again, led me to the washroom window, and pushed me in ahead of her. In the reeking room stood a nurse. I drew back in alarm, but Mien was behind me.
"This is the sister," Mien said to the nurse.
I turned my head to the side -- I would not look at the bodies that lined the far wall. Mien put an arm around my shoulder and drew me across the room till we were standing above that heartbreaking row.
"Corrie! Do you see her!"
I raised my eyes to Betsie's face. Lord Jesus -- what have You done! Oh, Lord, what are You saying! What are You giving me!
For there lay Betsie, her eyes closed as if in sleep, her face full and young. The care lines, the grief lines, the deep hollows of hunger and disease were simply gone. In front of me was the Betsie of Haarlem, happy and at peace. Stronger! Freer! This was the Betsie of heaven, bursting with joy and health. Even her hair was graciously in place as if an angel had ministered to her.

Reading those words that I have read dozens of times in the last 20 years finally gave me some peace. I may not see the miracle that Corrie saw when she looked at her sister. When I see my grandma at the funeral, she may still look thin and the ravages of her disease may still be visible on her face.

But that earthly body is not what she is any longer. She's released and she's free. It doesn't really matter if she heard me say I love you. It doesn't really matter if she thought she was coming home. Those last few hours, minutes, seconds of her life only matter to those she left behind. We are the ones struggling with the memories, with the decisions that were made, with the sadness and impossibility of these last few months and specifically these last 4 or 5 weeks.

My grandmother is fully alive now. She's reunited with her family. She's with the husband she's been separated from for over 30 years. She's with the daughter who went ahead of her.

She's with the Savior who made it all possible, with the gracious and good God who ordained it all.

And she's settled and she's resting and she's at peace.


Evil Twin's Wife said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. However, I am happy you were able to have such a long and loving relationship with your grandmother. That's a real blessing.

Tina said...

Yes, ETW, it really was a blessing to have her for this long. Not many of my friends still have a grandparent alive. It was quite a gift!