Last weekend was bittersweet for me. For my family. I turned 30! That was a wonderful celebration!! However, over the course of last weekend, I had gone to visit my dying Nana twice. On Friday I had gone while the kids were still in school. I knew she wouldn't be in a state to speak. So, I decided to bring my Blue Tooth speaker and my paints. And this is where the story of a revelation began for me...
There she lay, peacefully resting in her bed, as I walked in her room. Her TV was on, stationed to one of her "Stories", as she liked to call them.
Immediately I was taken back to the time I had lived with her for a short period. It was while we were in transition of moving from Switzerland back to the U.S. She always fell asleep on her antique couch watching TV. All the old shows, which I love. And in the mornings, when I woke, she was often in her favorite recliner watching her Stories, which I couldn't have been less interested in.
The sound of the TV in the background calmed her. It was familiar.
Nana had been suffering from dementia for quite some time. It had been sad to watch. To some, it had even been hurtful. To my children and I, it had been an opportunity to love her in a new way, realizing that it was an illness and not her at times.
Now, I don't have a full understanding of the illness, but I found it interesting that certain things of familiarity soothed her. And not recent familiarity, but the things before she became ill. So, I turned on some " Soaking" music in the background and shut off the TV. She began moving around a bit and waking. I spoke to her in a soft tone, " Nana, it's me, Rachel, your granddaughter. I just came to spend time with you and paint with you." She opened her eyes and watched me get all my paints in order. I placed a framed picture of her and I on the table and she stared at it several times throughout my time there. As soon as I placed my paintbrushes on the table, her gaze was caught. Her eyes began to moisten more than usual. And, I know, she was having a memory of her late daughter. You see, I had inherited these paintbrushes from my Aunt Coco, who had just recently passed away earlier this year. She was a brilliant artist from before I was even born! This would be the first time I was to paint with her brushes.
Needless to say, this was more than just a visit, this was an emotional, yet joyful, walk down memory lane. As I began painting as I felt led to, I would pause for moments to talk to her about the time she visited us in Switzerland and how wonderful that was. I told her about how blessed her family is to have her. I showed he pictures of my children. And shared with her that I was turning 30 that weekend. I saw her struggling to respond, so I simply said , " Thank you." When I looked up from painting I noticed her wide eyes gazed upon me. I wondered... what was she thinking? Was she simply just watching me? Was she remembering me? Was she remembering her daughter? Whatever it was that was going through her mind, it was healing. Not only to me, to prepare me for what I knew was nearing. But, I believe it was healing to her heart. To her soul. In a way, I believe it was a way for her to loosen her grasp a bit on this life. Because, one thing about Nana that everyone knows is she is stubborn! She wouldn't even let her own body tell her to let go unless she wanted to and was good and ready to! I loved that about her. It sure made for some funny stories growing up!
The time drew near for me to pack up my stuff and get my kids. I went to her bedside, leaned over and kissed her forehead. " Nana, I love you!" I pressed my lips against her cool forehead for a few seconds. I told her I would be by the next day with the kids for a short visit. And then I left. As I was driving to get my kids I was filled with peace. I had thought about my painting I left at her bedside and wondered what it meant. It looked heavenly, literally, not as an expression. I wondered if she would see it when she passes. Because, to me, I had never seen that image in my mind until it was on paper. I began to think about the spiritual aspect of what happens in the last few days of life. Just pondering and wondering.
The next day, my birthday, The children and I went to see her. I had already prepared them and explained to them that this may be the last time they see her in this life. As we entered her room, she was sleeping. Even still, I began talking to her. I told her we were all there to pray with her and we would be leaving soon. We gathered around her bedside and I put my hand in hers. She gripped it tightly. And I began praying. I thanked God for her life and that she knew Him. I thanked Him for the joy she brought to our lives. I asked Him to ease her suffering and overwhelm her with peace. Each of my boys prayed for her, too. Lu was a bit shy, understandably so. Z held Nana's hand as they prayed for her. Cal prayed that Jesus would take her home so that she won't be sick anymore and she can see her daughter and her husband, and also a couple of our dogs that had passed away. All the boys prayed that He would take her home and that she would no longer suffer. It was a sweet and profound moment for a mother to hear her children pray with such wisdom and understanding. We said our goodbyes and left. My children have good memories of Nana. Z even jokingly said, " Who's going to throw their shoe at Saiah and Cal now when they suck their fingers?" To which I responded, " I will, Z." Hahaha! Those were funny memories to us, not a hint of bitterness.
Then, Sunday came. My mom and aunt had been with Nana late Saturday night because she wasn't doing well. Sunday I taught Sunday school and had a busy morning. I began to feel queasy half way through church. That feeling lasted all day. I wasn't sick with anything. My family was with Nana and had been calling the rest of the family to say their goodbyes. They new the time was nearing. At 10:27 pm I woke up to a phone call. It was my dad. Nana went home to be with the Lord 5 minutes ago. As I hung up the phone, I became flooded with memories. I completely broke down. Even as I slept, I kept waking up crying. All of Monday I grieved and slept. Not only was I grieving the loss of Nana, but also the loss of my aunt Coco. Not until Tuesday did I tell the children. They made sure I was okay and Cal, the special boy he is, began taking care of me by straightening up so I could rest, and reminding his siblings to quiet down. I hadn't known when would have been the appropriate time to tell them because I wasn't sure how it would have affected them. But when Cal asked to call Nana, I knew it was time.
In the beginning I had mentioned that I received revelation through this experience. During the last few days of her life I was filled with such peace. It was because I knew, without a doubt, that she was going to be with the Lord. I knew she knew Him. I wasn't fearful of where she would spend eternity. I hadn't anticipated being hit hard with a crashing wave of grief immediately! I realized that grief is good. It isn't depression. It isn't hopeless, in this case. It is good to miss loved ones. To reflect back on life and see how they have impacted you and others. It is good and necessary to go through a grieving process so that you can gain strength from it and love those around you more intentionally and deeply. It is important to pick yourself up after and live in such a way that, when it is your time to leave this world, you will have made an impact on those around you by the life you continued to live through all different stages of life. It is important to develop your relationship with the Lord so that those who love you don't grieve your passing with a sense of hopelessness, fearing they may never see you again. It is a loss as such that can send loved ones into a downward spiral of depression and cause their own souls to whither away well before their own bodies do. We don't want to leave ineffective loved ones behind because we have crippled them with hopelessness and fear. We should want to inspire our loved ones, and all the world, with the lives we lead and with hope!
I understand, not all my readers are believers. Not all have a relationship with the Lord. Some may have religion. I don't write with the intention of offending anybody. However, it is fully my intention to inspire within you a curiosity to seek this truth that has transformed me and so many others! Are you a good person and live a life you are proud of? That is good! But, it isn't enough to ensure your salvation. No man is truly good, not one besides Jesus. He's perfect! Never sinned, though he was tempted and tried in every way. Don't pressure yourself to be perfect and disregard the example we have.
" I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father ( God) but through me." John 14:6
Your life makes an impact on all those around you. Leave people with hope for after this life. Give them reason to live their best life and to leave a legacy of rich faith and hope! Surely, a person cannot be content with living as they wish until they die, then thinking they cease to exist. All that dies is our body. Our spirit is not destined to roam the earth for eternity. As we all can see these days, this earth doesn't have much more time in existence. Where, after the very earth is destroyed, would our spirits roam? Do you know that even demons seek a host to inhabit? That's just a side thought. When we, believers, go home to be with Jesus, we are given new heavenly bodies! If we were to remain only balls of energy, how would we wear the crowns He gives us? Why would we be given mansions in heaven? Why would there be feasts in heaven if we could not eat? Have I lost you? I'm sorry if I have. I am in a habit of writing my thoughts as they come. It's because I believe there is a purpose. I am only reminded of scriptures . I don't believe I am only writing my opinions.
So, I leave you with this... Live with purpose and intention. Know your Creator so you can be confident that when it is your time to leave your loved ones, you know you have left them with hope.