Saturday, April 14, 2012

Learning to Let Go

From the next room I heard my father's voice rise and fall rhythmically as he quietly read from the book of Psalms. I knew he was at my grandmother's bedside, keeping a routine he had begun several days before. Riding the emotional rollercoaster of caring for Grandmom in her final days, this was one comfort he could offer. God's Word has withstood the test of time and carried many saints through trials and hardships to the joy of their eternal home in Heaven. It is this hope that has strengthened our faith during difficult days.

I listened as Dad began to sing, and I moved to join him at Grandmom's bedside. I know this is one memory I will treasure forever - joining our voices in hymns that she loved, or even singing to Grandmom at times when she and I were alone. She did not always respond but maybe those were the times God used the lyrics to minister to our hearts instead. Often I have wondered if the days of Grandmom's decline were more about God's work in the lives of the people she loved, drawn temporarily away from the chapters of our own stories into this final chapter of her life and being reminded of the truths for which she faithfully lived.

Grandmom was the "matriarch" of the family and after God, we never doubted our family's priority to her. Growing up a continent away from our four cousins, my sisters and I would return on furlough and be tempted to feel as strangers in our own family. But Grandmom would not put up with that nonsense and I remember clearly how she would give us a little push towards each other and firmly insist, "You will go talk to your cousins!" Since then life and time has drifted us apart, yet in these weeks at Grandmom's bedside we have all come together once again. I know that is just how she would want it to be.

As we finished singing, Mom joined us for the final stanza and then Dad reached for Grandmom's hand to pray. Leaning in he quietly told her how wonderful a mother and grandmother she had been to all of us. He reminded her that it was her testimony of faith in Christ that had drawn each of us into His fold. Dad told Grandmom that we loved her and assured her that she had done all that she had set out to do. He wanted her to know that when God called her, she was free to go. We would miss her but would not hold her back.

My tears fell then and again the following day as a brief time of alertness allowed me to tell Grandmom that I, too, loved her and would miss her so much but wanted her to be free from pain and suffering and reunited with her Savior and her beloved husband. On an earlier occasion we had talked about the great-grandchildren she had waiting for her in Heaven as well, including our child miscarried years ago. I believe Grandmom will meet Eden very soon.

As I left the room, Mom entered and took the chair beside her mother-in-law. I heard only the words "you have been a mother to me since my own mother died" and it was enough for the tears to start again. My mother's father died when Mom was pregnant with me, and her mother died a few years after. Because she was unable to be with her own mom during much of her final time on earth, Mom feels God gave her another opportunity in caring for Grandmom. But she, too, needed to affirm her love and give Grandmom "permission" to go.

Our final opportunity to say goodbye came at a time when Grandmom's only daughter Joann, her daughter (my cousin) Heather, Mom and I were tending to Grandmom's needs together a few nights ago. After a mostly unresponsive day, she woke long enough to make a few sentences of conversation and in that time we each shared our hearts. It is another moment I will remember, the four us us around her bed as I knelt at one side of my grandmother while my aunt held her hand on the other and whispered words of affection and affirmation.

I am so thankful of this gift of time we were given to say goodbye, yet now Grandmom sleeps deeply under the influence of medications designed to mask her pain. Tonight it struck me that most likely I will never hear my grandmother's voice again this side of Heaven. The thought grieves me but as I shared with my daughters tonight at bedtime, this separation is only temporary. We spoke of Heaven, and of Jesus coming soon for His Church.

We are learning to let go. Yet how beautifully the author of 1 Thessalonians reminds us in chapter 4, verses 13-18:
" ... you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words."


Deborah said...

I love you.
I love your heart.
I love your family.
I love our hope.
I love our God.

I am praying for each of you!

Carrie said...


This is a beautiful post. It brought me tears to think of the ways you and your family got to minister to her as she is fading from this earth. Such an amazing testimony of a Godly legacy.

Terri Fisher said...

As I have said many times, God has given you a gift with words. What a beautiful testament to our dear grandmother and her undying faith. I can't wait to see her again someday in Heaven!!

Faith Baptist Church said...

Stephanie - We of Faith Baptist Church in Standish, MI send our love and prayers to you and the family as you grieve the passing of your grandmother, but you do not grieve as others who have no hope. May God give you comfort and peace. We had a wonderful day with Pedro and the boys: good services and a good afternoon of fellowship. We are looking forward to when the whole family visits our church together.

Muriel Waite-Casas said...

Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing those beautiful thoughts. We are praying for God's continued comfort for each of you.
Con mucho amor en Cristo,
Lucio, Muriel, and Mom Norma Waite