I sat on the edge of her bed, holding her thin, soft hand. Her eyes never opened, but she knew I was there. I could tell by the periodic squeezes she gave me, the tiny nod of her head.
I sang every hymn I could remember, making up lyrics to the stanzas that we frequently skipped in the Baptist churches of my childhood.
I sang every hymn I could peek at on my phone, long-lost melodies coming back to my mouth from the crevices they’d carved in my brain four decades ago.
I was about to leave, sure she’d never remember that I was there, sure this moment was more for me than for her, when I got to her favorite song, one I’d never liked but that she adored. When I reached the chorus, that weak, pale hand shot up in the air by her head. I’d seen her do that same motion, again and again, over and over, during a Sunday morning worship service. She was worshipping. She was in the stale air of the nursing home. And she was in the very presence of Jesus.
Soon, she will be in his real presence. I don’t know what that will look like, feel like. I’ve never read a satisfactorily sound theological explanation of it, and I’d like to think that Jesus has decided that we humans who need to know it all should have something we can’t unlock.If we knew, we would probably argue or complain or wish something were different, better, with more cellphone reception.
But lately, I long for something beyond what we can explain, beyond the medical definitions and predictions. After the months and months of watching both my grandmother and my dad suffer, all I ache for is an end to pain, an end to the loss of dignity. I hope for redemption and healing and wholeness, and although the experts and scientists and doctors cannot unravel what that looks like, I am learning to plant my feet in the swampy murkiness of “I don’t know” and live there.
I don’t know how the brain decides to let go, to stop, to tell the lungs to cease pulling in and pushing out, but I have the hope that my grandmother will walk peacefully through that thin veil, that she will use that pale, soft hand to brush aside the thin curtain, the breath of air that separates her from a beautiful rest. And raise it in worship to the one who will make all things new.