Speaking with a dear friend tonight, I was reminded of when my mother’s mother passed away. She had battled her illness for a very long time. She was actually diagnosed with cancer the day my daughter was born. I didn’t learn until later on that my poor mother took the news on the day she became a grandmother that her mother was facing such a trial. I can only imagine how difficult that was for mama.
Nanny, as we called her, was a fighter. She was wiry and strong-willed, worked as hard as any man in the fields, bore 4 children, lost one that she had carried full-term and delivered at home, and raised the other 3.
I often thought of her grit as she fought to live for her family and how she longed for Spring and Summer each year after her diagnosis so she could plant, tend, and harvest the crops like she had done all the years before. I well remember her canning in the Summer’s heat well into her illness and making vegetable soup to put in the freezer for all of us to have for the next Winter. I can’t recall this without tears still springing to my eyes and she has been gone for over 20 years now, but the memory of her is still fresh when I step out into a Summer’s evening and smell the earth she so loved to till. How strong and earthy she was, our strong one…
The night Nanny died, for some reason, after I had gotten ready for bed I felt a tugging on my heart to go see her at the hospital. When I got there, I soon realized the grace in that nudging of the Holy Spirit. I was able to hold her hand for a long time and watch as her struggle gave way to a peace that passes understanding. Mama was exhausted and lay down on the little cot where she had kept her vigil with Nanny the nights before so there the three of us were for a while, three generations of mothers alone in that tiny room together waiting for Nanny’s faith to become sight.
Mama had dozed off to sleep allowing me the necessary privacy to share with Nanny words that were filling my heart. I doubt she heard a word I said, they were likely for me from the Good Lord, to help me along the way once she was gone. I well remember them now, how I was looking at life and death as one experience in a way I never had before. I said to her, “Nanny, you are going where we all must go” thinking of the valley of the shadow of death. I then squeezed her rough and knotty old hands in my still soft, young ones and remembered the work she had done for all of us, work done sacrificially out of great love. She had said in the weeks before that moment that she was ready to go except for not wanting to leave her loved ones behind. I then encouraged her by saying, “Nanny, just go on to Jesus and we’ll all join you real soon.” My tears were soon spent and I had a little one to return home to before her Daddy had to leave for work early that morning.
By the time the sun rose overhead, Nanny had gone on to be with the Lord. When my little girl of 3 then woke I took her in my arms and told her that her Gran-Nanny had gone to be with Jesus. After quietly pondering that for a few minutes, Heather raised her eyes to mine and said, “Mama, will Jesus hold her in His arms?” I answered, “He sure will” and I know He does…
There is something so wonderfully beautiful that occurs when absent from the body we become present with the Lord. In that moment our faith forever becomes sight…So thankful for God’s sure promises and unfailing love that carries us through every experience in this life and beyond!