Night number two with Grandma. She’s more lucid this evening.
Every time I’ve ever walked into her home I’ve always heard the same sugary-sweet Arkansas accented greeting, “Well hello there sweet heart!” Her eyes light up and she smiles like she knows everything that’s going on in my life before I say a word.
She told me tonight she feels better than she did yesterday. She has one thing on her mind: the clear plastic tub full of dvd’s she’s made over the years.
Her pretty cursive handwritten notes are all over the outside of each disk. “Lifetime memories 2. Bobby, Vernie and the kids. Gary, Greg and Terry Lynn. Tommy and Bill. Grandma Stout. Mom and Dad. Velma and Thelma. Sandra. A.J. and Darryl.” I grab the top disc and put it in her combo VHS/DVD player. Her favorite songs play in the background- The Lord’s Prayer, blue grass music, Pavarrati, Celine Dion. She looks at the images of her brothers and sisters, mom and dad from Arkansas 60 years ago and starts to cry, “I feel so bad for your grandpa. He never knew such love. We were so loved...” Tears flow from her dimming eyes. Her skin is pale and a little jaundiced. Her lips are thin and dry. Her eyes squint as a few tears fall from her dehydrated body. Memories of her tender, loving watching her with broken hearts as she left home at 15 to move to California with my grandfather bring up an almost 70 year old ache.
We watch as the memories play, bluegrass and gospel songs fill our ears. Pictures of my dad as a child and teenager play while The Little Drummer Boy’s, “I have no gift to bring,” pa rum pum pum pum’s in our ears.. My grandma was a child when she had my dad, just 16. My toddler dad smiles in the lap of a beautiful, dark-haired teenage girl. He looks just like my youngest son.
I see happy-looking people, but I know the pain many of them have lived through. It’s easy to look back at life through triumphant songs and compiled images of smiling faces and candid shots of playfulness and wonder why there had to have been so much pain and trouble in those lives. My grandma wonders. “Why couldn’t we just have loved each other better?” she questions with the worried look of a woman who’s lived through several divorces, and watched her oldest son move away with his dad while he was just a boy. “I didn’t want him to go Sheila. I thought I was doing what was best by letting him do what he wanted.” Stinging tears redden her tired eyes.
I reach to hug her frail body. “Grandma we’re all a mess. That’s why we need Jesus. Our hope is in him, not each other.”
“I know. I know.” Her face relaxes. The gospel once again puts her mind at ease. Memories of so much damage from our sinfulness broke through the smiling images and transcendent songs and she wished it never had been that way. But just the mention of the hope of the gospel of Christ, that one day he will make all things new, put her worries away.
“One day He’s gonna wipe all that pain away Grandma. One day he’s going to hold you and you’ll have no doubts. You’ll know how good he is and you’ll be at total peace.”
Death is lurking, threatening, stinging my grandma’s broken memory with reminders of the years sin has damaged. But Jesus. “But Jesus,” was all I had to say. I just had to remind her of her hope that was not shifting like her cancer-laden brain, and death shifted back into the shadows, trying to hide from the defeat it knows is coming. Resurrection is about to swallow up death’s work in my grandma. Never again will death be able to attempt to sting her into hopelessness.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57