Her frail hand lay cool in mine as I sat beside her bed. Memories flooded my mind…
Angel Food Cake always waiting when we arrived.
Dentures popped out to throw us kids into fits of laughter.
Her off-key baritone singing hymns in her tiny little Church of Christ.
That cackling laugh.
A huge block of “government cheese” in her ice-box
My Mema’s life was drawing to a close. A stroke had robbed her of her ability to walk, talk, and live her life. I had this one last chance to see her, to hope she could hear me, to tell her what I wanted her to know.
I spoke the words that spilled from my heart in shaky breath and tears spilled down my face. I swabbed her dry mouth with her favorite Dr. Pepper from a can and she moaned with pleasure because it tasted so good. Then I sang.
I’m sure it sounded awful, this song sung through tears and grief. But the song would not be held back. I wanted her to remember Who held her as she awaited her Savior. I needed to share this quiet melody with her even though it came out raspy and froggy and I ended up just humming because I was so choked up.
“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say it is well…
it is well with my soul.”
The colorful scarves she always wore to protect her short hair on the way to church.
The house on Hackberry Lane.
The sheet-metal shed full of rusty tools where Pepa parked the Mercury.
“My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought…my sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to His cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, oh my soul.”
Homemade yeast rolls.
The bulky dining table pushed against the wall so we could walk through the tiny kitchen.
The swamp cooler in her bedroom.
Her quiet strength when she stood beside my Pepa’s casket.
My song trailed off and I wept quietly. Suddenly her hand, which had laid soft and relaxed in mine, closed tight. She gripped my hand and I could feel her love, her desire to comfort, her strength that would go with her into eternity and the reassurance that she shared this knowing, this realization that so much better awaited and she was ready to go Home. I stood and kissed her forehead. It was cool and smooth. I walked out of the hospital room and away from my last living grandparent, knowing that an era had drawn to a close when that door swung shut behind me.
And just a few days later she quietly slipped away and stepped into Paradise.
It has been ten years and I remember it like yesterday. I have thought about Mema a lot lately. As I get older I realize so much that I did not understand when I was young. She had such a quiet nobility about her. She was always ready with a meal, a word, or a visit for the lonely and the sick. She cared for others selflessly…rarely judging, always giving the benefit of the doubt. She lived a life of grace and I am hungry for that these days. Her generation never had to deal with the pressures of today…social media, etc. Life was much more straighforward and simple. Right was right and wrong was wrong. Yes, I long for that simplicity and quiet.
I am thankful for my father’s mother, my Mema. I am thankful I have memories of her little house and the days of picking thistles and pods beside the gulley and feeding carrots to the neighbors’ horses through the barbed-wire fence. I am thankful for the hours my brother and I sat, quietly sketching those horses and flowers, because we had the blessing of experiencing sheer boredom in her little house. And I am thankful for the game shows and the soap operas on her console TV, the way she made my Pepa smoke outside, and the gravel road that led up the hill to the picket fence with the rusty hinges. My goodness, when I was a child I had no idea how great those simple things were.
Now, I do.