After a visit back to the mother land of Texas I am left to ponder life a little bit differently than before. My sweet, kind Grandma Beth who is approaching 85 years old is in a nursing home now. She has been there since Dec 26, 2012. I saw her the day she fell and fractured her hip and after hugging her when I had sneaked into the room where she was getting a scan we had to leave town. I love my dear grandma. She has taught me so much in my life, she influences what I sing to my kids and how I look at the world. She read the Bible to me when I was a little girl, she always gave of herself for others…
I was able to visit with her several times and brought her to have dinner at my parents house one evening too. She is quieter, frailer than I ever remember. She’s still my grandma though. The nurses refer to her Alzheimer’s as having good days and bad. She hasn’t been “diagnosed” yet, but she doesn’t remember anything for very long in the short term.
My grandma and I have for years been taking pictures together sticking our tongues out. The story? Well, my mother was trying to get a good picture of us together at my college graduation, and Grandma and I whispered to each other (I cannot remember who’s idea it was??) that when Mom got to three on her picture count we would stick out our tongues. So we did.
It’s probably my favorite picture from graduation too.
Mom and I took my kids for a visit with Grandma in her room. I so wanted her to call me by name and to go on and on about my kids. But my sweet grandma, smiled and looked glad to see me but didn’t use my name…and of course, didn’t remember the kids names. I knew she remembered me, simply by the way she responded and in her defense my kids have always lived 2500 miles away from her. I handed Mom my camera and whispered in Grandma’s ear, like I have so many times before, except this time I explained what we should do for our picture together, just in case she didn’t remember. We took “our picture” like old times.
Later, Mom (who I know wanted Grandma to remember too) told me she showed Grandma what to do while I was whispering it to her. Did she remember or just copy?
While visiting my hometown, we went to my Grandma’s house, I walked through the rooms and remembered, smelled, and cried. My Grandma isn’t with Jesus yet, so to walk through and choose things to remember her by felt premature. I just walked and looked and cried. More powerful than ever, I’m reminded how God has made us relational beings. Nothing at my Grandma’s house makes us have a relationship, some of it’s special because it’s hers, but without the relationship it’s just stuff. I chose a couple of small things like a scarf I remember playing dress-up with as a kid, and her sewing scissors. I know if she could she would be happy that I try my hand at sewing a little. I remember the 3 days she and I spent sewing a dress, petticoat, pantaloons, and apron for my china doll like it was yesterday.
I thought about how she has a small closet and a tiny dresser in her “new” room. How she doesn’t need many belongings, how she left all behind and now doesn’t even realize it or talk about it much. I thought about how materialistic things are really unimportant and how relationships last.
I went back to visit her for the last time this trip, alone this time. Over the course of the few days I visited, she hadn’t used my name. I had asked God to allow me to see her for a moment like she used to be. My heart wanted it so much. It was late in the evening and I almost turned around because I thought she was asleep. She popped up and said, “Hi Paige,” while moving her little body over in the bed for me to join her. I put a pillow behind her head so she could lay back and she took my hands. She said, “How are the little ones….how is Keith?” I got tears in my eyes and smiled.
She knew me.
We talked for about 30 minutes and even though she asked me 5 times when I had to leave, she knew me. I told her about each of my three kids, Little K, Princess K, and Baby K. I told her their names and why we named them. I told her about their personalities and what they enjoy. I told her how much I love them and how I wish that she could know them. She told me something she used to say EVERYTIME we talked, “I know you are where the Lord wants you.” She used my name again.
She knew me.
I told her about how our church is doing and how we were recently invited to tell lots of people about what God is doing in our church. She has always prayed for me, for my family, and for our church. She was excited to hear about it. She smiled.
Her eyes smiled too.
I knew I needed to say goodbye so I asked her if I could pray for her. She said, “Why sure.” I continued to hold her tiny hands.
I prayed for my Grandma. I thanked God for her life. I know there were angels crying with me. (If angels can cry?)
When I finished, I had tears in my eyes. Grandma stroked my hand with hers and said, “Now there. It’s ok. It’s ok. It’s ok.”
I know it is Grandma.
I am known.
Not only by my Grandma for a special 30 minutes, but by my Savior. It’s a powerful thing to be known. I allow people in my life to know me. That’s powerful too. I feel honored when others allow me to know them.
I use people’s name when I’m talking to them. It shows I know them.
In a little room in Lufkin, Texas, my sweet Grandma began to forget again. But she reminded me of something.
God knows my name.
We hugged and I left the room and before the door closed behind me I was sobbing right in the hall of that nursing home.
Because after we hugged she said, “I love you a bushel and a peck.”
And I replied, “and a hug around the neck Grandma.”
She has told me that as long as I can remember.
I say it to my kids every night.
Being known changes everything.