Right before Christmas my 84 year old Nana had a stroke. She’s a feisty one. She lives alone, still walks to her part-time job and stay up until all hours of the night. She called 911 herself when she felt her speech starting to slur. It’s a miracle she’s still alive. She’s been left almost paralyzed on the right side and she’s quite weak and tired but we are so thankful she’s still with us.
We’ve been spending lots of time at the hospital with Nana. My mom and my uncle are there pretty much everyday. A little while ago my Mom and I spent the afternoon with Nana. We washed and cut her hair because the length was bothering her. We painted her nails and massaged her legs with cream and we chatted while she went in and out of sleeping.
At one point I sat and watched as my mom fed her mom dinner. I listened as she spoke softly to Nana and encouraged her to eat just a little bit more. I watched as she adjusted the blankets on nana’s bed, brushed her teeth and took her dentures out for her. As I watched daughter care for mother, I could not help but think that it was Nana who gave birth to my mom and now here they are years later in a hospital room with roles that are very much reversed. Isn’t life a funny thing? The way that it changes us from child to adult, from daughter to mother, from receiver to care-giver. The way that it takes from us before we’re ready to let go. The way that it gives us gifts when we least expect it. Isn’t it funny how life ebbs and flows?
Life is not static; it never stays the same. Life forces us to change and to adapt. The tension makes us fight and cry and search for safe places and arms to land in. It’s the tension that makes me hug my mom a little longer and tell my dad that I’m so glad he has life in his veins. It is the tension that makes me search for joy and laughter because we need more everywhere. No, life does not stay the same.
As I watch my Nana struggle to recover, I’ve been thinking about our bodies and how they get to a point when they just won’t work like they used to. They grow tired and slow and it’s kind of like they are longing for heaven, to be new again. Being young, I struggle to appreciate this. But my Nana is 84 years old and she has earned those wrinkles. She has lived a full life and while I dearly hope that it’s not her time to go yet, especially because she’s told me she plans to be at my wedding, (and only Jesus knows when that day might be) I realize that her body and her mind are starting to long for heaven. And it just might be harder for me to think about letting her go than it is for her to think about going home to heaven.
I’ve heard about this thing called dying grace. It’s extra grace given to those who are getting ready to die. It’s this type of peace that those of us without it just can’t understand. It’s the kind of grace we all hope to have when our time comes. Even now I can’t understand it because I long for life, a long life lived to the fullest. I hate death, I hate thinking about loss and separation. to the point that I feel great anxiety when I start to ponder these things. But as I have begun to watch my Nana in the last stages of her life, whether it will be weeks, months or a few years that she has left, I have become so aware of the beauty there is in aging. It’s this helpless type of beauty that breaks down all of society’s notions of what beauty is. Aging creates a longing for heaven in a new way. One day, and I do hope it’s a long way off, I hope that when my grandchildren look into my eyes and speak with me in my last days, I hope that I will long for heaven. I hope that my years of living life fully will bring me to the time where I long to go home and walk beside my saviour.
My prayer for my Nana is more life here on earth, but if God’s plan for her is life in heaven, then I ask for dying grace for her. I ask for a deep longing for heaven to exist in her soul, one that surrounds her with peace and a deep excitement to meet Jesus face to face. Dying grace that takes away her fear of dying, her fear of separation and any longing for this world.
While I pray for dying grace for her, I pray for living grace for the rest of us. Grace that reminds us to live fully while we can. Grace that allows us to keep going when we feel the separation and loss of those we love most. Grace that reminds us that life ebbs and flows and our seasons of grief will not last forever. Grace that whispers to us that we’re not alone.
So today, this evening, this morning, this afternoon, wherever you find yourself, I pray that you will experience living grace, right where you are. And may you hear Jesus whisper to you that “you are not alone”.