Slipping my hand under Grandma’s, I cocoon hers in mine. A slight movement of the sheet pressed over her chest is the single indication of life.
“Dad and the others are on the way,” I whisper into her ear. A damp spot stretches out on the pillow. My tears or hers? Our hearts have been entwined for so long now, and we’ve shared more than a few tears, it seems fitting they pool together now.
I straighten up and look around her room. Family pictures dot pale yellow walls. Her blue and white Double Diamond quilt rests at the foot of her bed. She never could cook much of anything, but her sewing was stellar. The memory of us making that one and others together drifts through my thoughts.
I look at her dresser. Her jewelry is perfectly placed as always. Everything looks as if she’s simply taking a rest. She’s been such a strong woman until … stupid dementia.
Slight pressure on my hand makes me look back at her.
“Memories come and go,” G.G. whispers then blinks as if in slow motion. “They grow shadowed with time. Hold them close while you can.” Her breath hitches, then she opens her mouth again. Nothing comes out. No words of strength. No stories of faith. No encouragement for a sad heart.
Maybe she’s succumbed to those recollections and has drifted to another place … another time. I lower my head to our hands for several seconds, then look at her again.
“Are you mine?” she asks with no sign of recognition from her dull, empty eyes.
How many times I’ve wished she hadn’t seen into me so easily. Now, nothing is too high a price for her to be able to focus on me. “It’s me, G.G. … Raelyn … your granddaughter.”
With those words, a spark finds its way across her face. G.G. lifts and then presses her crooked, wrinkled, rough hand against my cheek. “Memories may fray, but the love in them stays.” Another hitched breath follows as she places her hand on my heart.
Unhindered tears course down my face. “I am yours forever,” I tell her before turning my face toward her hand and kissing it.
“Are you God’s?” Her weak, sweet words float to my heart.
“Yes, G.G., I am God’s.” I lean toward her again and sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Her cracking voice whispers a few of the words with me. As the song ends, the bedroom door opens slowly, and my parents, brother, and cousins step in. I rush to my father’s side and embrace him, then the others, before everyone moves around G.G.’s bed.
Dad leans over and kisses G.G.’s forehead. “We’re all here, Momma.” He puts his hand on her brow. “It’s OK to go now.”
Again, her eyes flutter. Her breath staggers. “I prayed you all to God’s throne.” The next breath rattles. “Go on with Him.”
During G.G.’s memorial service, Dad’s voice cracks. “Those were the last words my mother said.” He presses his lips together for a moment steadying himself before continuing. “The greatest gifts my mom gave those she loved were to point them to God’s love and forgiveness and to pray for us every single day of our lives. My most distinct memory of her is clear in my mind now and will remain in my heart always. I was about ten. I woke early and went to find her.”
Dad gulps, then continues, “She was kneeling at her favorite chair with her Bible in front of her. Beyond any doubt, I knew she was praying for me and my brothers, sisters, and our dad along with many others. For her, it was the best way to love anyone. Do we love others enough to pray as she did? To pray them to God’s throne?” Dad steps off the stage and joins us on the front row of the church.
My turn. I’m not sure if I can get through the next few minutes, but for G.G.’s sake, I have to try. Gripping the side of the podium with one hand and praying my legs hold me up, I scrunch the tissues in my other hand and draw in a deep breath, “G.G., Momma, Dierdre, Auntie, or whatever name she was known by considered anyone she prayed for to be part of her family. Many of you are here today as a result.
In her final moments, G.G. asked me if I belonged to God. To her, the most important gift she gave all of us was to make sure we knew Him. She used to tell me she wanted the biggest party in heaven including all those she knew and loved.” I pause. Life without her already seems emptier. She would get after me for thinking that.
“Our grandmother, mother, and friend did not have riches or valuables to leave behind. If you knew her very well, you knew G.G. didn’t know how to save money.” Snickers flowed through the gathering. I smiled and took a moment to breathe and whisper a prayer.
“She couldn’t remember much in her last months except the passion of her life. The question G.G. asked is important for each of us: Do you belong to God? If not yet, G.G.’s prayers will continue encouraging you to God’s throne.” I dab the tissue on my cheek and said, “And I will pray for you, too.”
I return to my seat. G.G.’s legacy was not money or possessions; it was God. Warmth and a smile spread over me. Her legacy will live on.
Photo Credit: Unsplash-Dinh Pham