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For the Love of God

November 8, 2008

 Selma has given us a very interesting prompt this week on her Search Engine Stories blog. She uses genuine search engine terms as writing prompts. The rules are simple. Write a fiction, non-fiction, or poetic piece based on the prompt. This week’s prompt is “Candle in the Mist”.  I knew the second I read the prompt the story I needed to write. Thank You Selma for reminding me of how great my grandma’s love was.

 

For the Love of God

I accepted the Lord as my Savior at my grandmother’s funeral. As I reflect on the timing, I can see where this was most appropriate as my grandmother had been my savior for all of my life. I spent much of my life as a child with grandma. She taught me right from wrong and gave me strength to if not overcome; at least endure the pain of living in a motherless home with my mother. Grandma had been the one I could always count on to listen to my troubles and give me advice and peace about decisions I had to make.  She rejoiced in my successes and shared in my sorrows. Grandma read her Bible daily and often shared the word of God with me. She talked of God having a plan for my life. As a child, I was confused as why a God who loved me would allow such horrible things to be done to me. Throughout my adulthood, I questioned what kind of plan a loving God would design that included such physical and emotional abuse. Out of respect for my grandma, I would always listen to what she had to say about her God and would keep my doubts of His existence to myself.

Grandma was very ill the last four months of her life. She was too weak to walk or even to eat. Mom insisted grandma go into the hospital for a series of tests, but grandma refused.  Mom finally got her way and grandma was admitted. The tests only revealed what grandma had said all along. “I am just old and my body is slowly shutting down.” During her four day stay, mom made a schedule so that at least one person would be at the hospital with grandma at all times. I was sitting with grandma one evening when my cousin Vernon arrived for his shift.  

“How’s she doing?” he asked. “Same as usual. She just sleeps. Once in awhile she will stir, but she never wakes up.” I replied.  Vernon said it was a nasty night. It had rained earlier and now a dense fog had settled in. I had been reading and had not noticed, but now I looked out the window and discovered I could not see anything through the fog. I was relieved I only lived a few blocks from the hospital. We visited for about an hour and then I said I had to go home as I had to go to work in a few hours.  Just I stood to leave, grandma began to mumble. Vernon and I watched as her mumbling became words. “Yes Lord, I am ready.” she clearly announced.

Vernon and I looked at each other. It had been weeks since she had spoken that many words at one time. Vernon suggested she must be hallucinating from the pain medication. “But she is not taking any pain medication. Those IV bags are just nutrients as she can not eat.” I replied. All of a sudden, grandma sat straight up in her bed, her eyes wide open and her arms reaching towards the window. “I am ready Lord.” she said again with a look of joyous anticipation on her face.

Vernon almost knocked his chair over as he jumped up. We both scurried to her bedside, afraid she would fall. “I understand Lord.” she said with sadness in her voice and lowered her arms as she continued to look towards the window. Vernon and I both followed her gaze and looked toward the window. We could see a small distant light through the mist of the fog. I looked back at grandma and saw a tear roll down her right cheek.  Vernon put his arm around her frail shoulders and guided her back down into the bed.  For only a moment, she looked first at Vernon and smiled, then looked at me and softly whispered, “I love you this much Cricket.”  She then went to sleep.

Vernon and I stood by her bedside just staring at each other. “What in the world? How could she set up like that?” he asked. “She didn’t even put her hands down to help herself up. She just sat straight up. From lying flat on her back, she just sat straight up. How could she do that? And what did she mean, she loved you this much? How much is this much?” he rambled.

I ignored his questions and walked over to the window. Vernon followed. We stood at the window and looked at the small dimming light. “That light wasn’t there before.” I said. I had no more than spoken the words when the light disappeared in the fog. “What do you care about a light?” Vernon demanded. “Shouldn’t we call the nurse or something?”

Two months later, it was my turn to stay the weekend with grandma. I did not know grandma had asked mom to call my cousin Carol and tell her she needed to see her that weekend. Although Carol and I had been very close throughout our childhood, we had been estranged for over 17 years since I found her in bed with my husband. I was shocked and somewhat dismayed when Carol arrived that Saturday evening.

But, my grandmother was a very wise woman. Although she was too ill to speak more than a few words at a time, she asked for Carol and me to come to her bedside. She looked up at us, gave us a weak smile and said, “It is time you two had a talk,” and closed her eyes and went to sleep for the night.  I went outside and a while later Carol joined me. We ended up talking through the night, healing the hurt between us. The next day grandma requested an old fashioned Sunday dinner. Despite my doubts that she would be able to even eat one bite, Carol and I worked together making a big fried chicken dinner with all the trimmings. To our surprise, grandma did indeed eat a good sized plate. She was strong enough to even sit up and share in our memories of our childhood days. We laughed and we cried. It was like old times. Carol left that evening after grandma fell asleep. We promised to call and to get together soon. We didn’t realize how soon that would be.

I left the next morning when mom arrived. I had a business meeting in Columbus and would be gone for a few days. I gave mom the phone number of the hotel where I would be staying. I was in an afternoon seminar when I received a note to call home. Grandma had died without ever waking since Carol and I sat at her feet reminiscing the day before. I was stunned. I cried the entire two hour drive home. I could not believe my grandma, my rock, my savior was gone.

Two days later, calling hours were held. I was surprised to see so many people I didn’t know. All of grandma’s relatives and friends came, but there were also many strangers, at least strangers to grandma’s immediate family. One man who looked to be about 30 came up and introduced himself. It seems he met my grandmother ten years earlier during the darkest days of his life. He had been kicked out of his parent’s home in Cincinnati after refusing to get a job after he graduated high school. He admitted he was deeply into drugs at that time and even stole from his parents to buy drugs. After he was booted, he hitchhiked to Holmes County to sponge off his aunt. She had put up with him for several months, then finally had to throw him out because of his stealing. He had been sleeping under a bridge for several days and not eaten for as many days when he happened to walk past my grandma’s house. Grandma was sitting on the front porch and quickly offered a friendly, “Hello. This sure is a beautiful day isn’t it?” That greeting led to a conversation with a glass of iced tea and then a sandwich. Steve told grandma his situation, complete with all the bad things he had done. He also admitted he had decided to end his life that afternoon as he had no one to turn to. “That’s not true.” Grandma assured him. “Have you tried talking to God?” The afternoon turned into evening. Grandma offered him a place stay that evening along with a hot meal and a hot bath. She gave him an old pair of pajamas to wear while she washed his clothes. They stayed up most of the night talking and grandma led him to the Lord. The next day she gave him money for bus fare to go home along with the words, “Go home and apologize to your parents. Tell them you are ready to be a man of God. I know they love you and they will forgive you.”

Steve said he went home and grandma was right. His parents welcomed him with open hearts and helped him get through college. He said he had stopped by grandma’s several years earlier to pay back the  money she gave him, but she refused the money and said he should use it to help someone in need. He was now a dentist and devoted a large portion of his practice to providing free dental care to those who could not afford it otherwise. His aunt had seen grandma’s obituary and called him. He knew he had to come to say good-bye to the woman who had saved his life by leading him to God. “Your grandmother was a remarkable woman. I tried to tell her my parents would never forgive me because I had done such bad things to them. She said they loved me enough to forgive me.”

As Steve left the funeral home, I remembered Vernon saying, “And what did she mean, she loved you this much? How much is this much?” The next day, we made the funeral procession to the Upper Paw Paw cemetery outside of Marietta. During the drive, I thought about the night in the hospital Vernon and I watched grandma sit up in bed. I thought about the small dim light that went out like a candle in the mist of the fog. I remembered grandma’s words, “I love you this much Cricket.”  

I waited outside the little one-room country church as long as I could before the final service was to begin. Part of me wanted to go right in to be with grandma before they carried her coffin to the gravesite. But another part held back, like I was afraid that something bad was going to happen. My dad finally took hold of my arm and said it was time, we had to go in. I walked in and sat down on an old wooden pew. The minister began the service. He talked about the love grandma had for anyone she met. He shared her love for the Lord. Then it was time for my two sisters and I to sing grandma’s favorite hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross.” I originally declined to sing as I knew I did not have a good singing voice, but mom would not take no for an answer. As we walked up and stood by grandma’s coffin, I peace came over me. Although tears rolled down my face, my voice was strong and even sang on tune. We sat back down and the minister began to pray and everyone bowed there heads.  He gave an invitation for anyone who did not know Jesus to raise their hand and ask Jesus to come into their life. He went on to say he saw many tears today. For some, they were tears of sadness because they would not being seeing grandma in the flesh but if they knew Jesus, they would be seeing her in Heaven. For those who did not know Jesus, then the tears were of sadness because they would never see grandma again. Then he said the words that would forever change my life, “Grandma Martha has the love for God in her heart. She loves all of you so much, she would do anything to see you all again.”

In an instant, it all made sense. The night at the hospital when she sat up in bed, she thought it was her time to go home to be with God. I will never forget the look on her face when she saw God, and I know she did indeed see God that night. But he wasn’t there to take her home. He had another job for her to do before her time was done. There may have been more, but I do know I was one of the jobs grandma needed to complete before she went home. My heart had been hardened from all the abuse I endured throughout my life. My estrangement from Carol added an even thicker layer. Carol and I had shared so much and her betrayal created an impenetrable crust. The light I had seen that night was not for grandma, but for me. It was a light of hope shining through the fog of the earthly horrors I had known. God wanted grandma to help me find my way through that fog. He knew she was the one who I loved the most and the one who could gather all the seeds that He had planted together and bring me to Him.

I slowly raised my hand and asked Jesus to come into my heart. The service ended and everyone was given a final opportunity to say goodbye. I stood at grandma’s casket and remembered all the years of her love. I placed my hand on hers and told she could go home to be with the Lord as I had a new Savior. And, I would be seeing her in Heaven.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 9, 2008 4:40 am

    This is so moving. I am overwhelmed by the emotion in this piece. After reading this I also believe your Grandmother saw God that night. I have been estranged from the church for a while but every now and then I hear or see or read things which make me sit up and take notice.

    That your grandmother hung on to reunite you and your cousin and to help you find your faith is incredible. What she did for Steve is so admirable I feel like crying. The deep spirituality in many of your stories is inspirational, Cricket. Thank you for sharing this.

    ~~You are more than welcome Selma. My grandmother was truly a woman of God. She never knew a stranger and would not hesitate to help anyone. I can not imagine anyone else living on grandma’s street giving Steve a second glance let alone take hime into their home, feed him, and give him money. Sad to say, I would have to add my household to the list. But then, I know grandma took her lead from God. Cricket

  2. adamswife permalink
    November 10, 2008 12:19 am

    This is a very touching story. Your grandma reminds me of my father. He, too, loved God and knew Him as a friend. He, too, reached out to those others would have turned away and made sure they had a meal when they needed it. It’s wonderful to know love like that.

  3. November 12, 2008 2:02 pm

    I’m not religous in your sense of the word but I do believe that people like your grandmother are the angels on earth. Her loving and giving is the religion that I believe in. Though she is gone, I believe such a spirit still lives among us. You’re blessed to have her, she’s blessed to have this loving tribute written so eloquently by you.

  4. November 13, 2008 4:00 pm

    What a beautiful story of how your Grand Mother loved you so much she continued to live so you and your cousin could talk and for you to understand the light was for you. I am so glad you will see your Grand Mother some day.

    Love and Hugs,
    Joyce

  5. November 13, 2008 5:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful tribute. What a tremendous role model your Grandmother was, and what a gift to the world. I believe souls like hers are ancient ones, here by choice, radiant beacons of consciousness who light our paths and help us to awaken. I’m sure you will find her energy near, at anytime you may need it.

  6. DavidM permalink
    November 14, 2008 1:11 am

    Hi, I agree with the others. An inspirational post about a truly inspiring woman. Thanks, DavidM

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