My dad called late yesterday morning from my 97-year-old grandmother's care home in Langley. While the effects of her dementia and congestive heart failure have been getting worse for some time, yesterday he said she hadn't been eating or drinking anything for a few days. Dad said she was getting much weaker, and that her time could come soon.
We arrived a couple of hours later to find grandma bright-eyed and talkative, despite her obvious frailty and weakness. Mom and Dad said it was actually quite surprising to see her like this. She fell in and out of coherent speech, but seemed to recognize us and welcome our presence. We tried to say a few things to her –– memories, words of love –– but she wasn't wearing her hearing aids, so that didn't work too well. Much more significant were the words she spoke to us.
At one point she said, "Come back, come back." We weren't going anywhere. But in that moment, I was reminded that whenever we'd left her place from visits over the years, she would say, "Come again. Come again." We knew we were always welcome at her house.
Once she said, "Kids are so much worth." My brother –– who has three children –– was there at the time. He heard "worth" as "work". He burst out laughing and said, "You're so right, grandma. They are a ton of work." We all figured that since she'd had six kids herself, she probably meant both words.
And then as we said our goodbyes, she hugged and kissed us and pronounced a sort of benediction over us all: "God's blessings be with you...his provision...May God bless you...". There wasn't a dry eye after that.
I don't know whether this was the last time we'll get to be with her before she dies. Grandma's a pretty strong woman; she could bounce back. There are a lot of thoughts and emotions running through the minds and hearts of our family members. One such thought is that these Advent-ish words...words like preparing, coming, waiting, expectation, hope, arrival...they take on new meaning when you're anticipating death as well as birth.
A couple of weeks back my clock radio woke me up with the first Christmas carol I recall hearing this year. It was Hark! The Herald Angels Sing –– Amy Grant's version. (I know, right? Classic.) But more important than who was singing was what she sang. I usually hit the snooze button fast, but that morning the lyrics caught my attention and I had to listen:
Mild He lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Together with my grandma, we anticipate this holiest of Births knowing that Death is not the end. God's blessings and provision indeed.