Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Born that We No More May Die

contributed by Nelson

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.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It begins

contributed by Aimee

“The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor has raised his baton. In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart…The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.”

— Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark

I am breathing a little deeper and longing for this type of watchful hushed anticipation to fill my heart this Advent season. May it fill yours too.