November 29, 2008


Mom called yesterday, asked if I could bring her Grandma’s dress. It was hanging in the rafters above the dryer in the basement. I told her I would, that I would bring it right then. I took it down, brought it to my car. It’s green with little white dots and a frill around the neck. It’s plain, but it’s nice. It’s the one she’ll be buried in.

Mom was sitting by Grandma’s side when I got there, holding her hand. Grandma was asleep, breathing hard with her mouth agape, looking thirsty. Her skin was loose and her cheekbones sharp, her eyes were closed and dark and sunken back just a bit. She did not look well. On the wall were pictures of her and her kids, her face full of smile and life, just the way I want to remember it.

I wonder why the sheets are white, always white. So bland and plain. I wonder why people who are on their way out can’t die with something a little more aesthetically pleasing. They have white sheets in hotels and nursing homes and hospitals, and I think it's because these are places you just pass through. They aren't home.

Mom points me to the book where visitors have kept a log of Grandma and her condition. My cousin Julie wrote that she was already gone, already with Jesus, her body was just waiting to run out of fuel. I liked the way she said it, I think she was right.

Ninety-two years ago, my grandmother was four years old, living in a German settlement in Russia. An evangelist came and held a rally, preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When he came to her, he said, “What about you, Natalie?” She knew, at four years old, that she wanted to live her life for Christ. She accepted him that day. Not long after, the evangelist was martyred.

And she lived her life for Christ, knew this wasn’t her home, looked forward to the day she would see her savior. She escaped the communists in Russia, came to the United States. She met Adolph Hunt and married him and they raised five children, made sure they knew the Gospel, too. My mom was one of them, and she passed her faith along to her kids.

Years ago, my grandma was diagnosed with dementia, and slowly her brain failed her, and her body began to fail, too. She went into Hospice care a few weeks ago, and a few days ago it became clear she was close to heaven.

Yesterday, I sat with mom and held her hand as she cried. She has cried a lot lately as she has waited nervously, watching her mom go, wondering when it would be, dreading her departure but awaiting her release. I held grandma’s hand and kissed it, said good bye to her, wondered if it would be the last time.

I drove away, went to work, went out with friends from high school, and as we went our separate ways in the middle hours of the night, my dad called. He told me they’d gotten a call from the nursing home, that Grandma had taken another turn, and that she would probably not make it through the night. I wondered how they knew, how they could predict that. They were going to see her, to say good bye. I told him I would go, too.

When I got there, it was 2:15 am and Grandma was asleep, breathing slowly. Mom and dad were there, along with Uncle Jim and Aunt Bonnie. Mom was at one side, holding her hand and crying, and Uncle Jim was at her other side. We sat for a while, quiet, watching her breathe, waiting and wondering, knowing that it was time for her to go. The pauses between her breaths grew longer and longer. The nurse came and closed the curtain.

At 2:30 this morning, with family at her side, her body stopped working. She breathed her last breath and went home. She waited 92 years for it. And now, she's free.


Bethany said...

She is free, indeed, Jim. Thanks for writing this.

~Just A Thought Ginger said...

So beautifully written Jim. Your mother loved your grandmother as much as life itself and she showed it through her selfless devotion to your grandmother.

Although the heart longs to not let go, the thought of knowing she is seeing Jesus face to face makes it a glorious day.

Praying for your entire family.

Your mom's co-worker and friend,
Ginger Behrens

Amy said...

When my grandfather was in the hospital and dying this summer, it felt like he was trapped; that's a good way of putting it. It's hard, but savor the next few days as family is around and stories are told. Soon, you start grieving the good times before the sickness and almost begin to forget about the nursing home times.

Kali's Life said...

Hey Jim,
I am so blessed by the events you shared. I have been through a similar situation in fact about a year ago. Best wish for you family and may God bless you during this time. My thought and prayers are with you all.

Josh Cnossen said...

Well put as only you can my friend. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.