“I need you to pray that grandma’s surgery goes well.” I heard the plea in her voice and considered how difficult it must have been for my mom to ask for prayer. She had always been close to my grandma, her mother.
“When is the procedure?” I asked.
“Tomorrow at nine in the evening.”
My grandma had been residing in an assisted living facility because her memory had begun to slip making it impossible for her to live unsupervised. Her physical health was superior, and the only medication she was taking was eye drops. One day, while walking down a hallway, she tumbled, broke her hip and was now in need of surgery.
“Her physician says she will do just fine, so I am not worried, but prayer would be nice.”
“I will pray, ” I said as we hung up.
Instead of rushing right ahead to pray, I began thinking about my grandma and the times we had visited her when I was a child. Scenes from days gone by went through my mind. I recalled how she repeatedly said to me,
“Chrissy, I feel Jesus standing right here next to me.” She would point to her right shoulder, and I would imagine Him standing there. “He is always with me.”
Then, it was as if someone pushed a fast forward button on my memory and a recent conversation with her came to my mind.
“I am ready to go anytime. I don’t need to stay here anymore.”
At this, tears began to fall from my eyes because I was beginning to get the picture.
I hadn’t gotten down on my knees to plead with heaven to spare her. I didn’t pull out scriptures from the Bible requesting that it be done. I simply had paused for a moment, took a breath and decided to let whatever I felt come to me.
I wasn’t so sure I was comfortable with what I was feeling, so I decided to call my brother. When he answered the phone I explained my dilemma.
“I can’t pray for her like mom has asked me to. I feel like she wants to leave.”
“I know, ” he replied. “I feel the same way. She doesn’t want to be here anymore.” We spoke of her age and the full life she had lived.
The two of us had known her as a loving grandma without being fully aware of the hardships she had endured. I hadn’t realized until I was an adult that she had suffered through an unloving, unfaithful marriage. If that was difficult enough, she had raised a bedridden daughter and later watched her die. We just knew her as the one who made the best peanut butter cookies and cherry kool aid.
“I have never had this happen before. Usually, I pray for people and expect the best. I still expect the best, but she might be called to go home.”
“I know,” he said again. With that, I felt reassured that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way.
The next day, I completely forgot about the surgery. I got out of bed and went about my day, full speed ahead with an eleven month old and a five year old. Back then, there wasn’t time to think or dwell on anything.
By evening, I had somehow tucked both girls into bed by 9 pm without the usual silly hassle of multiple drinks of water and last minute requests. Already, divine intervention was at work. Quietly, I shut their bedroom door and tiptoed to the kitchen. This is what I used to call “mommy time.” The house was quiet, and I had a few moments of peace all to myself.
As I entered the kitchen, I found myself in a strange place. It was as if a projector screen was pulled down in front of me. My eyes were wide open as I stood and observed the scene. I was standing at the head of a hospital bed. The white, soft curls were immediately recognizable. It was my grandma. Then it hit me. The surgery was scheduled for 9 pm!
In a whispered tone I heard,
“We cannot stabilize her blood pressure. I don’t know why.”
The whir of the machines was quite audible. It is difficult to put into words what happened next. It felt like a warm blanket was wrapped around me but not just on the external. I felt warm from the inside out. Similar to when you see someone whom you love across a crowded room. As I looked on, I saw my grandma, or her image, float above her body and begin to fly away. I felt myself begin to go with her. Soon, we were out of the building and in the sky. Again, this was all happening like a virtual game going on as I stood in my kitchen, yet I was with her as well. As she flew higher and higher, these words went through my mind,
“Keep writing. Don’t give up. And, take care of your mother for me. ”
As I stood there, I thought,
What is this warm feeling?
“Heaven,” came the reply.
After this, I was able to walk into my living room with the glorious feeling radiating in my being. I began to wonder,
How can she see me? I live in Minnesota. She lives in North Dakota. The answer swiftly popped into my head.
“It was promised to you when you were a child. She promised to say goodbye to you before she left here.”
I then saw a scene from when I was nine years old. My grandma and I were walking in her backyard looking at trees, flowers and birds. Our talk turned to how life soon is over and becomes death.
She jokingly said,
“Chrissy, I am going to come back and haunt you.” She made these big scary eyes and starting hooting like an owl which made me laugh.
“What if I go first? I will come back for you!”
As we continued on our walk we spoke of God and the afterlife.
“Will you say goodbye to me before you leave?” I asked innocently.
“Yes. If God lets me I will.”
And, it happened. My grandma Hazel, who made me feel so important as a child, came and said farewell before going on to a much better place.
Without warning, I was back in the living room and the warmth had disappeared. I cried because I knew she was gone.
Shortly after, the phone rang. A family member said he had news for me.
“Grandma is gone,” I said.
“How do you know that? I was calling to tell you.”
“She came and said goodbye to me.”
That night, before bed, a poem came to mind. I can’t help think that she sent it my way. After all, she was a talented writer who never found fame or glory in it, but wrote for the love of it.
I know what she is doing
Now that she’s taken flight
She is standing next to Jesus
Bathed in His glorious light
She’s hugging close the little ones
Who leave the earth too soon
She’s telling them God’s secrets
How He made the sun, the stars, the moon
She is not getting out her china
And setting places so neat
No, she is at the Lord’s table
In her own special reserved seat
She’s living in her mansion
That Jesus went to prepare
I know she has a garden
She’s tending with extra care
Her eyes no longer blurred
She can hear the angels sing
She joins in the chorus
Giving praises to the King
I know that she will be there
Waiting expectantly for me
Her home is heaven
Seventeen years ago today on January 29, 1998 I experienced my grandma’s goodbye.