It really is humbling in a scary and amazing kind of way just how fragile life really is…how quickly it can all seem fine one minute, and then, especially when it’s without warning, a second later come screaming down, disrupting everything we had resigned the evening to be, comfortable, cozy, and safe.The fragility, disruption and screams that found me this evening came from my Grandma Edie (ee-dee).
She’s 76 and frail as can be now, but Granmda still shows the spit-fire passion that has allowed her to make a life for herself. This woman has had to overcome a lot…from taking my Dad away from a lesser man whom she called husband, because she vowed her son would never be hit, to coming out the other side of a nursing program, fully accredited having less than a high school education to start with. My Grandma was and is still ahead of her time in many respects; Where now such characteristics of self-sustainment, and do-it-yourself-womanhood are treasured beacons of 21 century feminine individuality, my Grandma considered them to be nothing more than doing what was necessary to survive, not supplement to sexiness and individuality.
I find it ironic that culture now heavily stresses the new idea of womanhood as being strong and independent, typically free of men, when in fact these so-called new attributes that are now thought sexy are things that women have been doing all throughout history…and my Grandma honorably calls it survival mode, not new-found femininity.But even this strong lass must meet her quell…and having consistently spared lately with old age’s advance, she has admitted defeat through tears, exhaustion, and tonight, through screams.
It sounded like the worst song I had ever played…I was strumming some Christian song on the guitar, without words, and then, like deadly, unsung melody, something felt wrong. I didn’t hear anything, but I still felt aroused enough to get up, leaving the guitar on the bed. I wasn’t more than two steps into heading back toward my bedroom when I heard the sounds I feel the Holy Spirit was trying to tell me were on the way. In came screams from behind the bedroom that had been pressed shut just minutes earlier by withered hands and huffs of air. I imagined those same loving hands behind the door twisting off the top to her Diet Lipton Green Tea, which I had moments earlier loosened for her…oh how she loves those things…or perhaps she would be washing up after a long day of simply living. But neither were the case.
It took no acrobatic stunts to buckle my Grandma to the ground on this night. All she was doing was simply trying to remove her shoes by propping up against her “big ol’ hickory dresser.” That scream still makes my heart race, unable to stop re-calling it with perfect memory and an even more intimate recollection of how my insides seemed to spin at the thought and sight of what she was having to endure. I sprinted across the room…ran toward the screaming, and like some bad horror film, found that upon trying to open the door, she was blocking it with her body that had been thrown to the ground in agony. It felt like I was pushing that door up against a dead body…I hated thinking that I had to now waste precious seconds running around the other side of the huge room to get in the other door to where she was. After a second of clarity I could tell I was nudging her foot. I thought, seeing that I only needed another 6 inches to get in the door, and that it was slightly giving, to just push her helpless leg forward along the carpet with whatever injuries I had yet to see.
The next moment will be forever etched in my mind as I remember thinking I was looking at a young child. I was already on my knees figuring out the first thing to do when that thought had finished passing…how quickly her mind must have been racing and stopping… dwelling on the pain, then sprinting in it, keeping pace as it shot all through her body. She had cut open her forehead what looked like a good 3 inches across. The blood was like a young river flooding an old terrain as it poured down her face. She half propped herself up and looked at me, not with ‘ouch-eyes’…but with ‘please-make-it-stop-eyes.’ I remember lying in some crazy side-slung position, half pretzel, half changing a tire, just trying to hold pressure on a wound that would not stop bleeding. I tried to fill the air with rythmic breathing that she soon matched.
Grandma and I just lay there, bleeding, crying and humming softly.That otherwise thick towel beneath her head was managing to breathe warm blood right on through to my open hand…I kept thinking…”greater things than these you will do.” I wanted to heal her…make her pain fade, make her bleeding stop. I would have spit in some mud, let her touch my cloak…anything, but I had no cure… no miracle in my hands for her. The best I could be was a band-aid to someone I loved…someone who needed my help. I was so angry that I could do nothing more…because, I believe we can heal as Jesus did… His Word tells us this (John 14:12). While some dismiss that notion and resign the “greater things” to the telling of the Gospel, I also hold that it quite literally means the actual miracle we read of, healing, etc.
I was so mad that I was actually beyond a place of tears, easily able to hold ’em back ’til everyone had left…but even now, I am still filled with anything but tears, although they’re sneaking out slightly. She just kept saying those words to me…over, and over, and over…”Oh it hurts.” She even made those, “I love you gestures” that I have come to know so well.
I felt so unworthy of anything she was offering. I was doing nothing that could make the pain leave for good. I don’t know why, but whenever a loved one is hurt…I mean really hurt…all I want to do is match the pain with justice. I kept sneeking glances up at that stupid hickory dresser…about the same size as my Grandma, thinking how much I wanted to just bash the hell out of it with my bare hands…to punch it into the ground…to break its droors and make it bleed from the forehead. I must’ve checked her pulse about 20 times…half distracting her, half distracting me, keeping her talking just for the sake of talking…something, anything, just so she would not go to sleep on me. It was enraging and saddening all at once.
I hate that I lay there so healthy, and free from pain, while she was broken at my feet. I wish that crying with her would have made the pain stop, because she would have felt nothing after about 5 seconds of me seeing her. It wasn’t the chaos, or the even the screams from behind that horrid door that drove home this helplessness and anger…it was when everything all but went quiet and what I heard when I was bowed over her, softly rubbing circles on her back, feeling her blood tighten and crackle on my skin… all but silently humming that hymnal over her pain. It was the way in which surrender was being asked that boiled inside me…the way I knew that if I moved her even an inch that she would writhe where she lay. I felt my unmiraculous hands heavy on my Grandma and thought of the hands that did so much more than mine…the same ones that were pierced for both my Grandma and I…I thought on…
Revelation 21:4 ‘He will wipe away every tear from my Grandma’s eyes, and death shall no longer touch her. She will not mourn, or cry, or be in pain anymore, for those things will have passed away.’
I hate seeing people in pain…which is why I probably have the relentless mindset to go exploring for it with people in conversation. If I can find it, then maybe it can be healed, it too might pass away.This is the second time my Grandma has been hurt since I came home from Scotland on Thanksgiving day. If God were ever testing me it is in my time now. I want to return to Seminary and finish up my degree…I feel that’s where God wishes I go next…but this pain of knowing I am leaving a family that I, when here, give life to…(sigh)…it’s just such a defeating emotion to wrestle with knowing that this is one of those “nets” Jesus commands you drop to follow Him.
I find a genuine strength and simplicity in the idea that I need only truly challenge the notion of returning to school, and I am left with an unwavering confidence in Christ…I am not supposed to be my families’ proximity hero. God knows I want to be, but much like the truth that worrying unveils…I would then be taking responsibility for things that were nevr mine to be incharge of. Over these last few weeks I feel I’ve been attending God’s classroom every day, gleaning many lessons that God has been trying to teach me…through both my suffering as well as through other’s. (Heb. 5:8) I grew up with my grandparents all my life…both sides…and now, having had to hold their screams and whimpers in my hands, I will forever remember the ways in which I will always see to tend to my parents in the years to come…I am proud to say, I will in many ways take care of my Mom and Dad the way they have taken care of the Grandmas and Grandpa.
I’m sorry if this entry is scattered…it’s longer than I intended. I’m tired and exhausted and completely racing in my thoughts. I suppose I was just hoping to capture a few of the truths that were the cardinal ingredients of tonight, and of my walk as of late…How God has been speaking. I never feel more helpless and dependent of God’s great healing hand than when I am holding loved ones in my own who are hurting. I often think of Jesus’ amazing opportunity to be who He was…The Great Healer…God in flesh, having shelved his divinity to suffer as we suffered (Heb. 4:14-15)…and suffer torture and death for us all. He was so very lucky, bequeathed with such a regal task…no wonder He found, honor in His task, “in death, even death on a cross.” I thank God for the ways He re-aquaints us with such strengths and weaknesses. I can only hope I remember in vividness how it felt to hold such precious life in my hands…as I hug my family goodbye in three day’s time to head back to school…if ever I hold close a wife…if ever I am blessed to hold close my own bundles of joy…and even now as I go to be held in prayer…knowing I will find my Father’s voice saying…
your responsibility is to Love Me, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and, to Love your neighbor as such.
I pray we all BELIEVE in the greater things that we can do in His name…greater than even some of our Lamb on High, although not ultimately greater than His end-all sacrifice. Tonight my Grandma might have felt like she lost the battle of Life a bit, but seeing my families’ eyes pour over the brokeness and the vulnerability that was life tonight…I believe that this night was yet again another victory for Christ…2Corinthians 12:9-11. May we all have our eyes opened to Him at much less a pain…Trust be told, why I am really mad tonight…it’s because we brought pain and death into the world through disobedience, and now have to suffer the mortal toil we reaped.
And yet, when we suffer as He suffered, for His sake, then we find joy and tears to be a tandem that drives the Enemy to rage and confusion. C.S. Lewis said ‘nothing is more confusing to the enemy and his minion than when a follower of Jesus is stricken with every kind of downfall in this life; Pain, loss, humiliation, and yet, arises still to praise God at the end of it.’ May we all be so steadfast in our Faith in Jesus Christ…may we truly cherish the times we still have with our grandparents, and the time we simply have at all, every day… And may we all live such Christian lives that it provokes the enemy, invites blessing, and fears not but God.
I am sorry Grandma for not being there to catch you before you ever fell tonight. Even though she fell, Lord, I am deeply grateful that You are all that is needed to be her hero. I am sorry I did not do, “greater things than you” tonight Lord; work tangible miracles with my hands. But I believe Your healing has never stopped in and for all of us, and that You are never not at work in restoring Your children to You. And so, in that light, I am sorry that I choose to look for confidence in what is easily seen, when I live ever in faith by what is not seen. God…You are our Great Healer.