In 1977 I was married, working, and a college student when I got the call that my grandma was sick. My sister said it was congestive heart failure and not to worry. The next day, my sister called again to say that the doctor couldn’t drain my grandma’s lungs but not to worry. The next day, my sister called a third time and said, "Grandma has cancer." I hung up the phone, knowing that word filled my grandma with dread. I immediately made airline reservations, and the next day I flew to Southern California. A friend picked me up and took me to the hospital, where I met my aunt. My aunt was her usual stoic self, and I could see no visible emotion emanating from her. She simply told me that, as the eldest grandchild, I was in charge now. I stammered, “But, I'm only twenty-five years old! You’re her daughter, why aren't you making the decisions?” But my aunt turned and walked away.
Wow, what now? I went to grandma’s hospital room and found my sister and toddler nephew. Grandma was delighted to see me but knew, if I was there, something serious must be the matter. I deflected her questions and went into my granddaughter mode and made her laugh. When she fell asleep, I went shopping and bought her some cute nightgowns to wear, knowing she really couldn’t wear them because of all the tubes protruding from her. Nevertheless, when I returned to the hospital, grandma opened the gift bags and exclaimed with delight and laughter at the fancy nightgowns.
That night, after visiting hours, I stayed with my "mom", but the next day, I sadly had to leave her home and stay with my sister. The day was spent in the hospital with grandma. In the evening, the doctor finally arrived and asked to speak to me. He told me straight out that grandma had terminal cancer that had metastasized, and she probably had only six weeks to live. The doctor asked if I wanted him to tell my grandma the news or if I want to tell her. I figured that it was better coming from me, and he was pleased with that response.
My sister and her husband went to talk with the doctor when I entered grandma’s room, so grandma and I were alone. Grandma asked me what was wrong with her. I just could not tell her that she had cancer and was going to die, so I took a deep breath and asked, “Grandma, are you ready to meet Jesus?” I was surprised by her reaction. The smile on her face was like an angel’s. “Really? Yes, and I’ll get to see Ted again too! How soon? Now?” she asked eagerly. Ted was her beloved husband, my grandpa, who had died eighteen years before. “No, not now, grandma, but soon. I’ll be back to visit you over Easter break, but it won't be too long after that.” The only time I’ve ever seen an expression so gloriously joyful as my grandma’s at that moment is when a mother holds her newborn baby.
Then I asked my grandma if she wanted to pray, and she said yes, so we did. Then my sister, her husband, and toddler son came back into the room. We said our good-byes, kissed good-night, and said “I love you” to each other. Grandma continued to beam with an inner light. What a blessing to behold such pure joy.
It was about ten or so at night when we left the hospital. My sister, her family, and I went to a late dinner at a coffee shop. We talked awhile and then went home to bed. At three in the morning, we were awakened by the ringing phone. My grandma had died less than five hours after we left her room. It seems that grandma was just too impatient to wait six more weeks to be re-united with her beloved husband and to meet Jesus.
Now that I'm over sixty years old, I marvel even more at my grandma's reaction to her impending death. I don't think I'll be that joyful when my time comes because I will be SO sad to leave my children. I'm eager to see God and get some answers to my lifelong questions, but unlike my grandma, I think I'll put that day off as long as I can.
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