When my grandma was dying from stroke-related causes, she was inconsolable at night. A few days after my grandfather died in the nursing home room they shared, my parents moved her home; her new resting place a hospital bed in the room that had been my gradnfather’s for years after his own stroke had severely disabled him.
As my husband and I lay upstairs one night after my grandfather died, I could hear her cries for help and sobs. My mom had spent hours with her mother, consoling her, calming her down, but it was the middle of the night and she needed to sleep. So I took a turn. I crept down the stairs and opened the door. “Nanny,” I said. “It’s okay.”
“Help me!” she cried, “Help!”
“Would you like me to read to you?” I asked. A Bible was laying next to her bed. I picked it up and somehow ended up in Revelation, hoping to find something in those words to comfort her. I ended up skipping entire chapters. Revelation is not a comforting book.
“Let’s sing some songs,” I told her.
Amazing Grace. Jesus Loves Me. What a Friend We Have in Jesus.
It’s amazing how entire verses were stored in my memory. I sang and sang as she quieted down. She was comforted.
Hours went by. I sang. I stopped, and tried reading again from the Bible. I couldn’t read anything out loud without crying, not even from the Gospels. This is the book she read faithfully. This book – the reason she tithed and volunteered at church, despite her husband’s apathy to religion. Even with her faith in this book, she wasn’t sparred a devastating end to her life.
So I sang some more. She quieted down enough to sleep, however restless, and I went back to sleep.
A few months later, my mom called me with the news that Nanny had passed away in her sleep with her son and daughter at her side. As devastated as I was by the news, I could not imagine a better way to die: in your sleep, surrounded by your children in your own home.
It should have been no surprise that when I had my first son, I sang these familiar, comforting songs at bedtime, songs I knew the words to, songs that meant something to me and my family history: Jesus Loves Me, Amazing Grace, What a Friend We Have on Jesus.
There are still days that I don’t believe any of it, that a loving God would not have allowed my grandmother to suffer the way she did. By I am certain of this: when I die, I hope I am with my children and grandchildren and that they are singing to me.