Sugar cookies. Saturday night baked beans and home-made yeast rolls. Crocheted doilies and cozy afghans. Children’s hands traced on paper for the thick, hand-knit mittens that were sure to follow. These are the memories I will hold from the life of my husband’s grandmother, Beatrice Rhuda, who slipped away in her sleep on Friday.
The call, from my husband’s mother came Friday morning. “Nana” as her dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren affectionately called her hadn’t woken for nearly a week. She’d recently transferred from her snug apartment to assisted living–per her wishes to stay in the community where she’d lived most her life. But last Saturday morning, she was unresponsive. The facility sent her to the hospital, which sent her to a hospice center. Her body was simply done.
That same Friday our oldest sons’ school held its annual Veteran’s Day celebration with a pork tenderloin dinner and songs and poems to honor our troops. My husband’s brother, Ken, a Navy veteran, and his wife, Bonnie, joined us. Then they headed south to see Nana. We followed soon after, arriving at the Scarborough hospice center with our four children at 4:00. Our youngest son, two-year-old Asher, proudly carrying a single red rose for his great-grandmother.
Only, when I gave our names to the nurse at the reception desk, instead of pointing us to Nana’s room, she asked whether we were family.
“Yes,” I said, heart clenching. Were we too late?
Gently another nurse walked me down the hall and said Nana had just died. Her pastor was with her, holding her hand. Ken and Bonnie had pulled into the parking lot as she literally lay taking her last breath. She was not in pain. She was not afraid. Quietly and with dignity and love, Nana passed from this world to the next, from our care to His, to a spectacle of love and celebration we can only imagine.
After telling our children, we gathered beside Nana’s bed. Dana laid Asher’s rose across Nana’s chest. And we said our final goodbyes, sure she heard and knew we loved her.
“There is a place with no more tears,” I quietly sang, words I’d offered to my own daughter, Ruth, just days before her own death more than a year before. “Where Jesus will take away all your fears. There is a place where you’ll be free from pain and suffering. There is a place where you will know all the love we have for you hear below.”
I marvel at the timing. How Nana’s pastor had been with her. How she did not linger or suffer. How Dana’s brother and sister-in-law could be there with us together. How all the worries Nana held about growing old, and dependent, an un-useful were heard and answered by a loving God who faithfully took her home.
Thank you, Nana, for your Saturday night suppers and the gifts of your hands. Thank you for your faithfulness and care for others. We love you. Be well. Be at peace.