My grandmother was my spiritual anchor. Appropriately, her name was Faith. Faith taught me how to passionately love God. How to pray. Study the Bible. She taught me how to love myself in spite of my shortcomings and how to love others in spite of theirs.
I can remember sitting on her lap during worship and watching her face transform with joy as she lifted her hands toward heaven with each note of the hymns. I remember waking early in her home to the smell of coffee and finding her sitting at her kitchen table with a Bible on one side and a notepad on the other. Ever wanting to be like her, I broke out my own Bible and notepad and together we read Exodus while sipping on bitter coffee and eating bitter grapefruit. I hated coffee and grapefruit. But those were her things and I wanted them to be mine. So I partook. Eventually, she would look up from her study, examine my notes and say “Honey, you’re not suppose to write down every word, just the important ones”. “Well grandma, they’re all important ones” I would say.
Her firstborn grandchild, I basked in her love and adoration as if I was the most important person in the world. How different my life would be if my early years had not been filled with her affirmation. When I was 7, she and my mother had a falling out and I never saw her again. Oh, the tears I shed! I would pray over and over that God would restore the relationship. And as the years passed and I realized it would not happen, I prayed for just one more night with her. Doing puzzles. Rising early to the smell of coffee. Pouring over the Word with her. I prayed and begged and pleaded for just one more night of fellowship. But the heavens were silent.
Flash forward to 2002. I was an adult with children of my own. My mother and grandmother had finally reconciled, and not a moment too soon. Grandma Faith was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma. Just before going in for a routine lymphectomy, I could see she was afraid. She asked me to try on her wedding ring, but knowing she was thinking of giving it to me if she died, I refused. I didn’t want her to think that way, and I wasn’t going to let her. The night before her procedure, I gave her a gift of an engraved Bible. Engraved. So she knew it was for her and that I expected her to be around to read it. Grandpa says she read it right up until the time of her surgery.
Two days later, the surgery was complete, and she was failing to recover. I rushed to the hospital and was blessed to see a glimmer of recognition in her eyes. She knew I was there. Since the other family members had been by her side for the past two days, I offered to stay the night with her and call them if anything changed. By the time they left, her health had declined, and she was moved to a palliative care room.
Her stats were bad. She began to show signs of the loss of higher brain function. Nonetheless, I held her hand and prayed and read from the Bible I had given her. I stayed awake for most of the night, drifting off in the wee hours of the morning, her Bible beside me.
When I woke up, she was gone.
I held her cold hand and cried as I called her husband and children to tell them the news. My sweet grandma Faith was gone. I held the crisp, new Bible in my arms, leather bound and freshly engraved with her name and I mourned for all the mornings I missed pouring over it with her. I was angry with God that it had to end this way. With an 11th hour reconciliation and an unanswered prayer for healing.
Looking back now, I still can’t say why everything played out this way. Why my prayers and pleas to God and my parents seemed to fall on deaf ears. But I realized something important. That little girl who prayed for just one more night with her grandma – God heard her. And He granted my request.
I prayed for one more night with my sweet grandma Faith, and He reserved the most precious night of all for me. Her last night on earth. All of the times I cried out to him and was sure He wasn’t listening. That He didn’t care. He did. And He wanted to show me in a big way how much He loved me. While it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, it was immeasurably more beautiful and precious.
It’s easy to doubt that God hears our prayers. But it isn’t true. He does. And He answers in His own way and in His own time, which is often a beautiful surprise. When I am at my weakest, I doubt. But in my heart I know that God holds me and my family in the palm of His hand. He’s got this under control. We just need to learn to trust and wait a little bit. To know that His plans are not always our plans, but that He is always listening and will pour out His love in ways we could not even imagine.
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