The Heavenly Watch

I have spent the last twelve days in my hometown of  Waycross, Ga.  I went to celebrate my grandmother’s 100th birthday. We held a party at her home on Saturday , August 3, 2013.  Her actual birthday was August 7th. She was born in 1913.  Her family, children, grandchildren and great-granchildren were in attendance. She has two great, great grandchildren who live in Missouri who were unable to come.

We had planned a big party at the church for the family and the entire town was invited. But her health took a turn the week before, so we cancelled that and decided to have it just at home with her family.

She had a bad night the night before, so she was in bed the day of her party, but her mind is as sharp as it ever was. Each family took turns going in to sit by her bed and visit. She told us all how much she loved us, and thanked us for being such good children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Her great grandson, who is ninteen was there from New York, and to me that speaks volumes. Most ninteen year old college students would rather be anywhere else on a weekend than Waycross, Ga.  But NaNa is so loving and so wonderful, that everyone wants to be around her. She oozes love out of her every pore.

Her favorite thing she says to you when you tell her you love her is, “I love you more!” She says it to everyone.  She is a gracious, Southern Belle with impeccable manners even at the end of her life.  She suffered a small stroke last Monday and has now been without food and water for eight days.  However, she still has her manners. I told her about a neighbor bringing food over and she said, “you are writing all of this down, aren’t you?” She also asked if a lady who dropped by had signed the guest book.

I have been amazed watching my NaNa with her sitters. They all have grown to love her so much that even if they aren’t working, they will come and sit with the other sitter just to see “Ms. Mary”. One night, one of her sitters, who was not on duty that night, and another woman,who used to sit with NaNa came and stayed all night sitting awake by NaNa’s bed. And my NaNa loves those girls. One of them told me that her husband has leukemia and that NaNa would always pray for him before she prayed for herself.

My Aunt Peggy, who lives in Jacksonville was staying at NaNa’s, and she coined the term, “the heavenly watch”.  One day, as I was sitting by NaNa’s bed, I thought, this is a death watch.  No sooner had those thoughts left me, when Aunt Peggy came in and said, “they call this a death watch but we are calling it a heavenly watch.”  And that is so true,  my grandmother is a devout Christian and has lived her life by faith.  She actually wrote a letter to her grandchildren and great grandchildren which said, “I proclaim my faith in God.”  Galatians 5:6 says, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.”  I believe that sums up my NaNa’s life.

I have learned more about love from my NaNa than anyone. Never once did I hear her say any unkind thing about anyone.  She wrote in her letter that “she looks for the good, she accepts the good, and she expects the good.” And I can honestly say, she lives that, even now as she is waiting to go to her Heavenly home.  She has seen Jesus twice that we know of in this last week in her room.

This week also, I have learned the value of roots and a small town. I love Atlanta, and I know for now this is where I am called to be.  But there is something so comforting about a home you have known all of your life, and dear friends who live down the street whose door you can knock on when you need to get some fresh air.  I took a walk one day, as I really needed to get out of the house. The emotional roller coaster of thinking any minute someone is about to die takes its toll on you.  I went down to one of my childhood friends homes and knocked on the door to be met by her mother’s sweet smile, and southern drawl, “come on in and let me get you some coffee.”  That doesn’t happen in the big city.

Not to mention, the casseroles, goodies, flowers and cards and well-wishers stopping by hourly to check on my NaNa.   She is beloved by so many. The phone does not stop ringing from grandchildren, great-grandchildren, sitters, and friends calling to check in.  And when you tell her who called, she gets a big grin on her face.

Her helper, Yvonne has worked for NaNa for almost twenty years, and her mother worked for NaNa until she died. It is so sweet to watch Yvonne now sitting by NaNa’s bed holding her hand. Yvonne is like a member of our family.

My cousin, Mary Beth was there for a week, and we had such a fun time going through old pictures, letters and clothes of NaNa. She was a fashionista! One night, I put on a red lace dress that she wore to Aunt Peggy’s rehearsal dinner 60 years ago. It fits and is still gorgeous.

The Hospice nurse who comes to bathe NaNa always puts her in a beautiful gown and then puts lipstick on her.  My cousin’s wife from New York was there, and we went in after NaNa had been bathed. Caroline said, “only in the south do they put lipstick………” and I finished her thoughts, and said “on dying women.” We got a good laugh out of that!  I was sharing the story with my Aunt Cynthia who is married to my Uncle Edwin. She told me that the first time she came to Waycross with Uncle Edwin to meet the family that Uncle Edwin met her at the bottom of the stairs the next morning and said, “Go back upstairs and put your lipstick on, nobody comes to breakfast in our house without their lipstick on.”

We had many laughs and tears this week, as we have talked about wonderful memories. My second cousin has come by every single day and sat for hours with my NaNa.  This week it has been as if time stood still.  My brother and I were discussing this today, while I was driving back to Atlanta. This is an era that is gone by. And it is sad in many ways. We are such a global society and so busy.  Scott mentioned that NaNa’s generation knew what was important and stuck to their priorities.  In my grandmothers case it was: faith, family and friends, in that order.

I will forever treasure this week with my NaNa. We have a special and unique relationship that death will not be able to sever.  And I so grateful that my  NaNa will be in heaven in God’s perfect timing, and I will see her again.  God is still using NaNa even in her body’s weakened state, her mind is still alert, and she still says “I love you more!”

We would all take turns getting in bed with NaNa. We talked and listened to beautiful hymns. Some days we sang hymns to her and read the Bible. We played beautiful praise music.  I must say “the heavenly watch” has been one of the sweetest experiences I have ever had. I am closer to my Aunts, Uncle, and cousins.   My mother and I had a precious time too.

When NaNa does leave her earthly body, she will be greeted in heaven by her loved ones, and her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And I know NaNa will hear these words “Well done, good and faithful servant.”