Some of you may be reading this that have known me for a long time (my brother for one) and yet may never have heard some of the stories I will be sharing in this and subsequent blogs. There is a reason for that. Actually, more than one reason. First of all, the instances were far between and secondly, I just brushed them off as ‘weird’. Thirdly, it never felt quite right to talk about this stuff with anyone.
It has only been within the last year, as the instances have become more frequent and amazing, that I have felt compelled to share them.
It was 1979 and I had been married for 3 years. My husband’s grandmother was in her 80’s, had suffered the loss of her leg through surgery and was in a long term care facility. My mother-in-law, the daughter, was working in a high level, full time job and yet went twice a day to the home to visit Grandma. The situation had turned grave and Mother called her brother who lived across the country, telling him that he should come. My husband had taken a bunch of kids to a camp and was unable to help pick up his aunt and uncle at the airport so that fell to me. We then traveled the 2 hours to the city where Grandma was preparing for her final and eternal journey.
We finally arrived at the facility but it was late evening, about 10:30 p.m. Mother and Father were exhausted as were my aunt and uncle. Grandma appeared stable so I encouraged them to go home to rest, promising to phone the minute anything changed. They agreed and left. There I was, late at night, alone with a dying grandmother that I had just begun to know. I had no idea what was in store for me.
Grandma had lived with my in-laws for years as they moved around the country and so her grandchildren were quite close to her, which included my husband and his sister, who was (and is) one of my very good friends. She was teaching in another city and was unable to be at Grandma’s bedside with us.
The night deepened as I stood by the bed and against the wall, talking, talking, talking, assuring Grandma how much we all loved her and naming all the names of her family. She was in a coma-like state, eyes closed and breath growing more shallow. I would periodically moisten her lips with a wet swab for comfort, smooth her snow white hair, and talk about the love of Jesus for her and all of us. The hours wore on; it was nearing 2:30 a.m.
While I was in mid-sentence reciting the list of family names and how we loved Grandma, she opened her eyes. They were crystal (and I mean crystal) blue. She was looking directly at me! Just then, her gaze shifted to above my right shoulder which was nearly touching the wall. There was no room for anyone to have stood where she was looking. “Who are you looking at Grandma? Who do you see? Is it Grandpa? Is it Jesus?” Her gaze returned to me, and then her eyes slowly shut. From that point on her breathing became shallower and then she appeared to stop, but then started again, breath as soft as a baby’s. A few more breaths and then—it stopped with a sigh. “Grandma, wait-don’t go yet…wait for Mother and Father, wait for uncle to say goodbye…”
I had moved to the foot of the bed to go into the hall and call for the nurse when I saw something moving up from Grandma’s snowy white head. It was a misty, cloudy form rising from her body. I thought, “OK, your tears are blurring your vision.” But when I wiped them away I could still see it. The form was hovering just above Grandma’s head. I could distinguish her facial features and head, shoulders and arms outstretched, but the rest was wispy. I was not afraid, but astonished. The wrinkles from 80 plus years of a hard life also left her face at that moment-the Peace that Passes All Understanding, the peace that only God’s hand can give. The form began to move toward the window of her room. Automatically I said, “Grandma, don’t go yet—wait for Mother, wait for uncle. Please wait for them to say goodbye…” The misty form stopped at the window and remained there. It was 2:45 a.m.
I ran into the hall and said, “Would someone come and see my Grandma? I think she’s gone.” The nurse hurried in with her stethoscope to listen. “She’s gone.” A second later, “No, I still hear a heartbeat. Very faint but it’s there.” I went to the desk and called Mother. The minute she heard my voice she dropped the phone. They were there in less than 20 minutes, and Grandma’s heart was still beating. I stepped out of the room to call my husband and left them to their final goodbyes. I knew Grandma had waited for them.
I shared my experience with no one until the day of the visitation. My sister-in-law and I needed to get out for a few minutes so we drove down the street for French fries. As she drove, she talked about her regret that she hadn’t been there at the last. “It was really weird though,” she said, “I had a dream the night she died.” “Really?” I said. “Tell me about it.”
She began to tell me that she saw Grandma’s room and saw me there, standing on the right side of the bed against the wall. She continued to tell me that the really weird thing was that she saw a smoky form hovering right above Grandma as she lay in the bed and that it looked like Grandma’s head and arms but that was it. “And then I woke up,” she said. I started shaking. “Stop the car.” I said. “No, really, stop the car!” She looked at me thinking something was terribly wrong. “What’s going on?” she said. “Do you have any idea what time you woke up from the dream?” I asked. “Yeah, it was right before 3 in the morning, about quarter till 3.”
I just stared at her. “You WERE there! You have just described to me EXACTLY what was going on in that room, exactly where I was standing and at exactly the time it was happening to me! Oh my God!”
We just stared at each other for a minute and then began to laugh and cry at the same time. Oh my God—my God. We returned to the visitation to tell our family. Everyone was equally stunned at God’s amazing grace.
“Finish then thy new creation, pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee!
Changed from glory into glory till in Heav’n we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise.”
-Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, LBW, John B. Dykes