A hand on my arm. Mom's soft voice rousing me from my slumber. "It's Oma." She was somber. Whatever I was dreaming vanished in a heartbeat. It was 5:00am. Too early for casual news.
"Is she gone?" I asked haltingly.
"Not yet, but soon."
The morning was calm, but laden with significance. Measured. Decisive. My parents had already been up for hours, checking for flights, speaking with nurses long-distance, and considering options. They caught us up and we helped them with the decisions. How does one pack or plan for a journey of unknown duration? Just in case, should one bring funeral clothes? Dad looked through his files trying to find the instructions for his mother's funeral, just in case. They weren't there.
It was Father's Day, and this was not the plan. We were supposed to have a family breakfast with the whole crew. Then Danny and I and the kids would continue our journey westward to meet our moving truck at our new home in Oregon, leaving my parents, my brother and his family behind. A new plan emerged: we would drive my parents to the airport on our way out of town. They would fly to Bellingham, rent a car, and hope to make it to the hospital in time. Meanwhile we would drive as fast as we could to Oregon, unload our truck, and head north, either to see Oma, or . . ..
We ate breakfast together as planned, and prayed and cried (in that order). It was a precious time. Then we loaded up and left, with our hearts in our throats. I called the hospital on the way and asked the nurse to bring Oma the phone. She struggled to breathe and to talk, but sounded grateful to hear my voice, as I was to hear hers. I tried to calm her agitation by telling her that she could just rest; there was nothing left for her to do. Nothing for either of us to do, really, but rest and receive what was given. It was Wyoming, hours later, when the tears started flowing and wouldn't stop.
My dear Oma. My strong, independent, and witty grandmother. She was one of the bravest people I knew, and yet how I wanted to stand beside her and squeeze her hand and help her be brave one last time.
|My parents enter the memorial service for Dad's Mom|
|Oma's brother, nieces, and nephew sing|
"Great is Thy Faithfulness"
Each evening after dinner we read a Psalm and then sing our hymn together. I don't know how these things work, but if Oma can see us now, I'm sure her heart swells at the sight of Easton (age 6) singing with gusto. These hymns may have been picked out for Oma's funeral, but they were written for the living, not the dead. In this new home, gathered around my grandparents' table, our faith is being formed verse by verse.
Let all things now living, a song of thanksgiving
to God the creator triumphantly raise,
who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
who guides us and leads to the end of our days.
His banners are o'er us; his light goes before us,
a pillar of fire shining forth in the night.
'Til shadows have vanished and darkness is banished
as forward we travel from light into light.
His law he enforces, the stars in their courses,
the sun in its orbit obediently shine.
The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
the deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.
We still should be voicing our love and rejoicing
with glad adoration our song let us raise
'Til all things now living unite in thanksgiving,
to God in the Highest, Hosanna and praise!
-by Katherine K. Davis, 1939
Today would have been Oma's 94th birthday, but I would not wish her back. Her creator guided her gently until the end of her days. No shadows darken her path now. As we hold her memory in our hearts, we turn to face life head on, joining the growing chorus of those singing God's praise.