Saturday, December 5, 2015

By the Bedside

She felt absolutely useless. 

     Her grandpa was suffering in the hospital. Her family was already in a state of anticipatory mourning. Her siblings were crying. And there was nothing she could do about it.

     She was stuck at college. Although she loved being on her own in a new place, she wanted to be with them to try and help in some small way. She wanted to do something! Her big sister instincts would rise in her suddenly and the only thing she wanted to do was grab her younger brother and sisters and hold them tight. She wanted the be the strong one, the sister who they could depend on.
But she was too far away.

     Those feelings of absolute uselessness tore at her off and on for the weeks her grandpa laid in a hospital bed struggling to get better. She didn't stop praying and hoping. Her optimism often came in handy as she hopefully recited the kind words that she knew were what she was supposed to say. However, she would tense up involuntarily at every phone call or text she received from her parents. When her tender emotions would rise up within her, she would cut them off with factual knowledge of death, grieving, and medical terminology. It was how she coped with the tense wait for the news.

Unfortunately, you can't predict emotions. 

     Eight text messages and one missed phone call alerts flashed on her phone screen when she turned it on after choir practice. Instinctively, she knew it was bad news. On the phone, her dad told her that her grandpa was in bad condition. The family was going to leave that night to make the twelve hour trip from Indiana to Georgia. Without a second thought, she decided that she was going to Georgia as well, no matter how high the stack of homework was or how many finals there were or how many rehearsals she would have to skip before the concert. Family was more important.

     She tried to mentally prepare herself. Between the catching up and the cheerful laughter with her family, she tried to mentally picture how her grandpa was going to look. He wouldn't be strong. He wouldn't be healthy. He wouldn't be cheerful. He wouldn't be the grandpa she had seen all of her life. When her dad asked if she wanted to go in the hospital room to see him, she felt conflicted. She wanted to be there for him, but she did not want his sickly state to be the last memory she had of him. However, she knew that she was supposed to go and see him.

     The hospital was so quiet. The whole family talked and joked around to somehow dissolve the unnerving silence. Once they got to his room everyone was solemn. Although, there was always the chance of a miraculous, God-given recovery, she just knew deep down inside that it was the last time she would ever interact with grandpa.

     They all crowded around his bed in the little white room. Her little brother wandered around, inspecting all the strange tubes, blinking lights, and boxes of blue gloves. All the siblings unconsciously lined up in chronological order from oldest to youngest. Grandpa's bloodshot eyes wearily scanned each young face and said their names. That's when the tears started flowing. Not one eye was dry or one throat relaxed.

     After a few loving words were said, he mumbled something very softly that she could barely hear.

"Can you sing for me?"

     At a time like this?! She could barely speak words much less sing! Her throat was clenched so tightly that it hurt to swallow. How could she produce a harmonious melody? Nevertheless, she couldn't say no.

     Her mother and her two sisters crowded around her and they began to sing Amazing Grace. The four of the them had sung together so many times before. They had enthralled many church audiences before with how well they all sang together. Yet this time their music gave joy to only one.

     They sang for almost half an hour, recalling every hymn they could remember. Each time he would close his eyes peacefully during the song, just listening as the songs gradually grew from a shaky single melody to a confident three-part harmony. At the end of each song, though, he would open his eyes like he wondered why they stopped. At last, through his labored breathing they could hear him snoring as he fell asleep listening to the music of his girls.

     My grandpa died the next morning in the presence of his wife and two sons. My family is all together in Georgia comforting one another. No one is going through this alone.

     I thank the Lord for letting me enjoy my grandpa for eighteen years. My grandpa tried to make life full of fun and learning experiences. He would always take us to a movie and buy a giant box of popcorn that we always said we never needed. He taught us how to shoot guns, patiently setting up the Coca-Cola cans and metal spoons the back of his yard again after we hit them. He took us to the Dollar Store every Christmas so that we could learn how to buy presents for everyone else before we thought of ourselves. He was a genius. I always thought it was so cool that I had a grandpa who was a scientist, and he would tell us stories of lab rats and experiments. He was amazing at computers. He would try to explain to me what he was doing and I would always nod like I understood when really I was lost once he got past the common terms. He was funny, and always told us the same nostalgic stories over and over, but we didn't complain because we just liked listening to him.

     Thank you, Lord, for making Royce Runner my grandpa!

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