It started on a Thursday. I had been sitting at Hospice with Grace all day. It was not a good day. She was back to hurting and I was back to not doing well with it at all. To the point, that when her dad showed around 5:00 p.m. at Hospice I met him in the parking lot, my bags in hand ready to head home. He was shocked at my demeanor but I couldn’t help it. I was doing so badly that I couldn’t even bear to speak to a dear friend who had come from McRae to visit with us. I left Eric with the visitor and the care of Grace and headed home. I cried all the way home. Upon entering the city limits of McRae I dried my tears because I didn’t want my other 2 kids to have to bear the weight I was carrying. Later that evening when I was alone I let it all out. I kept asking God all kinds of questions, just pouring out my heart and my hurt and my anger and frustration. My heart was broken and I was tired. A precious friend had texted me earlier in the day and given me a word concerning Grace. I could not even bear to consider it. I read the text, closed my phone and cried myself into the oblivion of sleep. The next morning I received another text from another friend that mentioned the previous text so I went back and re-read first text. It read, “God will show Himself strong on Grace’s behalf on her third day.” I texted her back and asked, “When will that be?” She texted back, “Sunday.” I jumped in the shower to prepare myself for the day. It was now Friday. I told God I could hold on to Him for another two days. I could make it with peace in my heart and strength in my soul for two more days. I put a smile on my face, washed my tears away and walked into Hospice with new found hope and confidence.
I shared with Grace what the text said and we both waited patiently and with great expectation for Sunday. Friday passed much like Thursday. Saturday was a little better. Eric went home Saturday night so he could lead worship Sunday morning. So, it was just me and Grace. We chatted Saturday evening, watched tv and got ready for bed. I pulled my bed right next to hers. I made our beds the same height so we could hold hands during the night. As I was doing all of this Grace kept hearing things. She’d ask, “Did you hear that loud noise? Or, “Do you hear all that talking?” I kept replying no. But, I started a journal of all the things she was hearing. Mostly she heard people talking and children laughing. I went to bed holding her hand excited about what tomorrow had to bring. I also went to bed pushing her morphine pain pump button every 15 minutes as was our custom.
She awoke at 6:00 a.m. the next morning. She sat up in bed. I followed suit. As any care taker can testify, when the one you love stirs and move you are right there tending to any need they may have. She looked at me with great big eyes and said, “Today is the day!” I enthusiastically agreed with her. She stated out of the blue she wanted to take a bath. So, I moved her cords, found some smell good body wash and lotion her dear friend and Aunt had brought her and helped her to the bathroom. She ,of course, didn’t want my help and endeavored to do everything by herself. She looked in the bathroom mirror and commented on how small she looked and that she didn’t like it. Her tiny arms and legs didn’t match her swollen belly. We chatted easily through the shower curtained as she bathed and I stood there waiting and ready to help. She dressed in a shirt her Aunt Angel had recently brought her and climbed back into her bed. I had just changed out her sheets so they were nice, clean and crisp feeling. I slathered her in Paris lotion as we talked and listened to music. I went to the bathroom to ready myself for the day. I asked her if she wanted to listen to some praise and worship music. It was about the same time her dad would have been leading at service. She readily agreed. The music blared as the windows were opened to the outside so Grace could see out. (My mom had put a bird feeder right next to the window facing Grace’s bed so she could easily watch the birds. But actually, we watched the squirrels climb the feeder and do somersaults to the ground.) I peeped at her from the bathroom doorway and watched as she was sitting cross-legged in the bed, staring out the window, as she conducted the music with her hands in the air with a huge smile on her face. PRICELESS! I thought again, “Today is the day!” “Her miracle is coming today!” I asked if she felt up to me putting make-up on her. She grinned and said, “Yeah! That would be awesome.” She even let me fix her super-fine short hair. I sprayed it and spiked it best I could. Soon, she was taking pictures and posting on Facebook.
The morning faded and early afternoon was upon us. Alan was there visiting with Grace. Other visitors were coming and going. During a certain episode, it was just Grace and me in the room; she could tell I was becoming impatient with the whole, “God is going to show Himself strong” part. She told me, “Mom, you just can’t rush it. You have to be patient.” I smiled and nodded that she was right. The late afternoon came and went and now it was early evening. And I started to feel the bitterness wanting to rise. With large amounts of sarcasm, I thanked God that He waited until the day was almost over before doing anything. And still we waited. 8:00 p.m. turned into 9:00 turned into 10:00. Grace prepared herself for bed and with great peace she said, “Goodnight.” As I took her hand to hold through the night I felt sick to my stomach. Nothing had happened. I was angry and disappointed and bewildered. I watched the clock as it passed from 11:59 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. and the hope of Sunday and greatness was gone. Her miracle had never come. I was to the point of retching I felt so sick in my stomach. I passed the night in great sadness, watching Grace and pushing her pain button every 15 minutes, just as I had done the night before.
Later, Monday morning as Grace and I were chatting she stated, “I don’t know how God showed Himself strong yesterday.” I grimly stated I didn’t either. But, then she looked at me, cocked her head sideways and said, “Well, actually Mom, you don’t know how bad off I would have been yesterday if God had not shown Himself strong for me.” In that moment, with her revelation given with such peace and tenderness, I nodded my head in humble agreement. “No, baby, we sure don’t know.” But, under the surface, violence was tearing my insides apart. On the one hand I was amazed and proud and humbled by Grace’s great faith and perspective and wisdom. On the other hand my fists were beating the floors and walls and doors of my own soul with anger and frustration at my own lack of understanding, perspective, wisdom and faith. And the fact she was good with her Sunday. In her there was found no regret of anticipation, no anxiety about still hurting, just calm and peace with her understanding, that just doubled my own hurt and exacerbation with God. So, much like the Thursday before, I am waiting and watching for Eric so I can head home and find some relief from the burden of my soul. I head home around 2:00 p.m. so I can be home when the other two kids get home from school. We decided when I left that I would return later that night. Grace wanted me there with her even though Alan was spending the night at Hospice as well. So, I would return after I put Alese and Jared to bed. Needless to say, again I cried myself all the way home. Dried my tears at the city limits and enjoyed my time with my kids. Alese and I lay on the sofa together. I play with her hair as she dozes resting on me.
My personal time is usually my shower time. Music is on; water is running so I can cry undisturbed. Usually, I end up on my knees in the bottom of the tub pouring my heart out to my Father, water mixed with tears while I am covered in soap. Baths have always made me feel better. I have some of my best talks with God in the shower. This night was no exception. As I poured my heart out to Him of my anger and frustration and brokenness, He softly began to speak understanding into my heart. I had been begging for His perspective and wisdom. My own was getting me nowhere but deeper in the hole. He gently began to talk to me about my yesterday, Sunday. He said, “Laura, when was the last time Grace was able to get out of bed and shower?” My response was, “Weeks and weeks, Lord.” “When was the last time she felt up to putting make up on?” “Weeks and Weeks”, came my response again. “How about taking pictures and chatting with people on Facebook?” By now I was getting His point. I was humbled by His goodness and kindness. But most of all I was undone by His gentleness with me after I had been so ill and upset with not only Him but also the dear friend who had sent me the text in the first place. I cried tears of repentance and shame and love. I had been so busy looking for His great power demonstrated through a great miracle. I wanted to see something big and ‘super-natural’ so badly I had missed His goodness and presence in the small things He was doing all day long.
Now, when I look back at that Sunday, it is one of the days I hold most dear. Grace was right. She had it right all along. It took me a while to catch up. I just didn’t know how bad her Sunday would have been if God hadn’t shown Himself strong. The time we shared doing mother/daughter stuff that day means everything to me now. I will never forget the sight of her sitting in bed crossed-legged as Casting Crowns played, grinning ear to ear as she literally bounced with the music, her hands dancing in the air. Seeing her like that, full of hope and peace and love, is the closest picture of her in heaven I can imagine.
The last picture she posted on Facebook was from that Sunday. She was bright-eyed, hopeful and smiling, her inner beauty radiating for all to see. She died four short days later, the following Thursday morning. God is merciful and kind. By His grace, my worst day imaginable became one of the dearest and most cherished days of the last days with my Grace.