author’s note: When it comes to anyone’s life, all those who knew the person have a story to tell. I fully appreciate my story is completely different from someone else’s, and is in not the whole story. My story is a snapshot, nothing more. There will be those that knew the person for many years before I did, and knew them much deeper and were closer, and I welcome their own stories.
Advent is a season of waiting.
Today I spent a portion of the day in waiting…
Yesterday morning the phone went off in the early hours of the morning and my first thought was as I lay there dreading getting out of bed, was “ugh, it’s the LLL helpline and I’m getting too many phone calls because it’s the Christmas season and everyone’s taking a break” However ten minutes later my mobile phone went off and it was Jon’s brother. It was that phone call, the one you never think you’ll actually ever get. It was Jon’s dad. It sounded serious, an ambulance was coming.
Several years of staying on top of cancer, keeping it at bay, fighting it, treating it, living with it, experiencing a good quality of life despite it…..that’s all I’d ever really known of Brian having met him five years after his initial diagnosis. Despite him being weak, not 100%, etc, he was always still very much here, real, and alive.
I made breakfast for Iona and Judah, and simply explained that Granddad was in the hospital, and that he might be going to heaven soon. As we drove to school, Iona said “mummy….I just heard a voice just now in the porch, saying “thank you Iona” what could it mean?? I heard it at school as well earlier this week”
Iona Grace…the one who’s arrival caused Brian’s face to turn from pale to shinning in a mere few moments of meeting her for the very first time. The Grandchild he thought he’d never have, let alone see. There she was, perfection laying there asleep in that hospital cot bed. Her birth was a blessing that he could have never earned, worked for, or made happen in his own good will or strength. The life event that caused him to perhaps consider the fact that maybe there really was a God….who had the capacity to not only make the world, but who cared about the little things….the little beautiful miraculous miracles that happen to us. And so began his journey….late in life, a life well lived, a solid marriage built on love and respect, generosity, and peace, a life that prioritised family, hard work, and wisdom and diligence. Some would argue he didn’t “need” anything else….but something about her birth challenged that notion, and he began his faith journey…something we all watched unfold over the next seven years.
Years which saw him say goodbye to his precious little girl as her parents took her to South Africa for a year. Years in which his wife battled and fought her own battle with cancer, and in which he was able to be her source of strength. A second grandchild arrived, a boy…….and then the beautiful miracle of seeing his second son and daughter in law become parents to two beautiful twin girls. “We are so blessed” was something he repeated many many times upon being with the family.
So after an emotional day of not knowing quite what was happening, whether or not he’d “rally” or not, we found out this morning that we had……hours.
We notified, we summoned, we gathered…..and we waited. Jon, Matt, and Barbara all sat around his bed. I closed my eyes, I prayed, I hummed a worship song…..too quiet to make out, but I knew his spirit could hear it. We waited until it was time to let him go….and we sensed the presence of angels…and of Jesus. Death is so spiritual. It’s a passing from one world to another. It’s not just about the body shutting down…it’s about letting go….and it’s not easy. Brian sank into a deep and peaceful sleep….and I heard a voice in my head saying “We have him” and I looked up, and i knew he was gone…..
Later I had to go pick Iona up from school. We sang Christmas carols in the main hall and heard the Christmas story. It was beautifully simple. I told the headmaster, and he told me that apparently Iona had announced in Assembly today that her Granddad was very poorly and would probably die today. Yet as much as we’d prepared her, she still burst into tears when I told her. We talked about the seven years he got to be a Granddad, we talked about the voice she heard, whether it was her hearing his thoughts, or maybe an Angel sending her a message….but we agreed Granddad had said goodbye to her.
“It’s going to be the worst Christmas ever” she cried out at one point. Yes, it’s going to be sad….but it’s because of Christmas that we know we’ll see him again. It’s because of Jesus….coming as a baby….that death no longer holds any real victory over us. Yes it’s going to be sad….I feel the heaviness of this loss sink in. I’m worried for my mother in law, I’m wondering how we’re going to cope with all that needs to be done…
When I began this month, the Advent, this is the last thing I counted on happening.
I’m not waiting so much now to celebrate something that’s already happened…but settling into the waiting, the waiting for the ultimate beautiful ending…when he comes again, ending this bleak midwinter sadness.
“All of us travellers
Through a given time
Who can know what tomorrow holds
But over the horizon
Surely you and I will find
Emmanuel….God with us”
– Emmanuel God with us, by Amy Grant