This was something I wrote as a tribute to my grandmother, and will go down as one of my all time favorites, because I don’t even remember writing it. I had been to visit her for the last time, and was sitting at a table near the fireplace at a Cracker Barrell in Cadiz, Kentucky writing on a scrap piece of paper all that I was feeling. I was crying my eyes out, and I’m sure the folks nearby thought I needed some help. But I don’t remember them being there. It was just me, the fire, and my feelings, and this was the end result.
Janet Morris Grimes
December 16, 2002
Somehow, after driving through the darkness, I found myself staring into the roaring fire dancing in the fireplace in a Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Cadiz, KY. Laughter and sounds of busy-ness filled the room, overpowering the Christmas music heard in the background. In two rocking chairs nearby sat a grandmother and granddaughter playing checkers. Tears spilled from my eyes again as I secretly hoped the innocent little girl knew to treasure that moment.
Sitting by my own grandmother’s bedside earlier that day, I held her hand in mine. How frail they had become – those same hands that I used to draw imaginary pictures on during church. I closed my eyes and was once again sitting beside her on the pew. I held the songbook and followed the words as she sang her favorite hymns, emphasizing each word with all of her heart and soul. Her voice was still so clear in my mind.
‘. . . Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing pow’r? Are you washed in the blood of the lamb? . . .’
Although she had grown weaker with each passing day, my grandmother was especially talkative during today’s visit. It was as if she was on a journey through her past memories, and was in a hurry to share the details. So, I listened.
Born Martha Louise, she was the oldest daughter out of the eight Hardeman children. Many of the responsibilities of caring for the younger ones fell on her shoulders, and as she talked, I caught an occasional glimpse into her life as a young girl. She told stories of taking her younger siblings to church to hear her father preach while her mother would stay home with the babies.
On this day, she spoke in disconnected thoughts, stopping to take a breath between her words. Suddenly, she interrupted herself and asked me to swap sides of the bed so I could hold her other hand. She said it was getting cold. I moved my chair to the other side, and taking her hand in mine, I could think of nothing I would rather be doing.
She continued with the story that was replaying itself in her mind. “There was this house full of strangers, and I knew my Momma and Daddy would get my goose if I didn’t find my brothers and sisters. But I never could find them. . .” Her voice trailed off.
‘. . . Are you fully trusting in his grace this hour? Are you washed in the blood of the lamb? . . .’
Her eyes closed for a few moments and her hands went through the motions of waving to someone. She smiled, discovering another happy memory.
“You know, I always see people here in the halls that I have classes with. Don’t you think it’s nice to say hello and smile at people when you pass them?” I agreed with her as an attendant from the nursing home stopped in, warning her that it would be time to take her medicine in about an hour. She responded by sticking her tongue out at him, and they both laughed.
‘. . . Precious memories. How they linger. Howe they ever flood my soul . . .’
My mind took me back to my own days as a young girl, spending holidays at Granny’s house. Traditions were born out of everyday things, but that’s what made our visits so special. My favorite memories were the simple ones - a house overflowing with relatives, playing games with my cousins, going to church together, praying before dinner, the grown-ups sitting at their table and all of the kids sitting at our own. Granny was always so busy serving the rest of us that she rarely ever sat down to eat.
We were summoned each morning by the sounds of banging pans in the kitchen and the sweet aroma of bacon frying and biscuits baking. My favorite sound of all was her voice singing those beautiful hymns.
‘. . . In the stillness of the midnight, Precious sacred scenes unfold . . .’
She dozed off once again and her breathing was labored. There were long pauses between each breath. I brushed the hair away from her face and wondered how many more she would take.
Her eyes abrubtly opened as if I had asked that question directly to her. She turned her head toward me and squeezed my hand.
“You know, Janet, I talk to Jesus every day about how much longer I will live. He won’t tell me the answer, but He doesn’t have to. It’s just something we are going to go through together, so there is nothing to worry about.” She slowly closed her eyes again and rested for a moment.
‘. . .When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more. . .’
Traveling through my own memories carried me to a time when I was only 9-years-old, standing in her kitchen after my grandfather had died. I had been crying, but told Granny I was glad he wasn’t hurting anymore and that he was in Heaven waiting for us. I then confessed that it was hard for me to say that, and that I wasn’t sure I understood it.
She pulled me toward her and I buried my head in the apron she was wearing. She ran her fingers through my hair and reassured me, “I’m not sure any of us will truly understand Heaven until we get there. All we can do is believe in it.”
‘. . .And the morning breaks eternal bright and fair. When the saved of earth shall gather over on that other shore. . .’
As the sun was setting outside, Granny shuffled her covers and softly recalled Thanksgiving weekend a couple of weeks before. She proudly mentioned each of her family and friends who had come to visit her at the hospital during that time.
A nurse poked her head in the room and Granny made a point to introduce me as one of her 13 grandchildren. Her voice strengthened with pride as she announced that she would never trade her family for anything in the world.
‘. . .And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there. . .’
She showed her love for us by knowing what each of us preferred as a favorite dish, by sewing clothes for us when we were little, by praying for us daily by name, by playing the piano for us, by calling us on Saturdays to make sure we were all right, and by following us down the driveway as we were leaving her house and waving until she could no longer see our car.
‘ . . . Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me. . .’
As her voice was getting weaker, it finally struck me that perhaps her greatest gift to us was in giving us the memories of her singing her favorite hymns - hymns about Heaven.
‘. . . I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now, I see. . .’
For now, when we needed comfort the most, and she was no longer able to provide it, we still had the memory of her singing those words she believed and lived each day of her life.
‘ . . .When peace like a river attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll . . .’
At the end of the evening, she looked at me and asked, “Have we seen everyone we need to see today?” I told her I though that we had. She nodded her head in agreement.
‘. . . Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul. . .’
This was to be our last day together. I think we both realized it. She tilted her head up and kissed my cheek. She told me it was time for her to rest. I kissed her forehead and nodded my head in agreement.
‘ . . .On Jordon’s stormy banks I stand, and cast a wishful eye. . .’
Walking to my car, I was sure of only one thing. Though I couldn’t see them, I was standing as close to humanly possible to the gates of Heaven.
‘. . .To Canaan’s bright and happy land, where my possessions lie. . .’
I knew there were angels nearby waiting to take her home.
‘ . . .I am bound for the promised land. . .’
I knew that her journey was complete.
‘ . . . I am bound for the promised land. . .’
Even though I could not imagine life without her here –
‘ . . . Oh who will come and go with me?. . .’
I knew it was time to let her go.
‘ . . . I am bound for the promised land. . .’
And I knew that she was.
I love you and miss you Granny. We will see you soon.