Author: Angela Burril
I am not good at change. I like all things vintage, except my refrigerator and my long-distance traveling car—these I would prefer new or with very low mileage. Yet, aside from God, all things change.
This last spring ushered in a profound change, and I have yet to get my mind and heart around it—the passing of my most beloved Grandmother. My mother died when I was only 17 years old. In my panic over all the things I did not know how to do without her, Grandma showed up. She lived a mere 10 miles from my house and handled my emotional frenzy with grace. She gave instruction on how to boil an egg, and never disregarded my feelings of despair.
“The only time this will differ is when you are trying to cook at a different altitude. For now, just boil it for 15 minutes exactly and you will have a perfect egg! You can do this!” she said, and as she did my blood pressure dropped back down a good 50 points and my heart rate settled to where it could no longer be heard pounding in my ears.
Time and time again my Grandmother would stand in the gap when my motherless spirit threatened to drown my soul with tears and my immobilized voice cried out to the Lord in pain. God knew I needed her. God repeatedly sustains me with His word, and often those words come through human vessels. To me, Grandma was a vessel through which God poured compassion, understanding, and love.
In her last days, we knew the time was close. So, I left my two girls and husband to fend for themselves for a couple days while I traveled three hours alone to say goodbye. She was no longer always coherent and her eyesight was nearly gone. Into her nursing home room I marched, upright only because I had asked every person I could think of for prayer! My arms were loaded with my Bible, a hymn book, and a quilt I was working on. My heart carried every intention to be a comfort to Grandma and to tell her how much I loved her.
“Hi Grandma! It’s me – Angie,” my voice was strained with a lightness that did not reach my soul, and I busied myself looking for a space to unload my arms to give myself a minute to regroup my emotions.
“Oh Angie! How nice! Would you like a cupcake? I’m sure I have cupcakes or something for you!” Grandma responded in delight. My gaze did not take long to inventory the room and know that Grandma’s homemade bakery delights were not to be on the menu this time or ever again. Grandma spelled love F-O-O-D, and every bite of her homemade creations was permeated with her deep affection for her family. Taste buds danced with joy and contentment, sighing because they knew they were home.
“That’s so nice, but no. I’m okay.” I replied and moved to change the subject. “May I read to you from my Bible Grandma?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied very simply. I read to her from my Bible, and then from the hymnal the stories of how hymn writers were inspired to write a particular hymn. Then I sat my quilt in her lap, so she might feel the work I was doing on it. She dosed off and on all day, but just when I thought she was asleep she would pipe up with a timely word that made me smile. So, I talked to her the whole time, just like I had always done since I was a little girl.
“Grandma, when it comes time to go, look for the angels. They will show the way to Jesus. In Luke 16:22 Jesus tells the story of how the poor man called Lazarus “…was carried by the angels…” after he died. Grandma said nothing and seemed to be far off in her own thoughts.
The next day I came to say goodbye. Grandma was having a good morning. She listened to my step-mom and I sing some hymns and I read a blessing over Grandma. Numbers 6:24-26:
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
“Grandma, I just want to say thank you,” I said in a voice so thick with emotions that I could not find the words to convey all that I felt. “You have loved us well.”
She visibly brightened with delight and replied without hesitation, “You’re welcome. There is enough to go around.” The next flood of tears rose instantly in my throat. I treasured up these words to muse over later, because there was still one more thing to say. I needed to tell her the last words my 10-year-old daughter wanted Grandma to hear.
“Grandma, Teal wanted me to tell you that if she doesn’t see you before, she will see you with Jesus in heaven.” My tears were near the breaking point, but I wanted to stay in this moment. I swallowed hard again, and bent to kiss her cheek goodbye. “I love you, Grandma.” I turned and walked blindly to the door.
Just as I reached the door, Grandma called out to me once again, “Travel safely.”
I don’t know what God is teaching me through goodbye, but I know He holds tomorrow. In the midst of this pain, there is joy and that can only be because of the hand of the LORD! I would not feel the pain if I had not felt the love. I can take the joy and the pain because I know it has been sifted through God’s fingers. He is here to comfort me as I grieve.
I grieve, but I do not live in grief. The sacrifice of Jesus laying down His life has given me this freedom. I can rejoice, although I am certainly sad, because I know, thanks to Jesus, I will see Grandma again.
Angela Burril lives on a small acreage farm in Madras, OR with her husband, Gus, and two young daughters, Teal (10 years) and Shiloh (5 years). She taught high school science (Biology, Forensic Science, Integrated Science, and Physical Science) for eight years. After that, she became a stay at home mom and part time “ranch/farm manager.” For the last 10 years, Angela has taught ladies Bible Studies, and some various adult Sunday School Classes. Some of the topics she has spoke on include: waiting on God, fear, loneliness, letting God lead your emotions, grace, loss, and spiritual authenticity. Angela’s speaking is characterized by sincerity and a wholehearted attempt to see the trials and challenges in life as blessed
opportunities to see and feel God’s presence.