Friday, February 04, 2011

Snapshots of Grace

I first heard of the ailment when I was in kindergarten. Endearing snapshots emerge from my foggy kid-brain memory. My normally unflappable Dad’s deep concern. Missing school. Granny waving at me as Dad held her up in the bed.

A stroke. Blod clots. Paralyzed.

She spent her days in a brown swivel chair then. With a crocheted lap blanket over her legs. There was a wheel chair that would transport her to the table, to the car, to church and to the bed. Grandpa faithfully took her where she needed to go.

She had pink word cards with names and pictures for her to practice. We celebrated when she would master any word. I can still hear her intentional and rehearsed “I (pause) love (pause) you.” And then her smile.

Another stroke left her unable to sit. Our family moved out the couches and moved in her bed. There would be no sequestered room for Granny. Center. Of. Attention. Just the way she liked it. Or just the way we needed it, to be more precise.

She loved having us all around her. My baby sister would stand by the bed and giggle. Then Granny would giggle. Then Cherise would giggle. And before we knew it, we were all enveloped in raucous, tear brimming laughter. Simply because it felt so good. In the midst of all that struggle.

Two things Granny never surrendered to the strokes: the word “Amen” and the song "Amazing Grace."

She would echo “Amen” after every prayer and she loved to sing that song. I can hear her voice even today. She would pat the cadence of the music with her right hand. Most of the words she could not speak outside of the melody. But with the music, she would sing.

I’ve been thinking of Granny often these last few weeks and mentally flipping through these “snapshots”.

Stroke has crashed in on dear family again and in the wake of it’s crashing, the Lord has brought to our attention several others struggling through the hold of this illness. Jeff’s Uncle Gene fell suddenly just after Christmas. We joined a prayer chain on Facebook for Charlie Middlebrook. I was informed of a blogger (38 yr old mother of two) who suddenly collapsed at her home around the new year. And then, Aunt Clare.

Atwooki Clare and I have corresponded for many years and had close contact in the last few. She was the beloved aunt of my dear friend Rebecca. Rebecca (who we lost nearly 9 years ago) spoke with deep love and appreciation for Aunt Clare and that respect has remained in my head and heart from her adoring reports.

Peace shared on Sunday that Aunt Clare was not well. She had a stroke. She lay in a bed at Buhinga hospital.
I could not match any of the snapshots in my mind with what could be expected in Buhinga hospital. What would stroke look like in this often harsh, third world?

Jeff and I arranged to visit her soon.

I was encouraged that her eyes flashed bright awareness and joy at our approach. She even managed to pull herself to a sitting position and reach for my hand. She was very thin. They told me that she was eating, but could not speak.

I asked her if she would like for me to read to her. Her nodding approval delivered me back to her bedside the next day. I had prayerfully asked God to direct me to a Psalm for Clare.

Psalm 103.

I sat on her bed, held her hand and read:

“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”

‘All my inmost being’—as I look into the eyes of an inmost being who has no way to express I was powerfully aware that God hears her cries.

“Praise the Lord O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I was crying then. And so was Clare.

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more,
But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.

Praise the Lord you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the Lord, O my soul.”

Our “youth renewed like the eagles…” how powerfully that speaks to me as I file through the images of Uncle Gene’s rehabilitation, memories of my Granny, holding the hand of Aunt Clare.

“He knows that we are dust… But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him…”

What we are, physically, is fleeting. Who He is in us, is eternal.

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I'm found, was blind but now I see."

Praying for Uncle Gene and Aunt Marilee, Charlie Middlebrook, Joanne, and Atwooki Clare. May the eternity in your hearts soar to amazing heights. May His great compassion fall powerfully upon your heads and your families’ spirits.

Amazing Grace.