Thursday, September 01, 2016

heaven is my hope

i woke with a start. i opened my sleepy eyes, looked around at the unfamiliar walls, and for about 5 seconds, i had no idea where i was. i completely forgot that i was in a hotel room with my family. i forgot that we were in a quaint town in southwestern Minnesota, just down the street from the house where my mom grew up. it took me a few seconds to remember that we aren't here on vacation. and when it all came back to me, i curled up in the covers and wished i could forget again. 

we are here to visit my 86 year old Grandma in the very home where she raised my mom and her six siblings. Grandma's front door is revolving lately as friends stop by to visit, family members travel from all over to spend time with her, and kind people bring flowers and casseroles to feed us. 

just a few weeks ago, family noticed Grandma was having a hard time breathing while carrying on a conversation. my healthy and active Grandma started to complain that her legs were feeling weak and tired. my Aunts trusted their instincts and made doctor appointments for their Mom. 

CAT scan.
vitamin B deficient. 
enlarged heart. 
cancer in her lymph nodes. 
cancer in her bone marrow. 

and that's why i woke up here, so that we can make the most of our time left here on earth with my sweet Grandma.

my daughter and i share her name, Jo, and they say we both are a lot like her. that makes me proud. 

Jo is an extrovert. her favorite movie of all time is Gone with the Wind. she is sharp and keeps up with current events. she can have a conversation with anyone. she keeps a garden and the crazy climate of 2016 has made her cucumbers and tomatoes grow funny shaped. Grandma has beautiful, creamy, clear and soft skin. she had skin cancer removed years ago, and ever since, she uses Basis skin care products. she dresses in pastel blouses and keeps the air conditioning running cool. she could win at Jeopardy and watches the nightly news but gets bored with it easily. she's not into controversy and won't engage in a debate with you, but don't let that fool you. she has strong convictions and an active curiosity. she's open to learning, even now. she is tough, but kind. she is frugal, but generous. she has an easy, sincere laugh and a warm and wide hug.

Grandma accepts the flowers and food and extra attention she's getting lately. she knows what's happening and she is realistic. she is ready to meet her Maker, she says. she is ready to be in heaven with Grandpa and their silly little dog Tippy. these are sacred moments with her. i don't take a second for granted. she has a peace about her that i can't understand...i want it.   

it's time to leave Minnesota and as we are saying goodbye she comments, "i won't see you again," and i nearly choke, it feels like a dagger to my heart. i look at the carpet and hold back my tears because everyone else is being so strong. the women in this family are strong. i know i have it in me. in the backseat of our rental car, though, when no one is looking, i let my sadness out. i cry and sniffle and shake my head in disbelief. i close my eyes and ask God please comfort me now.  

a realization wraps around me in that very moment: Jo was wrong. I WILL SEE HER AGAIN. before we know it, we will be reunited in heaven and we will get to spend an eternity together. where there is no sighing, no crying, and no dying. no dementia, no cancer, no aneurysms, no disease, no strokes. Jesus will greet us with open arms and we will never have to say goodbye ever again. 

my tears stop and i open my eyes watching rain flood the farmlands out the window and i'm nodding my head yes. yes, yes, yes. i will see her again. heaven is my hope. 

on the flight home i sort through my thoughts and feelings and memories of moments. at 35,000 feet i continue to pray for comfort- both for me and for Grandma. i begin to sense a surge of joy rise up in me, something strong enough to carry me through this, it feels like a mission: CARRY ON JO'S LEGACY. be like Jo and pass that on to future generations. remember her for the peace she has right now. don't forget where you are or why. keep eternity in mind. this perspective makes me thankful. the joy of the Lord is my strength.

we will see you again, sweet Jo. xoxo

“Let not your heart be troubled...There are many homes up there where my Father lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming. When everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am. If this weren’t so, I would tell you plainly. And you know where I am going and how to get there.” -John 14:1-4

"...he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’" -Revelation 7:15-17