**If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, then you are aware how my home school curriculum works. By that, I mean that I follow a teacher’s manual that tells me what to read and when.
If you are unaware of what I am referring to, then you can read:
The Divine Chuckle or Setting the Record Straight.**
Two years ago, this week, my grandmother was in her last days on this earth. I did not know it then, but her life did feel very fragile to me. She was responding less and less and no longer eating. I remember being very overwhelmed with the unknown’s of death. I had a lot of questions. Childlike questions. What would it be like with her gone? What should I do in these last few days? Are these the last few days? How can I tell? Does that even matter, really?
How does one prepare for the loss of someone who has had a huge impact in their life? So, much so that you were convinced they were immortal because you could not fathom their absence.
Whether I was prepared to answer these questions didn’t really matter because we were encouraged to bring in Hospice to aid the family with her care. The end was drawing near, and even her friends were coming in to say their good-bye’s.
I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience in a world I neither welcomed nor understood.
I decided to go ahead with our schooling as much as possible. I would spend time with my grandmother every day, but try and stay on track in the unknown. Besides, sometimes when you are lost, it’s best just to stay put. And routine is a blessing.
That fall, we were studying the ancients with My Father’s World Curriculum. They assigned some read aloud’s early on in the school year that did not seem to fit into the larger scope of our learning. Usually, our fiction has to do with the time in history that we are studying.
I would come to find out in the last week of my grandmother’s life, that God is often about the small, personal details as well as the bigger picture.
My girls and I were reading a book together by Patricia St. John called The Tanglewoods’ Secret. I had never heard of this book nor the author, but just opened it up a few weeks prior to my grandmother slipping away, and read our alloted pages. That week, the book took a serious turn with one of the characters.
Terry, a young impoverished boy whom the main characters, Ruth and Philip, had befriended had fallen out of a tree. It seemed through our reading that he would recover, but as we read this week two years ago, Terry began to question whether he was going to get well or not. He was suffering and in a lot of pain.
Here are some excerpts from the chapter I read five days before my grandmother died.
Pg. 144 The Tanglewood Secrets
“Ruth,” said Terry suddenly as we sat in the twilight, “what’s dying like?”
I shuffled my feet uneasily. “Oh, I don’t know,” I answered, “but I think it’s very nice. At least, I think it’s just like going to a beautiful places where Jesus is, and where everyone is happy. Why? Terry?”
“Because I heard the doctor in the hospital say it. He said, “It’s all up with him, poor little chap!’ That means dying.”
“Ruth, does everyone go there?”
“I’m not sure,” I answered slowly. “I think perhaps you have to ask the Shepherd to find you. I think you have to belong to him. But that is quite easy, Terry. You only have to ask to be found, like the sheep in the picture.”
He frowned. “I was a bad boy,” he admitted.
“Ruth,” he said at last, “where’s the picture—the one you gave us?”
“Oh, you mean, my picture?” “I don’t know, Terry. I suppose your mother’s got it.”
“I’d like to look at it again,” he said. “I told Mum to take it away because it upset me to see that sheep stuck on the rocks and wondering whether maybe the Shepherd couldn’t reach it. But as it’s Jesus, I expect He could reach anywhere, couldn’t he?”
“Oh, yes,” I answered, “Jesus can reach anywhere. Nobody could stray away so far that Jesus couldn’t bring them back.”
“What I’d like would be a picture of that sheep after the Shepherd had picked him up, when he was safe in the Shepherd’s arms and being carried home. “I’d really like that.”
It was a framed picture of a meadow full of clean white sheep all walking one way and nibbling the grass as they went. In front of them walked a Shepherd with a crook, and in his arms lay a little lamb, peacefully asleep.
“Where’s He carrying him to?” Terry asked.
“Home, Terry,” answered Mr. Robinson. “Safely, through each day until they get home.”
“Where’s Home?” went on Terry.
“It’s the place where the Shepherd lives and where we see Him face to face,” Mr. Robinson replied. “Shall I read you something about home Terry?”
The boy nodded, and Mr. Robinson took his New Testament from his pocket.
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.”
“No more pain! That would be brilliant,” Terry said.
I caught sight of Terry’s face. It was even whiter than usual and all twisted up with pain. I wriggled nearer to the bed and took hold of his hand.
With a sob he said, “I wish I could go to that place where there ain’t no more pain.”
Philip and I were very upset, for we had never seen Terry like this before.
Philip had never prayed aloud before, but kneeled by the bed.
“Dear God, please take away Terry’s pain. Please make him well soon. Amen”
We looked at Terry and his eyes were fixed on his picture which hung just above his bed.
There were many footsteps around the house that evening, but no one heard the feet of the Good Shepherd when He drew near and picked Terry up in His arms.
Before the sun had risen again, while the stars were still high in the sky, Terry left his twisted, suffering body, and all his pain, behind him forever.
The Shepherd had carried him home.”
When I finished reading that assigned chapter, I had tears streaming down my face. I did not pick that book to read at that time. I did not know it was about a young boy who would die the same week as my grandmother.
It was a gift from God, beginning to prepare me as the Good Shepherd was drawing nearer to my grandmother. To my ‘Memaw.”
Nor did you know then that your beautiful retelling of this story would land in my inbox right during the time that we are navigating into similar territory with my mom (and that it would be one of God’s instrtuments in keeping me engaged with my feelings about all this, when I’d at times prefer to remain mired in my manifold methods of avoidance and escape).
Wow. God is good indeed. Thanks, sister and friend.
you are so dear.
I keep remembering that she reached out to me, through the mist, the day before she died, to tell me she would miss me…that we were going to miss each other. Through the deep fatigue and confusion, she wanted to say goodbye to me. I wasn’t able to lead her to that point because it had been my mission for so long to keep her going, to make it work, to maximize every opportunity for her. I just couldn’t escape the denial in time to be able to help her let go. Couldn’t do it. So once again, I have to thank her for knowing what to say and that it needed to be said. She left me with something to treasure for all of my life. “We’re going to miss each other.”
Bless her heart.
Thank you i needed that. It came at just the right time. Our neighbor is leaving for Afghanistan and im scared. I’m scared for him and his family. I don’t want him to get hurt or to die. I don’t want him to leave them all alone.