This Saturday will be the next step in a season of some pretty intense generational shifts for us. More on that tomorrow. I wrote the following article ten years ago, during another such season. It only seems like yesterday…
The voice on the phone was tired and quiet – not unusual for a hospital room at 9:20 pm. They’d just gotten Lou (my grandmother) settled down for the night when I’d made my untimely call. The occasion, other than to check on Lou, was to wish Mamma a happy 60th birthday. A little ironic that I had to track her down at Providence Hospital where she was watching her mother edge closer to death.
Life is filled with choices and changes, and my mom has seen her share of them. But perhaps never with the magnitude and frequency of change she faces now. Her mother has cancer, and is losing the battle. Her son lives many hours away. And up the highway a couple of hours, her daughter prepares for the Big One. She’s preparing to leave the country for the mission field.
On this night, I enjoy a feminine family reunion by telephone. I speak briefly to Lou, to tell her I am thinking of her, loving her, praying for her. I hear the pain, the despair, the fear in her voice. That growing sense of hopelessness that says, “I don’t feel good and I probably never will again.”
She was the grandmother who spoiled me when I was very small. Who always seemed proud of me no matter what I did. Who gave me a Living Bible for Christmas in 1972 – a tool that God used to whet my appetite for Him and bring me to Christ weeks later.
She is also the one who buried in her memory years of pain as she lived in the household of a “mean weekend drunk.” The only time I ever heard her speak of my grandfather, who died before I was born, she did so with love and a touch of sadness. I respect that.
I also talk on this night to my sister, who at age 38 is preparing to move with her family to The Netherlands, where she and her husband will serve as missionaries. How ironic that as dreams and memories lay dying in Mobile, others are being birthed in Montgomery that will literally impact the world. It’s pretty cool to hear that measured excitement in her voice – this sibling I have respected so greatly for years.
Strange. She’ll be missed greatly, but I feel closer to her now than ever.
And between those generations, my mother again discovers the multi-faceted pain of letting go. There’s more than one way to say good-bye, but none of them are pleasant. Especially when it involves that unique mother-daughter relationship. On this night I gain a new respect for the lady who raised my sister and me, and who said when we both were born, “Lord, I give him/her to You. Use them however You will.”
He is. But sometimes it hurts when you get what you pray for.
We both know this is a rite of passage for Cassie. She will return less a little girl, more a woman, with a vision for the Kingdom and the world.
And in the weeping voice of my wife, I hear the Language of Letting Go. And I’m reminded, gratefully, again of a day that’s coming when we’ll say good-bye for the last time.
Yes, the weeping – and the letting go – may endure for the night. But in Jesus, joy really does come in the morning.