It didn’t happen the same as it does in the movies.
There was no painful sigh of a last breath, no dramatic dropping of the head, no exasperated last words.
Instead, she just slowly and peacefully moved her mouth. Her pulse – visible through her emaciated neck – got slower and slower.
We stood there and watched, wondering whether or not she was gone. My dad went to tell the nurse that we thought she had passed. While he had stepped out, she moved her mouth a little more and her pulse picked back up.
A few minutes later, we hadn’t seen any signs of breath or a pulse for a while. The nurse listened with a stethoscope and verified that, after three weeks in the hospital, my grandmother had finally gone home to be with the Lord.
Flipping Through Her Bible
That was yesterday.
She was 93. She lived a good life and was incredibly healthy right up until the end. (Seriously – she could hear a pin drop across the room and didn’t need any prescription medications. I come from good stock, apparently.) She didn’t really suffer too much in her final weeks, either.
The day before she passed, my father brought her bible to the hospital. She was unresponsive, but we were told there was a good chance she could still hear everything – so I read some passages to her.
She kept a list of her favorite scriptures. A lot of the usual suspects made an appearance, such as Psalm 23 and John 3:16. As I flipped from passage to passage, I turned past a fair amount of highlighter markings, underlines, and notes in the margins of her bible.
A Time for Personal Meditation
After reading through the list, I thumbed to one of my favorite passages that, amazingly enough, I had just taught on the day before: Psalm 90.
The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away…
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
It’s a surreal experience to meditate on Psalm 90 while lying beside someone’s deathbed.
A Plea for God to Work
Notice that Psalm 90 is not a plea for us to pump ourselves up with self-help speeches. It’s not about self-discipline or self-effort.
It’s a prayer to God – a prayer of dependence, a prayer asking God to teach us.
We see the same thing in Psalm 39:4 – “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!”
In that hospital room, God showed me my end. Now I pray he teaches me to number my days.
Photo Credit: Martin Pulaski (Creative Commons)
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