On a Saturday evening, as the sun was setting in Kenya and rising in California, I called my mom, some 10,000 miles away from me, not knowing if I could go, or should go. Leaving one home to travel to another. Leaving family here to be with family there as our beloved, 98-year-old, Granny Bettie was near death.
My grandma, for the last 5 years, had lived with my parents, and my mom was committed to having her spend her final days within their home. On the phone call, my mom asked me medical questions that I answered but felt so very far away from being able to help in tangible ways. As a hospice nurse, granddaughter, and daughter, I wanted to be nearby. I wanted to be with my mom as she said goodbye to hers.
That night, as my mom held the phone to my grandma’s ear, she was calm, clear-headed, and said she was comfortable. Her words were filled with love and gratitude. She asked me to pray for her and then said, “Juli, I know you do.” She concluded our conversation with these words: “How could I ask for anything more?”
After we said our goodbyes, Titus was waiting nearby and lovingly said: “Let me send you, Juli. They need you right now. I’ll take care of the kids.” Some few hours later, I boarded my first of four airplanes and made my way around the world.
While waiting to board the final plane, my mom texted: “Can you sing amazing grace? I think it’s going to be soon.”
On speaker phone, my siblings and I fumbled our way through the familiar hymn we’ve sung a thousand other times. None of us were in the same place yet but somehow all in unison. I was facing a corner in the San Francisco airport as we said what would be our final goodbyes, and “we love you” one more time. We sang for the love of our grandma, and because our mom asked us to. A few moments later, my grandma, while holding my mom’s hand, breathed her last breath.
I arrived about an hour later and was able to spend the next week with my parents and siblings. To grieve together. To celebrate Mother’s Day together. To remember and name, together, a few of a lifetime’s worth of moments and memories.The time spent together, remarkably, felt slow, unhurried, and enough.
When it was time to say goodbye to travel the world once more, I knew big hugs from my little ones, and Titus, were waiting on the other side. Upon arriving, I was so moved by Ryan’s tender and unexpected words.
“Me hopes,” he said, “Granny Bettie is having fun in God’s kingdom.”
In ways I cannot begin to imagine, this must be true. Granny, we will miss you until we meet again. Have fun in God’s kingdom.