Saturday, April 09, 2011

my nanny

At the end of February I drove up with my sister to NJ to visit with my little Nanny. The above picture of my sister Amy and my grandmother Adelane, was my favorite of our time there. It somehow captures the bitter sweetness of that moment. She is 90 years old, recently had some kind of little stroke and was widowed less than three weeks before our visit. It was a very rich and emotionally full time, so worth the long drive to have a few precious days with my grandmother. We made the most of our time. We looked at pictures and her grandmother's Swedish Bible which she brought over when they immigrated; the pages now fragile and yellowed. Her mind traced back over the years. We ate ice cream and watched Lawrence Welk. We woke up early and had tea while she told about growing up with her single mom in Philadelphia and her very best friend Verna, who died at age 8 of bone cancer. Still I could hear the sadness in her voice at the thought of her. She talked about how you don't feel yourself getting old and the hardships of ageing, the loneliness as you lose people you love. I sat next to her in church and watched her wrinkled hands follow the words of the hymns. I listened to her high shaky voice sing, "One day he's coming, oh glorious day!" and "It is well with my soul." I hid the sound somewhere in my heart. I imagined what those words would mean after 90 years of living. We sat in her retirement home and looked out at the rolling hills of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Her expression was faraway. I watched as a very old couple wandered down a dim hallway. The woman held a rose in one hand and his in the other and I watched the way they looked at each other. I felt a lump in my throat. This is a wonderful place and a sad place. It's a place where husbands and wives, sisters and friends are separated based on their medical and psychological needs; just as my grandmother eventually could no longer live with her husband. This is a place where people come in their twilight and some are just shadows of who they once were, their senses and memories fading. It's so different than my everyday, bursting with the sounds and signs of new life and youth and freshness. My heart broke a little when it was time to say goodbye. I knew full well that this may be the last time I see my little Nanny this side of heaven, but I hope it's not. I am so thankful for this tiny woman. She is 86 pounds of wisdom, experience, laughter and a towering faith. She has loved me all of my life. She is the definition of a prayer warrior and I have no doubt that her faithful prayers for me every day of my life, have kept me from many sorrows. I can only hope that someday I can look back on such a well-lived life and leave such a legacy of grace.

a long time ago, my mom, Nanny and my Aunt

This is one of her favorite hymns and mine too.

"O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths
its flow may richer, fuller be.
O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
my heart restores its borrowed ray,
that in thy sunshine's blaze
its day may brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow thru the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain,
that morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms
red life that shall endless be."