"Whistling to the Lord"

Although today is Friday Fiction, this story is not fiction. While I was picking blueberries this week, I was remembering my dear mother-in-law, Amy Blake. She loved her family, loved me, and loved the Lord most of all. I miss her. This story is about how she praised the Lord right to the end of her life.

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“Mama,” my little girl whispered, “Grammy is holding her book upside down.”

I glanced over to my mother-in-law, and smiled. Sure enough, her hymn book was upside down, but it didn’t matter. She had forgotten how to read. Her short, gray hair stood up in back, and she was wearing a pink, stained sweat suit. The nurses at the boarding home didn’t like to fuss with long hair and fancy church dresses.

I loved her. She had welcomed me into her family and never treated me with the actions of the dreaded, jealous mother-in-law. In fact, since my husband was her youngest child, she was more like a grandmother to me than a mother. She listened to my immature, newlywed worries. She taught me how to bake biscuits, to gather blueberries, and to knit mittens. She played with my babies and shared the abundance of her gardens.

“He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today…” Grammy lifted her face and closed her eyes. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t read, she knew all the words. The pastor asked us to remain standing for the prayer, but Grammy sat down, muttering, “Hurting…hurting.”

I tried to focus on the sermon, but mind was divided between keeping my little ones occupied with crayons and making sure Grammy didn’t try to fix the collar of the lady in front of us. She saw me opening my Bible. Taking one from the rack, she began turning the pages one at a time. It kept her busy, so I didn’t attempt to help her.

The pastor read, “Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed…” I heard another voice. It was Grammy. She was saying the words along with him. On and on they went throughout the whole chapter. “…he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bare the sins of many…” * Others may have thought she was reading it, but I knew better. She must have learned it sometime during her life. Could I say all of it without using my Bible?

Grammy had changed. Her mind had regressed to the point that she didn’t recognize her own children. She couldn’t identify dillweed from daisies. She accused people of stealing her glasses when she misplaced them. This wasn’t the real Grammy. The real Grammy and her abundance of knowledge and wisdom were locked away in a mind that became fuzzier each day… except for one part. God left one part intact, the part that could still praise His Name…the part that still worshiped Him.

As the pastor continued the sermon, Grammy fiddled with the bulletin, shredded her tissue then wiped her nose on her sleeve, and picked at a fuzz ball on the front of her shirt. Soon I heard her softly humming. The hum turned into a whistle. This happened every Sunday. I knew the words. “Just a closer walk with Thee, Precious Saviour, this my plea…” As the tune proceeded into the second verse, heads turned, making me fidget in embarrassment.

Should I take her out like a little child? I tried to hush her, but her protests were louder than the whistling. Maybe we shouldn’t bring her to church. She took my hand and patted it. No, my mind argued with itself. She likes being here. She likes the hymns and Bible reading. I can’t deprive her of worshiping her Lord. Who knows when she won’t be able to come anymore?

After the last hymn and prayer, she clung to my arm as we shuffled to the front door, muttering, “Hurting…hurting.”

The pastor shook Grammy’s hand. “I’m so glad you were with us today, Amy.”

“I’m glad too, but you talked too much!”

As we escorted Grammy back to her room in the senior boarding home, a nurse met us in the hallway. “Did you have a good time at church, Amy?” To me she added, “We always know which songs you sing at church because she sings them all week long.”

Lord, will my life be a witness for you, long after I’m able to read or take care of myself? Have I hidden your Word in my heart, where it will never be lost? Lord, let me worship you with my whole heart, not caring what others say or think. I want to be faithful, Lord, just like Grammy.

* Isaiah 53 (KJV)
“He Lives” by Alfred H. Ackley
“Just a Closer Walk with Thee” traditional folk song


Scarlet Carter(S.Harricharan) said...

This was simply lovely! I'm glad I got the chance to read it. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful woman in your life. I loved to getting to know her and 'see' her for real. Nice job.

LauraLee Shaw said...

Oh, what a tender and meaningful story. Your ending left me with dinosaur tears.

The Surrendered Scribe said...

We had a client through the Office for the Aging like Grammy, and it was heartbreaking to see her slip away like that. You portrayed the emotions perfectly.

Patty Wysong said...

I love this one, Vonnie! It's beautiful and touching.

Anonymous said...

I loved reading this about your mother-in-law. This shows why it is good to memorize Bible verses while you're young. This is so beautifully told.


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