Hayden receives roses from G.G. a week after her death.
Mother's Day eleven or twelve years ago. G.G. is on the far right. She looks like a giant here, but she is standing on a step with my girls. I am on the far left next to my mother.
The conversation began around Hayden's book, Hidden Pearls. G.G. couldn't read it. Her eyes were getting too bad, but she wanted to know the story. I had flown in on that first trip to see G.G. in Illinois after her cancer diagnosis and had less than a week to visit her before I had to go back home. There was such a flurry of activity in her day with Hospice care and other visitors that I had to struggle just to get alone with her. There simply wasn't time to read a novel over 400 pages in length, and I knew my voice couldn't hold out that long anyway. So I told her the story from memory. I occasionally flipped open the book to read (and dramatize) an excerpt as G.G. sat in rapt attention. She found my attempts at manly voices and a Spanish accent particularly amusing. Sometimes I would even stand up and perform with more gusto (all as discreetly as possible while my mother slept in a chair next to us - it was late, after all). There was one scene I especially wanted to read to her, a scene of repentance. I wanted her to see what repentance looked like. It was difficult because I knew it would get me emotional.
During my reading, when I would occasionally get misty or "gulpy", G.G. would yell at me. "Jenny, don't DO that! You're going to get ME started!" I would apologize, blow my nose, and continue. She continually apologized as well, because although it was getting late, she wouldn't let me stop. As opinionated as G.G. could be, she sat silently most of the time, leaning forward, with her eyes wide open like a little girl's. She wanted to know how this book was going to end. We stayed up until one in the morning. When I read her the last page of the story, I closed the book with tears in my eyes. She exclaimed, "That was a really good story!" Then she began to tell me one of her own.
"When I was a little girl, times were very hard and I didn't think I was going to get anything for Christmas. My three older brothers pooled their money together and bought me a book as a present. I was so surprised and happy that I got a present! It was a book about cowboys, and I loved it! I loved the horses! For several days after Christmas, I would put the book on the table next to the tree and pretend to unwrap it again. Then I would read it again and again as though it was for the very first time."
I stared at her with tears welling up in my eyes.
"G.G, that is one of the most heartbreaking stories I have ever heard!"
"It is a true story."
G.G always had a well-known passion for horses and at one point in her life had a few on her Wisconsin farm. Many of her chachkie statues and collector plates are of horses. Perhaps it was when, as a little girl, she read that precious book over and over again that she first fell in love with them. She liked Clint Eastwood too. Cowboys.
Come to think of it, she also had a passion for presents. She loved getting presents as well. Now I understood why.
"There is a secret I want to tell you," I said. I knelt next to her bed.
I had her interest. She leaned forward.
I began to blubber. She rolled her eyes and yelled at me again.
"G.G., your name is going to be in a book."
She looked confused.
"Hayden's next book, in the dedication. Alice D. McGee is one of the names in her dedication."
"Really?!" She smiled.
I began to sob. "I fear you won't get to see it before it comes out, so I want to tell you now."
She knew what I meant.
An idea sprang into her mind and she got excited.
"I want you to make me a promise."
She began to fumble her hand around on her rolling table. She uncovered a wad of cash and shoved a handful at me.
"When her book comes out, I want you to buy her five roses. Five of them. You are to tell her that they are from ME. You are to tell her that I said congratulations."
More tears. More gulps.
"G.G., what a beautiful idea! Of course I will do that for you!"
I gaped at her. This was just such a creative, sweet and tender idea coming out of my tough and earthy grandmother that I marveled.
Then I remembered. "G.G., the rose in Hayden's story is yellow."
"Then find a yellow one to stick in the group", she said matter-of-factly.
G.G. died a week before Five Enchanted Roses was released. I'm so glad I told her about the dedication. When I held the book for the first time and flipped to Hayden's story, I read the dedication again. There was no evidence there that G.G. had passed away. I knew there wouldn't be.
But now I think about another book. There is another book I desperately hope has my grandmother's name in it. It is called the Lamb's Book of Life, and it was the mission of my sister, me, and the Lord Himself to ensure the engraving of her name there before she left this world.
My sister and I are so hopeful.
Since my grandfather's death eleven months before, my grandmother had suddenly begun asking questions and wanting to discuss things she had never previously approached with me. My sister and I jumped at the opportunity to share the Gospel with her. Although I had approached the topic of salvation with G.G.in the past, and even attempted to have a Bible study with her several years ago, things never seemed to pan out into any consistency. Last Christmas, our evangelism took on a new fervor. We read G.G. Bible passages and answered her many questions the best we could. My sister even downloaded children's animated Bible stories (to G.G.'s delight) and a large print Bible onto her iPad.
G.G. believed in Jesus, but she had also been very confused about Him from false teaching she had received as a child. She was largely ignorant of the Scriptures and found it very difficult to let go of idolatrous behavior. Trinkets, the lighting of candles, and ritualistic television programs that weren't even in English were a stronghold we battled every day. We weren't sure if she believed in the real Jesus, or in a false idea of Who He is. Over the months, My sister, Beth and I read Scriptures to her, preached to her, and prayed for her. We continued to answer questions and to encourage her the best we could. When we found out in March about her terminal lung cancer, our boldness grew. We began passionately rebuking false teachings and practices.
To my surprise, I never saw G.G. grow angry about this. She seemed fascinated. This was all so new to her. She seemed to recognize that God was at work around her. She kept asking me why Poppa Jim passed away first. All I could tell her was that I thought she wasn't ready yet, and that Jesus wanted her to figure some things out before she got to see Him. Sometimes she would nod and summarize what I had read to her with such Biblical understanding that my heart would leap. I could see her wheels turning as she tried to fathom a God Who truly loved her - truly forgave her - a God who wanted her. Other times, when she'd become nervous, I'd see her revert back to superstitious behaviors to comfort herself. My sister and I explained the necessity of repentance and forgiveness. We stressed the importance of a relationship with God and the danger of rituals and "deceased" intercessors, and that she was free to speak to Him all by herself whenever she wanted. Beth visited her for the last time only a few days before her decline into the world of unconsciousness. She had poured out her heart once more. She asserted again and again,"Grandma, when the time comes, just cry out for Jesus! He is the only way into heaven! His is the only name you need to call upon!" G.G. listened again, but said little.
Beth and I don't know what was going on in G.G.'s mind, in her heart, or in her faith all those months and what her final decision had been.
I think, perhaps, that God, in His infinite wisdom, has chosen to protect us.
If she didn't receive the truth - Surely He is protecting us from grief too painful to bear and great discouragement.
And if she did - Then perhaps He is protecting us from a misplaced pride in "our" success. I would like to believe that if I confidently knew that G.G. had forsaken false teachings and embraced the truth of Scripture, that I would be so happy and grateful that such treachery within myself would never occur; but I have learned to never underestimate my wretchedness.
I don't know why we don't know. But those thoughts come sometimes - until I chase them away.
I prefer to just fondly remember her and to trust Him.
God is the One Who makes seed grow. He is the One who draws a person to His Son. His heart, judgement, and timing are perfect. I am so grateful to Him for the time He gave me with her. She is completely in His hands now and therein is my peace.
Someday I will know - but for now there is only great hope.
I tell a little of her story for your sake. Maybe you need the real Jesus too. Maybe you have questions. Or maybe you need to fight for someone you love. Because truly, when you love someone, you fight for that person. Sometimes we forget the serious danger the people we love might be in. We forget what forever really means, what the gnashing of teeth and eternal worms and fire might feel like; but most of all, we can't imagine what being rejected by the Creator, Himself, Whom we rejected first, would feel like, and to never, ever be loved again. Jesus wants us to read and remember His words; His warnings. He wants us to remember Him, what He did, and that most folks are going to hell. It keeps us fighting. And when appropriate, it also helps us to let go. We are at war, and Satan tries to make us forget.
To His disciples, Jesus said:
Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20
And to His church Jesus said:
"He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Revelation 3:5-6
And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
And then there is the book of the Bible itself:
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.