A few years before my Grandmother died of a broken heart (my Grandpa – her husband – died just months before) I decided to spend the weekend with her. After sixty years with the man she loved- the one who cooked the meals, cleaned the house, cared for her- I couldn’t bear the thought of her living alone. Needed to look in her eyes, hold her hand, know how she was bearing up.
So I flew to St. Louis, slept in the second bed of her small apartment at the retirement home. We sat on the couch, talked, watched television while she dozed upright, ate fried chicken downstairs in the expansive dining room filled with push carts.
And when the silence filled the room, she asked me the same questions over and over, as if it were the first time. I answered the same each time. Then the information vanished from the brain just like Alka Seltzer in water. No place for the knowledge to stick anymore.
And while she got dressed, in the middle of putting on her pantyhose, she stopped, looked at me with wrinkled up eyebrows and asked, “Am I doing this right.” Walked to the sink, picked up the powder puff from her compact and said, “Now what do I do with this” in a blank stare. Grabbed her tootbrush and wondered if the tube laying on the sink had anything to do with the tootbrush.
During the night she awoke, crawled out of bed, opened the door to the room and called for her husband down the hallway . . . thirty-seven times. I counted.
And as I lay there like a ghost in the bed next to her watching, my heart ached because this woman that cradled me on her lap as a child, taught me the Lord’s Prayer, and never forgot a birthday, she was just a shell of that person. She looked like my Grandma, dressed like my Grandma, but her mind got dammed up and all the details about daily living lay stagnant sloshing soupy.
But things changed when I asked her about something that happened twenty-five years ago. She spilled every detail down to what people wore that day.
And she sat on that loveseat with her rosary and prayer book laid out on her lap every morning, just like she did every day before the brain turned to mush. While she couldn’t remember how to get dressed in the morning, she remembered how to pray. Somewhere in the foundations of her memory, the words of the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles Creed and my name, they returned clear.
Praying a “liturgy”, repeating prayers and scripture over and over, week in and week out. These things stick. Holy words, like incense drifting from the soul, communing with God when the brain no longer understands. Because following Jesus is about relationship, not gathering more information.
And when we have forgotten how to make a ham sandwich and comb our hair, we will have these words – His words. Words that shape our heart into the likeness of His, regardless of what we think or feel on a particular day. They form us today, tomorrow, and for eternity.
See the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. ~Luke 12:31
What words “stick” the best for you? Do you have a verse, a prayer that you hold onto?
Linking with Jen today at Finding Heaven: