My Sunday Sanctuary: Faces

My beloved grandmother Honey has been dying for months now.

In February, they said she had maybe two months left. Several weeks ago, we were told it would be a week, maybe two, until she died.

She is still here, still suffering, still stubbornly clinging to life. She can barely hold up her head, but insists on being put in her chair in the living room each day so she can see the hummingbirds visit the feeder outside her window.

We don’t know why she is still hanging on. It sounds just terrible, but we want her to pass on. We’re ready for her to go because it’s so heartbreaking to see her suffer. None of us understand why she is still here, why God has seen fit to let her pass in such a slowly agonizing manner.

The only sense I can make of it is that she is so precious to all of us, the only way we can let go of her willingly is if we know that we know, beyond any doubt, that she is better off leaving us.

My visits with her have been heartbreaking and beautiful, sad and meaningful. When I saw Honey tonight, she was laying in her recliner,  so thin and frail, her head fallen to the side, her face nothing more than a skull stretched over with papery thin wrinkles. Her eye sockets were dark, sunken and her eyelids closed.

I rubbed her arm and talked to her to wake her, and her eyes cracked open into a blank stare. After a moment, it registered that it was me, and she smiled and greeted me. Then her head fell back to the side. She lifted it again then said how happy she was to see me, and how beautiful I looked.

Every time I’ve seen her in the past month, she has gone on and on about my beauty, about how much I look like her. I jokingly told my sister that if Honey had to get stuck on repeating one thing to me, at least that was a nice thing to hear so often.

My visit was short; I had to get home to feed the baby and put him to bed. As I nursed him, I thought about Honey, about how she asked for two hugs when I left tonight, and how every time I’ve hugged her goodbye in recent months, I’ve wondered if it was the last time I’d ever do that.

Years ago, Honey told me that she hated looking in the mirror. She said that she wasn’t pretty anymore, and she hated seeing herself look that way. I guess in a way, I understand. I kinda miss how I looked 20 years ago, too.

When my babies were born, I stared at their faces for hours. And because of that, in those early days postpartum, whenever I saw myself in the mirror, I always felt a brief sense of surprise, an odd sense of recognition as I saw them again in my reflection.

I wonder if something similar is what Honey feels now when she sees me. I favor her—and her mother—more than my sisters or my own mother. I wonder if when she sees me, she feels that same sense of recognition of herself so many decades ago.

I am certain that 40 years ago, she held me sleeping as I held my little Jonah tonight, gazing at that sweet little face and drinking it in. And I bet that after she laid me down, when she saw herself in a mirror, she also saw the melding of our faces.

Past, present and future—all in one reflection.

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