This past week or so have been difficult. My Grandma Givens was in the hospital. She’s out now, and back in the skilled care area of the village where she lives, but we know she’s not well and we don’t know if she’ll be with us ten more days or ten more years. There’s not much more wrong with her than age – her body is simply wearing out. After 93 years, I suppose it has the right.
But it’s been hard. It’s hard to think about my life without Grandma as a part of it – she’s been an institution for 30 years of it so far. I know grandparents die – I lost both my grandfathers when I was very young, and my other grandmother when I was in high school – but somehow I never really thought about the idea that Grandma Givens would die.
I still can’t quite imagine a world without Grandma praying for me.
When I heard she wasn’t doing well, I panicked at first. Then I prayed. Then I got a chance to call her and tell her I love her. All of those things needed to be done.
And God gave me His comfort, and He gave me His grace, and He gave me His love. And all those things were good.
But yesterday He gave me one thing more. During our start of semester hour of prayer we sang, as we always do. Dr. Toews got up to read the opening passage of Scripture and he said that he had just finished teaching a course on the Wisdom Literature. And he said something that stuck out to me in a new way: “What became very clear teaching the wisdom literature is that one thing unique about Christianity is that in the midst of trouble, Christians sing.”
In an instant I was standing around a piano at Grandma’s house in my memory, singing with the whole family. Grandma was playing at the piano and working her way through the hymnal from favorite to favorite. We sang some of those hymns yesterday, and I needed to hear them.
Near the end of the service we sang one that I’ve known for a long time. It’s one that I can sing without paying a whole lot of attention to the words, because I’ve done so many times. But suddenly it was new and fresh to me, and I realized it was the story of Grandma Givens.
From a childhood without a father, to stepping away in faith from the Mennonite church, to raising six boys, to losing Grandpa fairly young, to dealing with fractious church members and family members, there have been griefs, pains, changes, and thorny ways. But Grandma’s best friend has always been Jesus. And He has always been faithful.
The second verse we sang targeted me. My turbulent fears of losing Grandma calmed as I thought of all the ways God has guided her through her life, and I remembered that He will do the same for me.
And as we sang a final verse, I began to cry the good kind of tears. Because I remembered that while I will be left without her, when Grandma goes to heaven, she will be with her Lord. Sorrow will be forgotten, love will be restored.
And one day, when change and tears are past, all safe and blessed we shall meet again at last.
Be Still, My Soul
by Katharina A. von Schlegel, 1752
translated to English by Jane L. Borthwick, 1855
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.