I am reading through a book by a retired Catholic hospice nurse, Trudy Harris, Glimpses of Heaven. In it she recounts forty-four of her experiences with people she helped during their last days from a six-week old baby to folks in their nineties. Her main focus is on the hope and peace each experienced as they drew nearer to their final moments on this earth. I just wanted to share two short extracts from one story that touched me very much:
Jess, in his early seventies, had been married many times and had children and grandchildren he did not even know. Contacting his youngest daughter, he asked if he could come to her house to die. The daughter he barely knew immediately said yes. There were lessons for all of us to learn. We watched this youngest daughter not only care for her dying father with love and tenderness but also teach her own family, by example, to do the same.
Jess was about to be loved in a way he had never known before and did not believe possible. There were many children in the home, but his six-year-old grandson, John, took charge. Putting a mat on the floor so he could sleep next to Grandpa’s hospital bed and using a clothesline as a make-believe door, he transformed the family room into Grandpa’s new bedroom. John seldom left Jess’s side, and if and when he had to be away from the house, he would always run first thing to check on Grandpa when he got home.
Each day, John would sit close to Grandpa’s bed, touching him gently and watching TV with him. Slowly but surely, Jess’s life was ebbing away, but not before finding the unconditional, all-forgiving love he had been seeking his entire life. He found it all through John.
“How does he feel?” John asked moments after Grandpa died.
“You can touch him if you want to,” I said as he reached out gently to feel his grandpa’s face.
“What is in his eyes?” he asked.
“You can open them up and look to see if you want to,” I said.
Slowly, John lifted himself up onto the bed, and opening Grandpa’s eyes he said, “I think he sees Jesus!” This seemed very natural to one so young and untouched by the world’s need to interpret everything. Grandpa was in heaven now, and it made good sense to John that he was looking at Jesus. Out of the mouths of babes oftentimes come gems.
Seeing that John was not yet ready to leave and wanted to spend more time with Grandpa, we left the room and closed the curtain, separating him from the rest of the house. About fifteen minutes later when I had completed all the funeral arrangements, I peeked around the clothesline that was his door, and there on top of the bed was little John, straddling his grandpa, with arms wrapped around his rotund belly, sound asleep.